I always had an idea to take folk songs (particularly ones I knew from childhood) and discard the melodies and begin again, so to speak, letting the texts and feel of them create new music. When I came across the Halpert archive at the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music, I knew that was the place to go for texts. It turns out these old songs, many with their roots in British broadsides and the like, were not ones I knew as a child, let alone in their unique and quirky versions that Herbert Halpert collected, all transmitted orally, over generations.
After sorting through hundreds of texts, I decided that this will be two projects. First, a set of choral pieces that discard the traditional tunes and focus on the texts as transmitted by one person at precisely that one moment in time, in 1938. In setting the first two I found the pent up emotion in these texts to be released like the energy in an atom. Generation upon generation of loves won and lost, the lessons of young adulthood, and the nostalgia of old age flow through these old texts.
The second project is to set several of the bawdy (they aren't that dirty, really) texts for solo voice and soprano. Forgotten to time, these texts were irresistible to me as they still sound fresh and funny, still somehow true even in our modern ways of courting and sexual discovery.