Skip to main content

PBO’s October concerts, “Garden of Good & Evil,” October 18-21, present a unique opportunity to hear Ancestor, a jointly composed work by both PBO Composer in Residence Tarik O’Regan and trailblazing composer Errollyn Wallen. Here’s a bit about what to expect as told by O’Regan:

When Errollyn and I were first commissioned to each write pieces for PBO’s Garden of Good and Evil project we had several discussions about how we might want to react musically to the initial idea from Richard, which was that we might focus on Adam and Eve. Using this particular creation myth as a starting point, we soon found ourselves thinking about other creation stories from a broad range of cultures, all of which more or less try to answer the question: who were our ancestors? 

This gave us the title – Ancestor – of our collective work, but not how to go about working together as two composers each responsible for a fully autonomous work which also somehow connected to the other thematically and musically in a programme based on opposites. It was at this point we began thinking about duality rather than polarity: both instead of either/or. In light of this, Errollyn came up with the idea of each writing our own texts. My modification was to suggest that we each write each other’s texts.

Then we got stuck. What words should we write?

Enter Reginald Mobley, not only a terrific countertenor, but also a programming guru, researcher, and general agent of change. He took our initial ideas and created a sort of white paper delving deeply into not only the rest of the program, but also extant textual sources dealing with duality and the merging, rather than bifurcating, of identities. And in the middle of the document was a striking paragraph he’d sourced from Woman in the Nineteenth Century, by Margaret Fuller (1810-1850):

Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But, in fact, they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman. History jeers at the attempts of physiologists to bind great original laws by the forms which flow from them. They make a rule; they say from observation what can and cannot be. In vain! Nature provides exceptions to every rule. She sends women to battle, and sets Hercules spinning; she enables women to bear immense burdens, cold, and frost; she enables the man, who feels maternal love, to nourish his infant like a mother.

Errollyn and I were immediately drawn to this text, and felt that we could both extract from, paraphrase, re-work, or jump off from Fuller’s words to create something individual, yet entwined. Which is exactly what we did, each providing a poem or libretto of sorts for the other. Our pieces take for their titles the first words of our respective texts: The Forms and The Golden Measure.

Grab your tickets here to hear this stunning work performed by PBO and countertenor Tim Mead in October.