A Sonatina


Program Note

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was a pioneering modernist in American literature who endeavored
to create in literature the same objectification and immediacy of thought that her friend
Picasso had created in his Cubist paintings. At times she went even further, making language
into a fascinating abstraction, which has long appealed to me as a composer, as has her musical
perspective of language, her use of repetition, and the seeming simplicity of her supposed
"difficult" works. This text comes from a very long poem, "A Sonatina Followed by Another”,
which she wrote in Vence, France in 1921. According to her friend and collaborator Virgil
Thomson, the title refers to her habit of improvising "sonatinas" on the white keys of the piano,
though she had no musical training whatever. Although the poem is filled with charming though
fleeting images of her stay in southern France, I have extracted lullaby-like bits of the text that
often seem to refer to her life partner, Alice Toklas. -B. Alves

About Bill Alves

Bill Alves is a composer, writer, and video artist based in Southern California and engaged at the intersections of musical cultures and technology. He has written extensively for conventional acoustic…