Begin (for soprano or mezzo soprano and piano); on text by Neil Aitken

(Duration – 7:15 mins)

An intimate reflection on imagination, bravery, and the power of beginnings.

Begin is the first poem from a set called Babbage’s Dream, about the first man to conceptualize the idea of a programmable computer in the 1820s. Poet Neil Aitken charts the course of Charles Babbage’s life, from his initial envisioning of an analytical machine, through his death with the machine only partially built.
It’s a story that might have been technical and academic, and yet, what caught my eye was the poet’s knack for taking complex concepts and pulling a story from them which is classical, beautiful, and universal. To me, the text of Begin is applicable to the beginning of any endeavor: The words feel like a personal reflection from someone enraptured with a vision which no one around them can see, understand, or imagine as yet.

This piece was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and 21C Liederabend.

Elissa Johnston, soprano; Nicolas Gerpe, piano