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Music Text

"My Neighbour, the Distinguished Count" from Autobiographies by Alfred Corn

Scoring

1(=picc).0.1(=bcl).0-1.1.0.0-perc(2):I=xyl/t.bells/bar chimes/glass wind chimes/guiro/2bongos(high,low)/
cyms/2wdbl(high,low)/2timp; II=SD/TD/low conga dr/hi-hat/5tpl.bl/ratchet/tamb/high siren/lge anvil/
lge wind machine-pft(=cel)-theremin-strings(1.1.1.1.1 or small string orch)

This work requires additional technological components and/or amplification.


Abbreviations (PDF)

Territory
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
3/4/1999
Ethical Culture Society, New York, New York
Wendy Hill , soprano / EOS Orchestra / Jonathan Sheffer
Composer's Notes

Dracula is a 20-minute setting of Alfred Corn's poem, "My Neighbor, the Distinguished Count" It is written for a soprano-narrator and thirteen players: flute (doubling on piccolo), clarinet (doubling on bass-clarinet), trumpet, horn, percussion (two players), theremin, piano (doubling on celesta) and a quintet of strings.

The text retells the famous gothic tale from the point of view of a woman living next-door to "the distinguished count" In five scenes, the poem chronicles her initial disinterest, gradual seduction, then degradation, rejection and, finally, "vampiristic" transformation.

The piece makes enormous demands upon the soprano soloist, who must speak even more than she sings and, when singing, must negotiate over three octaves — from the D below middle-C (when conjuring up the voice of the count) to the E-flat above high-C (when depicting the woman in extremis).

The instrumental ensemble is perhaps most notable for the inclusion of the theremin — the exotic, other-worldly-sounding electronic instrument that evoked "horror" and "mystery" in early Hollywood films. Most of the poem is written in the past tense " the woman is telling us what happened. When the narrative reaches the present and Dracula himself comes to her "for the last time," the theremin " with its whooshes and wails " announces itself, personifying the (excitingly) depraved count.

Singing, in Dracula, is reserved for special occasions, such as when the count himself speaks or when the woman is most overwrought. As well, at key moments throughout the setting, I repeat, like an incantation, certain texts of the menacing count ("I come to you, dearest, because you think / Of me. An irresistible summons") and of the ecstatic woman (How often I long to stay profoundly asleep / And never be conscious again.").

Midway through the musical discourse, there is a fugue (the count's "troop of haggard followers ... congregate") and a final aria of transformation wherein the soprano's high-flying voice and the wail of the theremin merge as one....

The piece touches many emotional levels. With the use of the theremin, copious amounts of wind-machine and roiling bass drum, "scary" is a primary reaction —; as is "funny." Nervous giggles and startled gasps would not be unwelcome here. Deeper down, the listener confronts the more ominous world of addiction, betrayal and obsession. And inevitably, there comes the ultimate degradation " a faustian bargain with a devilish price: devolution into the living dead.

- David (Count) Del Tredici, October 2007


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