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Circles (author's note)

Circles
for female voice, harp and two percussion players (1960)
Texts by e. e. cummings

Circles, commissioned by the Fromm Foundation, was composed in 1960 and first performed in August of that same year during the Berkshire Music Festival by Cathy Berberian and members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Circles develops musically three poems by e. e. cummings, with different degrees of complexity: No. 25, “stinging gold swarms...”, No. 76, “riverly is a flower...” and No. 221, “n(o)w the how dis(appeared cleverly)world…” from Collected Poems. In Circles the three poems are arranged in the following order: 25-76-221, (221)-76-25. No. 221 goes backwards over itself, while poems No. 25 and No. 76 appear twice in different moments of the musical development.
I had no intention of writing a series of vocal pieces with harp and percussion accompaniment; rather, I was interested in elaborating the three poems in a circular way so that a unified form resulted, where the different levels of meaning, the vocal action and the instrumental action would strictly condition each other, even on the plane of phonetic qualities. The theatrical aspects of the performance are inherent in the structure of the work itself which is, above all, a structure of actions: to be listened to as theatre and to be viewed as music.

Luciano Berio (1961)