Ray's Birthday Suit was written in celebration of my (then) husband Ray Warman's 60th birthday. I took the six decades of his life and wrote a piece to characterize each. Ray did not like to say he was turning 60. Instead he chose to say he was turning 50/10 – the number that whimsically comes right after 59. "It sounds younger," he'd say.
In the score, before each piece, I wrote a descriptive sentence which I will reproduce here.
I. 10 Radiant Child
"Ray, a beautiful child, is taught to embrace the Catholic Church."
A quietly contrapuntal texture introduces the Ray theme. Halfway through, woven into the texture, appears the hymn, "Tantum Ergo."
II. 10/10 Yale Fugue
"Ray, the Yale man, enters a new world that will forever change his life."
The subject of this particular fugue is the opening phrase of "Bright College Years," a Yalie song. In the course of the fugue two other Yale tunes appear: The "Wiffenpoof Song" and "Bulldog" – a fight song. At the very end, "Bright College Years" is heard in complete form (albeit highly embellished).
III. 20/10 Lawyer Etude
"Ray, the hot, hard working young lawyer takes on Gotham City."
Fast and furious to the end, the etude epitomizes Ray's struggle to make it as a lawyer in the "big time."
IV. 30/10 Domesticated/Seduced
"Ray, married and domesticated hears a new and seductive call......(WHACK!)"
This above sentence bears explanation. After twenty years of marriage and two kids, Ray felt an urge to experiment in submission to female dominatrices. They subjected him to all sorts of exotic torture. After two years of this activity, Ray felt "broken open" and realized that he was–had always been–gay. The piece is in two parts. A gentle gracious movement comes first, suggesting stability and conformity. "Salome's Dance" suddenly appears to shake things up. Ray engages with her. At the very end there is the unmistakable suggestion of a whip cracking.
V. 40/10 Love Duet
"Ray Meets David, his first male lover"
This duet combines David's theme (from the composer's work "Final Alice") with Ray's theme. The mood is ecstatic, though the piece does end ominously and tentatively.
VI. 50/10 A Grand Occasion
"The great birthday finally arrives. There is a joyful noise heard throughout the land."
This piece is appropriately majestic and is much longer and more developed than any of the preceding movements. It contains another fugue and much tumultuous movement. There is even a a highly romantic rendering of Ray's theme late in the piece. However, for the actual ending, the music revs up once more – clangorously and triumphantly combining David's theme and Ray's theme with the ending of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".
– DAVID DEL TREDICI, MARCH 2012