There was

Ascending Descending (Janet Kaplan) 2010

Song cycle for two sopranos and piano

1. Umbilicus duet

2. There was duet

3. As good as sex sop 1

4. When it started to rain sop 2

5. Never mind the night sop 1


Duration: 11 minutes



I chose five fragments of Janet’s poem as a microcosm of the larger design of her chapbook. Jacob’s dream is re-imagined in 1. Umbilicus. 2. In There was space time warps into a vertiginous post trauma reverie. 3. As good as sex brings us into a specific presentation in one of the conference rooms of the Towers before the impact. 4. When it started to rain captures the scene in an adjacent school as it is being destroyed, juxtaposed with the astonishing image of a couple’s reflexive act of intimacy before death. 5. In Never mind the night a woman mentally forgives her husband for a minor disappointment as she plunges to her death.


I was selected by the jury of Voices Up!, a music series at Fordham U. Lincoln Center, to set poems by their poet in residence, Janet Kaplan. I chose 5 verses from her chapbook Ascending Descending, the poet’s eerily beautiful and chilling re-imagination of 9/11 through the lens of Jacob's Dream in the Book of Genesis.


They were premiered at Fordham U. Lincoln Center in April 2010 with Ilana Zarankin and Clarissa Lyons, sopranos and Shun Yang Lee at the piano.


Subsequently, they were presented by American Opera Projects at the Irondale Theater and Galapagos ARTSPACE in Brooklyn Sep. 11 and 27, 2011 with sopranos, Marnie Breckenridge and Sara Heaton whom you can hear below on the recording with me at the piano.

  Martin Hennessy

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When it started to rain

As good as sex

Ascending Descending is a musically powerful series of vignettes expressing a seminal, horrific event in our nation's history. The songs are expertly crafted for two sopranos. — Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, Journal of Singing

Never mind the night