Composer Frederic Rzewski turns 80

Schonmaier Rzewski.jpg

Photograph of Frederic Rzewski by Eleonore Schönmaier (2012)

 

Nocturnes

 

during

winter months

of insomnia

 

Frederic inks

three nocturnes

hoping sleep will

 

reach him like a gift

dropped through

the mail slot

 

like a feather

fallen from a

blue wing, like the

 

memory of the sunset

slipping through

the late evening blinds

 

like the midnight

train where the two single

men, the couple,

 

the family with children

all have their

eyes shut, a few soft

 

snores and Frederic

with his head

against the window

 

also falls away

from the world

as he hurtles

 

toward a destination

whose address he

often fails to find

 

From Dust Blown Side of the Journey (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017)


“[Frederic Rzewski] has, for decades, been making thought-provoking, heart-wrenching music about issues that dominate the headlines today: the perils of incarceration, the tension between the government and the governed, the struggle for gay rights, the decimation of the industrial working class…Mr. Rzewski practices the progressive ideas he preaches, making his scores available online and encouraging, rather than blocking, the dissemination of his recordings on YouTube. He remains, he says, a revolutionary optimist. Asked if it’s possible actually to affect politics through music, Mr. Rzewski answered, “Probably not,” before adding, with a wry smile: “But you have to write as if you could. You can’t be sure. You might.”—Zachary Woolfe