Friday's Program Note
Heather Heise and Anne Hege present
The Children’s Hour (2007)
Opening ragtime music by James Tenney. I remember talking with Jim at a friend’s birthday party: we rhapsodized about Felix Mendelssohn, and at one point exclaimed simultaneously, “unappreciated genius!” (The irony?) I admire someone who can rewire a telephone and discuss the Variations Sérieuse. Jim died one year ago today.
Inspired by the eponymous song by Charles Ives and featuring pieces from William Walton's Façade (an "entertainment" for reciter and instruments) The Children's Hour is Sidecar's third major collaboration. The work sets art songs and piano pieces by Ives, Hanns Eisler, Jim Tenney, and Arnold Schoenberg within a completely original audio and visual design by Anne Hege and Heather Heise, and invades all the corners--past, present and future--of restless imagination. The Children's Hour is that magical, unmeasured span of time "between the dark and the daylight" where curiosity and investigation, dreams and nightmare, sense and nonsense are all to be found.
Eisler’s To the Little Radio will likely linger hauntingly in ear and in mind, and in fact, its sweet melancholy is the heart of the show. Butterfly collections and clapping games and twinkling music boxes, so pretty and nostalgic, are fairly standard evocations of childhood. The radio, on the other hand, is a technological object that elicits quirky and playful behavior, particularly when we are young. In what other context is one able to wield such magical power, "tuning in" and giving clarity and life--life!--to voices in foreign languages, music of various styles, news reports from unknown countries? Don't all of us, at some time or another, feel that the radio speaks "just for me, just to me," "because I tuned it in!" The game ends when we grow up: we figure the radio out, we learn how its circuits work, and rather than thinking we're a medium between here and myriad etherworlds, we simply (mindlessly) flip and skip through the channels.
To the Little Radio, and our performed play with radios, runs not only as a poignant thematic element throughout The Children's Hour, but as a counterpoint to the more classical moments of opera, art song and sing-a-long.