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Poetry Project Network for New Music

Lesley Valdes of WRTI Critic-At-Large Podcast

For the fourth year, Network for New Music has brought together living poets and composers. The collaborations were showcased this week at the Perelman Theater. The event featured poets still in grad school. Some of the composers appeared quite young. The results were fascinating. The excellent Susan Narucki and Randall Scarlatta sang the new material with the Network ensemble. Three versions of poet Katrina Rutt's eloquent Rosetta Stone, for instance, which can also be encountered in a version on YouTube. Heidi Jacob's best expresses the poem's ardor and quiet. All three are scored for soprano clarinet, cello, harp. It's not easy to take the meaning and measure of the poetic word. The pleasure is in leaving something hidden, allowing mystery. James Falconi says he chose Julia Bloch's The Selfist because of its enigma. The music, for baritone, clarinet, violin, cello, came off strongly for the starkness. Melissa Dunphy's setting of Luke Stromberg's Black Thunder reflects the extravagance and paranoia of young love and its powerful ending. Matt Thomas' A Lullaby has beauty and originality. The music is beautifully composed by Andrew McPherson: a keen partnership. Established composers on the program included Jennifer Hidgon, whose Bentley's Roses, from 2005, was getting a first hearing in Philadelphia. Four songs by James Whitcomb Riley were touchingly sung by Scarlatta, the best came first: Riley's Old Fashioned Roses. The program opened with Ronald Caltabiano's Lines from Poetry, a brilliant violin solo, filled with lyric hushes that were brilliantly executed by Hirono Oka. Sex Songs, by David Rakowski was the close. It's four accomplished and musically compelling settings by various poets including the Gardener by Sophia Wadsworth. The close, novelist Rick Moody's pop lyrics How to Read were given Rakowski's ambitious version, which Narucki and the group performed with terrific spirit if not quite the volume the composer anticipated. Linda Reichert and Susan Nowick were the agile pianists.

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