New Music at Carnegie Hall: Carnegie Hall Commissions
Commission at a Glance
Oceanic Verses
Paola Prestini
Recorded on May 9, 2009
at Zankel Hall

Leona Carney, Soprano; Rie Miyake, Soprano; Katarzyna “Kasia” Sadej, Mezzo-Soprano

Workshop Ensemble: Alan Pierson, Conductor; Carol McGonnell, Clarinet; Nathan Botts, Trumpet; John Ostrowski, Percussion; Jared Soldiviero, Percussion; Matti Kovler, Piano; Yael Manor, Piano; Brandon Seabrook, Guitar; William Holshouser, Accordion; Keats Dieffenbach, Violin; You-Young Kim, Viola; Lev “Ljova” Zhrubin, Famiola; Claire Bryant, Cello; Jane Cords-O’Hara, Cello; Kristoffer Saebo, Bass; Jeremy Flower, Laptop


Notes on the Work

Oceanic Verses explores three aspects of a woman’s psyche—the martyr, the nurturer, and the ruler—sung by three timeless characters: a virgin, a mother, and a queen. These complex women passionately recount tales that fuse aspects of personal, social, and political spheres. The work combines fragments of songs that date back to 3000 BC, field samples I recorded during my stay in the Salento region of Italy (namely in the electronic backing tracks), and my own invented songs. Combined, this paints a picture of Italy as it once was, a cross-section of cultures expressed naturally through song. The songs are in varying dialects, illuminating the complex ethnic mosaic that colors the musical soundscape: Byzantine Greek, Arab, Sephardic Jew, Bourbon Spanish, and others. The ocean surrounds and binds these tales, a narrator of sorts that guides the listener through a personal journey into a culture I left at a young age. I have always been fascinated by the human voice and folk traditions, and through this piece I reclaim the roots I have long wanted to discover. Electronic backing tracks were compiled by engineer Michael Winger at the Broken Radio Studio in San Francisco, California. Special thanks to the children at the cooperative Solidarietá Salento, director Valeria Viganò, and the residency program Sound Res ( for the opportunity to record and work with the children, producing the taped sounds used in the Fimmene section.

—Paola Prestini