Not Less Than The Good premiere

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Friday, June 2, 2017
7:30 pm - 8:30 pm

The Morgan Library & Museum – Gilder Lehrman Hall
225 Madison Ave, New York, NY

Tickets: $25 / $20 for members
Purchase tickets via The Morgan Library & Museum
The Morgan Library’s exhibition This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal will be open at 6:30 pm for program attendees.

Not Less Than the Good
for saxophone quartet, synthesizer, recorded sounds, and narration
composed by David Morneau for New Thread Quartet
performed by New Thread Quartet, David Morneau (synthesizer), and J.D. McClatchy (narrator)

Not Less Than the Good is a musical sunrise, a celebration of morning as embraced by Henry David Thoreau in Walden. Thoreau wrote about morning as a metaphor for intellectual and spiritual awakening: “The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour.”

Commissioned by New Thread Quartet and composed by David Morneau, Not Less Than the Good simulates a sunrise by combining the meditative playing of the saxophone quartet with ambient synthesizers. The music grows from a single quiet note, adding notes and timbres, growing in fullness and depth. Underneath this are sounds recorded during the pre-dawn and early morning hours at Walden Pond: a chorus of insects, the lone song of dawn’s first bird which is joined by others in a raucous counterpoint, and the splashing of morning swimmers. The hour-long performance is punctuated by readings of excerpts from Walden, selected as a secular prayer of hope for enlightenment and performed by poet J. D. McClatchy.

Not Less Than the Good is composed for the bicentennial of Thoreau’s birth (July 12, 2017). In Walden, Thoreau encouraged us to reject the life we’re expected to live, through a pursuit of self enlightenment, through the effort to wake up. His words remain vital today. “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.”

We live in a moment where our culture grows dark. Knowledge is trivialized. Greed is a virtue. Violence is too-often the first answer. And happiness is promised with just one more purchase. Hope comes with the dawn. “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.”

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J. D. McClatchy is an American poet and literary critic, educated at Georgetown University and Yale University, from which he received his PhD in 1974.

He is the author of eight books of poetry, including Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), Mercury Dressing (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), Division of Spoils (Arc Publications, 2003), and Hazmat (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002), which was nominated for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. A prominent figure in the world of opera, McClatchy has written sixteen opera libretti and his work has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala, the San Francisco Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, the Lincoln Center Festival, and in other opera houses around the world.

His honors include the 2000 Governor’s Arts Medal from the state of Connecticut and the Arts and Letters Award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as fellowships from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1998, McClatchy was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He served as the Academy’s president from 2009 to 2011. McClatchy is currently a professor of English at Yale University, where he also serves as editor of The Yale Review.

David Morneau is a composer of an entirely undecided genre. Described by Molly Sheridan as a “shining beacon” of inspiration, his diverse work illuminates ideas about our culture, issues concerning creativity, and even the very nature of music itself. His eclectic output has been described variously as “elegantly rendered”, “happily prissy”, “impressive”, “unusual, esoteric, and offbeat”. His chiptune album, Broken Memory, “absolutely wrecks shop.… For that, David Morneau wins.” He collaborates with composer Melissa Grey as l’Artiste ordinaire (l’Ao) and is composer-in-residence with Immigrant Breast Nest, an NYC netlabel.

Image Credits:
J.D. McClatchy – Photography by Marion Ettlinger
David Morneau – Photography by Marc Fiaux
New Thread Quartet – Photography by Max Breslow