walking/I’m sorry, Mom (two narrators and moving a cappella choir)
Run time: approx. 5’30”. Appropriate for singers of all voice types, walking/I’m sorry, Mom is a piece about all the things that go bump in the night and the perils (imagined and real) of walking home alone when you could be a target of sexual assault. Because the group should be spaced out and moving, this could be a great addition to a socially-distanced concert or immersive shows. Content warnings: stalking, allusion to assault/sexual assault, referencing of prior trauma. (Perusal score available!)
Buy one score, make all the copies you need.
Almost everyone who’s not a cis man who’s grown up in the twenty-first century (and plenty who grew up earlier) has entered early adulthood repeating one mantra: don’t walk alone at night. I started college at seventeen, and despite the sexual assault I’d already weathered, I couldn’t always bear to request company for my cross-campus trips to and from the music building. The world was so lovely at night; for an introvert like me, it seemed a shame to contaminate it with conversation when you could just enjoy the solitude and the quiet. When I absolutely couldn’t justify the risk of walking alone, I’d put someone on the phone and keep conversation the whole way home. It’s a time-honored tactic used by women (and nonbinary people, and some trans men) everywhere as an insurance policy: if we’re assaulted, at least someone will know.
That said, with every time we do make it home without incident, it feels a little silly to be taking these precautions. So we get complacent, and sometimes we don’t bother calling people. And inevitably the universe reminds us why we do. I am both incredibly grateful I’ve not lived through an assault in adulthood like the one I lived through when I was young and incredibly sad that others’ suffering reminds me that I do need to take precautions against the things that go bump in the night.
walking/I’m sorry, Mom plays with all of these concepts and more, but it borrows heavily from the concept of Schrödinger’s rapist, a term coined by novelist and private investigator Phaedra Starling to explain the dichotomy women are faced with when approached by any strange man. (To read more about this—and I absolutely suggest you do—read her original post as archived by the Wayback Machine here.)
walking/I’m sorry, Mom utilizes nonstandard notation that I’ve found clearly communicates the independence and synchronicity of various parts while still allowing for the fluidity and nuance found in natural speech. In short: line up the words that line up. Many lines in the narrators’ parts are broken up to create a hocketing effect; transitions from one speaker to the next should be fluid and should not interrupt the sentence or phrase. Think of it as quickly panning from one speaker to another.
Over the course of the piece, I present dynamics, text directions, or timbres for the performers. Each of these will shape the performance effectively; however, I enjoy works like this the most (and you might too!) when they aren’t static for too long. In that sense, if you’re adhering to a direction that was presented a couple systems or a page ago and it’s getting stale, feel free to wander away (or perhaps further toward) that instruction. This should be shaped by the director and performers in tandem.
In regard to the notation itself, anything inside repeat signs with a beam extending beyond should be repeated at your own pace. If you are doubling parts, do not feel you need to be in sync with your neighbor(s). I intend to create a subtly shifting wash of sounds for the audience to parse through at their own speed.
Sometimes, within these beams, you’ll see a word in [brackets!] This should be spoken/whispered/performed once and only once—it’s more of an interjection. The ensemble can choose whether one person should say the word in [brackets!] once or each person assigned to that part should. Later on in the piece, you will come across many shorter, repeat-signed phrases within a big bracket. In these instances, performers in all four chorus parts may choose one or more of the options presented and repeat for the duration of the beam extending from the bracket.
All notated rests are proportional and shouldn’t be counted at any particular tempo. Take a second or a few, ready your next phrase, and forage on. (When you’re trying to maintain tension with the half rests, hold them an uncomfortably long time.)
Lastly (notationally, at least), when you see a half note with letters under it, hold that syllable as a drone for the duration of the beam. Breathe as needed. When “(shift vowel)” is indicated, begin blurring into the next syllable. These should be drones roughly at a pitch you would speak at. They should not be sung in a Western-art-music sense.
(further comments on staging, content, etc. can be found in the score.)
Run time: approx. 5’30”. Appropriate for performers of all voice types.
walking/I’m sorry, Mom perusal (preview before you buy!)
Watch the CalArts Contemporary Vocal Ensemble’s performance of walking/I’m sorry, Mom below:
- 4/272019: CalArts Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, the Wild Beast, Valencia, CA (world premiere)