Three Nansi Songs

(2015)

Instrumentation:

for mixed choir S, MS, A, T, (Bar.), B

Total Duration: 9'

  1. Harping on what should be (3’30) S, MS, A, T, B

  2. It will never be the same (2’30) S, MS, A, T, Bar., B

  3. Listening to Mukesh (3’00) S, MS, A, T, B

Commissioned by The Graduate Singers for its 5th year as an ensemble, it was premiered on 10 November 2015 on their anniversary concert FIVE. The set of three songs are inspired by the poetry of Singaporean poet Pooja Nansi. The evocative and urgent nature of her poetry had created new possibilities for me in this work. “Harping on what should be” is recorded on TGS’s debut EP.​

Harping on what should be (like a broken record), is an excerpt of 'A rant' from Pooja Nansi’s debut poetry collection Stiletto Scars. My approach to setting her text is based on the line “like a broken record”, where the opening music (and words) are cast upon repetitive loops that at one point playfully refers to the then-current popular TV tune – hokkien-styled “Un-un- un....believable.” Of course, the gist of the text urges the reader to break out of the mold:

Why are there no poems telling us to
think think think dream dream dream
in crazy unpredictable free verse,
not in strict sonnets with rules or structure, harping on what should be

like a broken record.

It will never be the same (language) is inspired Pooja’s “The Inadequate vocabulary I learnt from Enid Blyton, Ted Hughes and Jane Austen”. The idea ‘of being exotic’ is ironically taken to create the 'new-age phenomenon with a soft tabla soundscape'. I have not taken to setting the exact words, but ‘soundscapes,’ as the above line has suggested. However, the powerful opening lines had to be included:

You are expecting
A rainbow of a poem
That deals with Kamasutra linguistics.

Listening to Mukesh

Phrases such as ‘in that deliciously punctuated rhythm’, “into the stone thud bass of the latest film song” and ‘humming in twilight’ are indeed vividly delicious lines. Again, here I have created soundscapes that evoke these scenarios, and took the liberty to quote the Hindi song “Jaoon kaha batayen dil” by Mukesh, as Pooja did, in her poem.

© 2020 by CHEN Zhangyi