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Composed: 2012

About this Piece

A killing jar is a tool used by entomologists to kill butterflies and other insects without damaging their bodies: a hermitically sealable glass container, lined with poison, in which the specimen will quickly suffocate. Voices from the Killing Jar depicts a series of female protagonists who are caught in their own kinds of killing jars—hopeless situations, inescapable fates, impossible fantasies, and other unlucky circumstances—each living in a world constructed from among the countless possible sonic environments of the Wet Ink Ensemble, for whom the work was written.

I. Prelude: May Kasahara
The titular 16-year-old of Haruki Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chronicle speculates on the true nature of the force underlying human existence. In increasingly agitated fragments, she describes the essential malevolence of this force and admits its influence on her to commit acts of violence and cruelty. (Text by Kate Soper)

II. Isabel Archer: My Last Duchess
Set to excerpts from a 19th-century dramatic monologue by Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” portrays the heroine of Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady (personified in a gradually collapsing clarinet tremolo), whose disastrous marriage to a soulless Machiavellian ends all hope for the future. (Text by Robert Browning and Henry James)

III. Palilalia: Iphegenia
"Palilalia" is the pathological repetition a word or phrase. Clytemnestra broods on the murder of her daughter Iphigenia. She sends a prayer for bloodshed to Artemis, goddess of the hunt, instructions to Iphigenia in Hades, and a grim warning to her absent husband Agamemnon. (Text by Kate Soper)

IV. Midnight's Tolling: Lucile Duplessis
Lucile Duplessis remembered for being the wife of French Revolutionary Camille Desmoulins and was executed by guillotine at 24. “Midnight's Tolling” sets excerpts from a journal she kept as an extravagantly moody young girl and teenager, full of angst and bloodthirsty charm. (Text by Lucile Duplesis)

V. Mad Scene: Emma Bovary
A look into the seething mind of the irrepressible Madame Bovary, depicting a scene in Gustave Flaubert's novel in which she is thrown into delusional raptures during a night at the opera. (Text by Gustave Flaubert and Lorenzo da Ponte)

VI. Interlude: Asta Solilja
In Haldor Laxness' epic novel Independent People, the heartbreakingly sensitive young Asta Solilja finds beauty and a dream of love while cloud-gazing on her father's harshly isolated sheep farm in 19th century Iceland.

VII. The Owl and the Wren: Lady Macduff
Towards the end of Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macduff is brutally and unforgettably murdered along with her children. This is the lullaby of her final moments, distorted by intimations of approaching horror. (Text by Kate Soper)

VIII. Her Voice is Full of Money (a deathless song): Dasy Buchanan
In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Daisy's voice is variously described as “a singing compulsion,” “an exhilarating ripple,” “a deathless song.” Just before the novel's tragic climax, Gatsby himself weighs in for the first time, reducing this extraordinary feature