Natural Systems


Natural Systems: a song cycle for bass-baritone and orchestra
scored for: solo bass-baritone and orchestra (3(picc),3,3,3/4,3,3,1/timp.3 perc.harp/strings)
duration: 14 minutes
text: Kelley Rourke
also arranged for chamber ensemble

Commissioned by/Premiere:

New York Youth Symphony (commission and world premiere)
May 26, 2013 / Stern Auditorium - Carnegie Hall, New York NY
Music director/Conductor: Joshua Gersen / Bass-baritone: Evan Hughes


Linneaeus Arranges (recit 2, movement 2)

About the work:

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) famously proposed that man, himself, is but one component of Earth’s vast natural system; it was Linnaeus, whose own name derives from the mighty linden tree, who gave us the name homo sapiens. His Systema Naturae, first published in 1735, proposed a binomial naming system based on observable characteristics, such as the number of stamens in a flower. And by all accounts, no one spent more time observing the natural world than Linnaeus. His publications were numerous, his practical knowledge astonishing. Linnaeus was the first to bring a banana to bloom in Europe. He cured a bad case of gout with wild strawberries. And he collected specimens from all over the world—some carefully preserved for study, others alive and thriving in his garden.
Linneaus’ obsession with collecting was shared by many of his contemporaries. The “Cabinet of Curiosities” or “Wonder Cabinet,” which originated in Renaissance Europe, was a room filled with objects ranging from historical and religious relics to objects from the natural world—some real, some faked. The collections represented people’s attempt to contain and possess the world around them, much like we capture sounds and images on our iPhones. Natural Systems is our attempt to create a “Wonder Cabinet” devoted to Linnaeus’s life and work; in each section, we examine another object, another idea, another feeling from its overflowing shelves.

Recit 1. the first step in wisdom
I. Nature's Masterwork
Recit 2. animal kingdom
II, Linnaeus Arranges
Recit 3. follow in his footsteps
III. When I was a boy

an excerpt from :When I was a boy":

When I was a boy, in the throes of a tantrum
my father gave me a flower to hold.
Immediately consoled,
I asked him its name, and he told me,
delighted his song shared his love
for the world of things that grow.
Later, when I asked again,
he scolded, disappointed at my small memory.
And so I learned to hold the names in my head
long after the flower had collapsed
in my sweaty grasp.