Just Once
  1. 1. Just Once

With Chamber Ensemble or Multiple Singers

Robotic Song (2011)

2 sopranos and percussion, 3′

Based on poetry by Amy Frances

Songs of Gernika (2008)

A commission for harpist Irantzu Agirre’s Carnegie Hall debut
Dedicated to Irantzu Agirre

Instrumentation: Soprano, harp, and string quartet

Duration: 9′

Performance history:

Premiered in 2008 at Weill Hall, Carnegie Hall with soprano Linda Larson, harpist Irantzu Agirre, violinists Kinga Augustyn and Kiwon Nahm, violist Rick Quantz, and cellist Dorothea Noack.

Song texts
Poetry by Irantzu Agirre. All rights reserved worldwide.

Mendiz inguratutako herrixka txiki honetan
Arbol sendoa daukagu sinbolotzat
Azoka eguna da gaur
Apirilako goiz honetan
Denetarik dago merkatu zabalean
Patatak, kipulak, gazta, abereak
Alde batetik bestera dabiltza umeak
Zakurrak zaunka eta txakolin ona! Andreak
Hegazti beltzek zerua ilundu dute
babez bila jende guztia
Kaleak gorriz margoztuta
Sukarra nagusitu egin da
espirituan marka lehorrak
baina arbola beti bihotzean


English translation:

In this country rounded by mountains
a tree is our symbol
Today is market day
in this April morning
There is everything in this broad market
Potatoes, onion, cheese, animals
Children run from one side to the other
A dog barks and a woman shouts: Darn good drink!
Black birds darken the sky
People seek hiding places
The streets are painted in red
The flame is the master
Dry marks in the spirit
But the tree always remains in our hearts

Solo Voice with Piano Accompaniment

Six Gupta Songs (2013)

A commission for the New York State Music Teachers Association (NYSMTA)
and the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)

Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano and piano

Duration: 9′

Performance history:

Premiered on October 19, 2013, at the College of Saint Rose by mezzo-soprano Susan Hermance-Fedak and pianist Evan Mack

Song texts
Poetry by Deepali Gupta. All rights reserved worldwide.


Curdled, silky moon, pockmarked and expired
You are lucky we have so many disparate uses for you
Otherwise one of the supreme beings
Would have thrown you out a long time ago—you’re lucky you’re so many different things to us
That none of them have been able to think of one thing
To replace all of you
Despite how stale and sad you are.

Heavy, milky moon, wasted yet so admired
Nibbled at for millions and millions of years, widowed
We are lucky to know what you are
We are so lucky to know all of what you are.


The young, young girl had never known
What to do around old, old, old, old men
What if anything to say to them?

When if ever to give way to their
Strange demands and casual slurs
That don’t offend her personally
But she certainly has dear, dear, dear, dear friends
Who would be

Everyone must be good to their best, best friends
The old man said, his eye neither milky nor cracked
His head neither spotted nor shiny

She took pause.
She took pause, and then he continued
In a reluctant, truncated manner:

Truth is patient.
Truth waits.
Truth will be there
When you get home today.


I had a vision the other day
I know I made it up
But I saw it, if not in front of my eyes
Inside of my brain

I saw a star on the ground
That I almost stepped on
Then picked up, like I would a shiny penny
Smiling at me

I carried it with me always
It stayed with me forever
Inside my pocket, until I remembered
That I was alone

Sitting on a bench
Drinking my coffee


When I met you, you were so interesting
Far more interesting than other boys I knew
Just as interesting as any boy in a book somewhere
That is how it began.

Then countless days came and went
None of them with my consent
And you defeated me
Even as you nurtured and completed me
Yes, you eventually defeated me

I was so blank and dull,
Far more than I’d ever been before
Just as blank and dull as a blank piece of paper
And a dull, broken pencil
Who have no stories for each other
And nothing to say forever.

And I thought maybe that’s all the time I should spend
On something with no beginning or end
For ends and beginnings, especially ends
They help us recover, they make us mend.


To do anything as loud as you can is a vast ecstasy.
It’s like all the walls can’t stand your sonic sphere, expanding like it is
the air tastes like mint, is mint and the second you stop
is the second you make the world gasp for air, is the second that you
sink and you’re the ink that bleeds out of the bleached shirt.

It is a sick pleasure only allowed to those who are alone or onstage.
It’s possible to be alone.
It’s possible to be onstage by yourself.

Patience is a great way to get what you want!
Closing your eyes is a great way to get what you want.

I used to sing, and now I howl. But if I howl, it’s for resonance, the depth,
not the snarl, the upward coil. If I howl, it’s so something of me may
ring in your ears.


I may be the only one
Who suffers
When you put on your coat and hat,

I may be the only one
Who hurts when you do that.

But if you take off your shoes,
Then I’ll know
You surely mean to stay.

Oh if you take off your shoes
I’ll be okay.

And I will fade to nothingness
If you ask
Shy away to nothingness
If you ask
Make a life from sweet, complete nothingness
If you only ask…

The things that were supposed to keep you close
Pushed you far, far away.
The things they said would keep you close
Have stifled you and you will not stay
And I may be the only one
Who thinks of you today.

If You Came Back (2005)

Soprano and Piano, 3-4’

Just Once (2002)

Instrumentation: soprano and piano

Duration: 3-4′

Performance history:

World premiere in 2002 by soprano Susanna Phillips and pianist Ching-Yun Hu.

Song text

Poem by Anne Sexton. All rights reserved worldwide.

Just once I knew what life was for.
In Boston, quite suddenly, I understood;
walked there along the Charles River,
watched the lights copying themselves,
all neoned and strobe-hearted, opening
their mouths as wide as opera singers;
counted the stars, my little campaigners,
my scar daisies, and knew that I walked my love
on the night green side of it and cried
my heart to the eastbound cars and cried
my heart to the westbound cars and took
my truth across a small humped bridge
and hurried my truth, the charm of it, home
and hoarded these constants into morning
only to find them gone.