The Invalid's Sonnet

by Mark Snyder

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about

The third record from Virginia-based multimedia composer Mark Snyder offers his most potent and emotional music yet. The album’s centerpiece, a four-movement song cycle titled Facets of Love, avoids the traditional art song cliche by following the lover’s spiral from joy to ruin. The poems written by Jeanine Casler take traditional forms, yet their stories are evocative and painful, traversing from love’s exuberant awakenings to its grittiest atrocities, and withering into its most isolated despondency. The anticipation and excitement of the prelude show love at its birth and its butterflies, with waves of sparkling electronics mirroring new affection as it grows and deepens. The soprano builds off this rhythmic trust into the second movement (Our House on the Hill); gentle at first, her voice grows strong and unafraid as the ensemble bolsters her passion into something alive, untethered, and completely joyous.

An uneasy stillness opens the third movement (The Invalid’s Sonnet), punctuated by the haunting echoes that shadow the soprano. The singer’s anger builds until it erupts into self-destructive chaos, with the thundering ensemble giving weight to her pained declarations of personal surrender. A chorus of her own wordless voice drifts into the emptiness left by anger’s end as the fourth movement (Nostalgia) begins; heavy piano chords interrupt the void in the slowest, strained heartbeat. The soprano sings high enough to break, and pure enough to wring her own regretful tears, had she any left to give. Hollow and barely human, the end of the song cycle resonates loss as it echoes into silence.

The abject emptiness felt at the end of Facets of Love grants a certain silence to Calena, a eulogy for a friend who died too young to NUT Midline Carcinoma, an untreatable form of cancer. Still synths expose a low, unstable melody, combining in dialogue until both give way to a triumphant-yet-tragic crescendo, her name echoing in the background. Where Nostalgia describes a pure, abstract loss, Calena spans all the emotions that come with remembrance; warm memories organically coexist with new sorrows.

Qwee breathes a starry whisper into the album’s end, at first sounding like a meditation on emerging from solitude. The work shimmers as it builds in both volume and speed, from just slow harp and soft singing to an organ-esque accordion bolstering a whirling cloud of voices. It suggests slowly built confidence after making a well-needed change, every new beat a quicker step on some untraveled path. “I haven’t completely grasped everything about Qwee,” Snyder says. “But it was definitely a beacon.”

The Invalid’s Sonnet will be released on February 19th through all digital retailers and streaming services; physical CDs can also be purchased online. See marksnyder.org for more information on listening, purchasing, or attending a show

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released February 19, 2016

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about

Mark Snyder Fredericksburg, Virginia

Despite what you may think about electronic composers, Mark does not work in a laboratory. His music does not offer cross- sections of frequencies or waveforms, nor does it mix technology & the canon inside a closed petri dish. Instead, Snyder produces soundscapes that envelope the viewer, and charged arrangements keyed specifically to the moving image. Space is occupied, and space is offered. ... more

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Track Name: Facets of Love: II. Our House on the Hill
Come with me, you said
And I’ll build a world apart
Where you’ll never have to grieve
For you’ll never want to leave
Honeycomb from stingless bees
Pillows soft as sparrow’s wings
Golden goblets wait to catch
The ruby wine from hidden springs
Pathways lined with diamond dust
Will lead us to a silver brook
And there we’ll learn from dragonflies
More secrets than one knows from books
And envy will not be allowed
From little minds we’ll bar the door
And safe inside you’ll barely hear
The West Wind’s angry roar
Come with me, you said
To our house upon the hill—
Without a breath, without a sigh,
I answered you—“I will.”
Track Name: Facets of Love: III. The Invalid's Sonnet
My love’s a sickness, draining all my life
My eyes, my head, my heart no longer free
With gladness would I go under the knife
if medic lived who’d tear this plague from me.

My thoughts are not my own, they run astray
My traitorous eyes will only look on you
My fevered heartbeats inwardly betray
the power of this love I’ve come to rue.

For it has made me weak, and slow to act,
Forgetful of the shining water’s mud;
My mind a prison, and my body wracked,
No remedy remains to staunch my blood—
So, like the phoenix, burning from her core
I must destroy myself to live once more.
Track Name: Facets of Love: IV. Nostalgia
To free myself from love I set you free
My precious independence was my all
Your eyes of grey meant only chains to me
I fled before your love’s demands could pall.

So now I sit here in this dark cafe
Where once we spoke of dreams we both could share
I drink, and weep, and laugh as if I’m gay—
Regardless of the way the people stare

For everything reminds me now of you
The golden moon, the bubbles in my wine,
The airplane disappearing in the blue
Will not let me forget that you were mine.

Now every city, every face is new
Fame’s my companion since we’ve been apart;
But still my anguished soul knows that it’s true:
I only gained the world to lose my heart.
Track Name: Facets of Love: Movements I - IV
II. Our house on the Hill

Come with me, you said
And I’ll build a world apart
Where you’ll never have to grieve
For you’ll never want to leave
Honeycomb from stingless bees
Pillows soft as sparrow’s wings
Golden goblets wait to catch
The ruby wine from hidden springs
Pathways lined with diamond dust
Will lead us to a silver brook
And there we’ll learn from dragonflies
More secrets than one knows from books
And envy will not be allowed
From little minds we’ll bar the door
And safe inside you’ll barely hear
The West Wind’s angry roar
Come with me, you said
To our house upon the hill—
Without a breath, without a sigh,
I answered you—“I will.”

III. The invalid’s sonnet

My love’s a sickness, draining all my life
My eyes, my head, my heart no longer free
With gladness would I go under the knife
if medic lived who’d tear this plague from me.

My thoughts are not my own, they run astray
My traitorous eyes will only look on you
My fevered heartbeats inwardly betray
the power of this love I’ve come to rue.

For it has made me weak, and slow to act,
Forgetful of the shining water’s mud;
My mind a prison, and my body wracked,
No remedy remains to staunch my blood—
So, like the phoenix, burning from her core
I must destroy myself to live once more.

IV. Nostalgia

To free myself from love I set you free
My precious independence was my all
Your eyes of grey meant only chains to me
I fled before your love’s demands could pall.

So now I sit here in this dark cafe
Where once we spoke of dreams we both could share
I drink, and weep, and laugh as if I’m gay—
Regardless of the way the people stare

For everything reminds me now of you
The golden moon, the bubbles in my wine,
The airplane disappearing in the blue
Will not let me forget that you were mine.

Now every city, every face is new
Fame’s my companion since we’ve been apart;
But still my anguished soul knows that it’s true:
I only gained the world to lose my heart.