Fin de Siècle is Sarah Dougher’s musical interpretation of a set of three experimental poem-plays by renowned American poet Leslie Scalapino. The poems form an abstract narrative of war, labor, and class struggle—a visionary manifestation of the poet’s passionate humanism. Structured as a set of emotive, melodic songs, Dougher’s piece weds video projection and vocal performance with an ensemble of piano, violin, cello, trumpet, trombone and percussion. The work embraces Scalapino’s challenging use of language through a richly textured score, and echoes Scalapino’s hybrid practice, inhabiting a musical space between art song and pop. Fin de Siècle is an ambitious synthesis of Dougher’s celebrated folk-rock solo music and choral compositions.
Leslie Scalapino (1944–2010) published her first book of poems in 1976, subsequently authoring thirty books of poetry, prose, plays, and essays, and often collaborating with fellow writers and artists such as Kevin Killian, Petah Coyne, and Kiki Smith. In 1988, her poem, way, received the Poetry Center Award and the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Scalapino’s plays are collected in the 2008 volume, It’s go in horizontal.
Commissioned by the estate of Leslie Scalapino. Publication of the accompanying libretto generously provided by the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College.