Version One: for Soprano Voice, Recorded Sounds, and Chamber Ensemble: flute, two saxophones,
bassoon, accordion, piano, and two percussionists.
Version Two: for Soprano Voice, Recorded Sounds, and Flexatone
Performance practicality: The score is the same for both versions. Timing in minutes and seconds, so a stopwatch or equivalent is needed for the conductor, and in the alternate version, for the soloist. Semi-improvisatory. Performers must interact as an ensemble, but never covering up the soloist. The soprano should exaggerate her gestures and listen carefully to the birds and animals on the recording, and bring the various characters in the poem to life. Some on-string piano preparations.
The dramatic song WILDERNESS for soprano solo, nine instruments, and recorded animal and bird sounds was a commission from the Relache Ensemble of Philadelphia for their residency at Yellow Springs Institute, PA in the summer of 1985. Priscilla McLean composed the first few verses there, and a reading was given at the end of the week by the ensemble. The conductor, Joseph Franklin, decided not to premiere the whole work, and the piece remained unfinished until 1987, when the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra asked to premiere it and McLean finished the piece using BBC taped recordings of animals and birds, plus the McLeans’ own recordings. The premiere was on January 15, 1988 at the Cleveland Institute of Music, with Edwin London conducting. Priscilla McLean was the soloist. Since performances were problematical and scarce, McLean decided to create a version for herself and her husband Barton McLean to add to the McLean Mix touring schedule. A new version of WILDERNESS was created by simulating the instrumental sounds on the ASR-10 Sampling Synthesizer and adding the flexatone, performed by Barton McLean, for live performance, This version was completed in 1989, and received its premiere on a McLean Mix concert on April 8, 1990 at Goucher College, Baltimore, MD.
WILDERNESS, with a text by Carl Sandburg, has been the most performed piece of the McLean Mix repertoire, and continued to be performed on tours through 2007. It is available on Capstone Records CPS-8663 (1999) [now Ravello/Naxos Records: The Vocal Music of Priscilla McLean], and Capstone Records CPS-8622 CD (1995) [now Ravello/Naxos Records].
WILDERNESS (Version two) is available on a “McLean Mix Live!” DVD, available through MLC Publications, 55 Coon Brook Rd., Petersburgh, NY 12138, and on YouTube.
Copyright: ©1988 Priscilla McLean ©&℗2009 DVD Barton & Priscilla McLean