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Antony Pitts: Anna's Rapid Eye Movement – Act I

from KNOWN UNKNOWN [EP​]​: Anna's Rapid Eye Movement by The Song Company & TONUS PEREGRINUS

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about

Anna’s Rapid Eye Movement (1990–2017)

A.R.E.M. was commissioned by Michael Burden for New Chamber Opera – the libretto by Shaen Catherwood – and the first studio extract was released on Unknown Public in 1993 (UP03 pianoFORTE). It was premièred live as part of the Dreamers of the Day tour in 2017 at Sydney Opera House and elsewhere. The foreground story is a simple tale of what happens when the stress of real life breaks through into the world of dreams: Anna’s longing for peace and fulfilment becomes a search for the midnight train.

In Act I this search takes her via the Travel Agents’, the Bank, and her untidy bedroom to an extended, slowly dawning moment of realization that she is finally and really awake ... at the end of a shimmering, non-stop ride through vivid, richly-hued musical scenery. In Anna’s “dream of eclectic sleep” the narrative unfolds as she articulates the mental and physical fluctuation she experiences: to begin with, the time is apparently 11.30 at night. A retro telephone ring on her mobile sets up the first of many regular sound patterns and palindromes, including metronomes, alarm clocks, heart monitors, time pips, and knocking on the door – and Anna is told that, as she already knows, she needs a holiday. She hangs up and slips into a sleep coloured by the sounds of a recording of perhaps the last music Bach ever wrote, Contrapunctus XIX from The Art of Fugue.

Clock time is measured very precisely by an insistent, regular beat against contradictory pulses and the stretching of the harmonic rhythm of Bach’s fugue. Urgent, mocking voices start up, and in the first of three nested Scenes Anna is offered a variety of fantastic excursions and holidays, including the exotic “midnight train”. Resurfacing briefly, she realizes she needs to pay for her ticket, and in the second Scene she is asked to mortgage every last thing she has – down to her last memory, her blood cells, her DNA. In the third Scene, with the help of an overly helpful neighbour, she considers packing for every eventuality, making her so tired that she falls asleep within her dream. The music of Bach’s Contrapunctus XIX resurfaces once again for its final few (unfinished) bars and the sound of the alarm becomes unbearable until Anna manages to switch it off ...

lyrics

A.R.E.M.
ACT I


Anna’s telephone rings ...

Anna: Hello.

Sophie, hi!

Yes, sorry. I’ve just had the most frustrating day
of my life.

I hate work, I hate the rain, and the front door is sticking again.

I know it’s late -

Anna’s clock sounds an alarm ...

Gus, stop it! Sorry, the cat...

– I’m always home late.

I haven’t time for a holiday, Sophie!

No, I haven’t been away this year.

Yes, I know I need a change of scene.

I’d love to lounge in the sun.

And go exploring.

And sleep.

I’ve been too busy to sleep.

It feels as though I haven’t slept for months.

You’re right. I’ll book a holiday.

Yes, I will.


Now? It’s half past eleven. Nothing’s open.

What do you mean?

What?

What are you going on about, Sophie?

What? You’re mad!

Anna’s turntable plays ...

Chorus: Look at the time.
Must be getting on.
This is no time to nap.
The shops’ll be shut!
The quoip’s potato blookle.
Come on!

Anna: Look at the time!
Must be getting on!

Chorus: Winds up to 300 miles per hour will sweep the country.

We’ll have no rain in the foreseeable future but there’ll be snow and hail in the South-East and North-West.

A hot, dry night, then, with flooding up to ten feet in all areas.

Don’t travel unless you are very old or under seven.

Lots of love, Alan.

Anna: I’m tumbling,
tumbling with trash in a stinking blast.
I’m wet and sullied: Look at my make-up!

Chorus: Dripping, drooping,
clown face smudgeroon face, goon face.

Anna: All young people try to run.
Scene One

At the Travel Agent’s ...

Bill the Travel Agent: 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13....

Chorus: What do we see outside this orange hum?

Anna: What fantasies scratch at our bedroom doors?

Chorus: What do we long for?

Anna: The doors burst wide...

Bill: ...121393...Can I help you?

It’s for you.

Anna: ...For me?

Bill: For you.

Anna: Hello?

Chorus: ...-two and fifty seconds.
At the third stroke the time will be eleven thirty-three.

Bill: Can I help you, Anna?

Anna: I want to go on holiday. Just that.

Bill: Of course.
We’d like to whisk you far away.
To fly you from this city torpor to beautiful places, beautiful times.
There are so many beautiful, beautiful, beautiful places, times.
We have a flight to the Spice Ocean leaving tomorrow, can we take you away...

Three Travel Agents: ...from blackness to light?
To daybreak from night.

Anna: I want to go on holiday.

Chorus: From rancid to sweet.
To sand-dune from street.

Bill: Out, out you can escape to happiness.
There is always a ticket for your distress.

Chorus: From aching to peace.

Anna: I want to go.

Chorus: From freehold to lease.

Bill: Out, out you can escape to happiness.
There is always a ticket for your distress.

Anna: I want to go on holiday.

Chorus: From blackness to light.
To daybreak from night.
From rancid to sweet.
To sand-dune from street.
From aching to peace.
To freehold from lease.

Bill: Goodbye the dark, dirty overcoated scrapers.

2nd Travel Agent: Goodbye the hurtful alleys and sickly parks.

1st Travel Agent: Goodbye the starchy white des. res.

Bill: Goodbye the vast and twisting hoardings.

2nd Travel Agent: Goodbye the sun-fermented litter.

1st Travel Agent: Goodbye the present.

Travel Agents: Goodbye!

Bill: Listen.

Can you hear the cowbells in the valley?

Listen.

Can you hear the metal birds of paradise?
They are chiming their golden breasts with
platinum beaks.
They are in love, I think.

Here is a map of everything.
So many, happy places.

Goodbye the shivering roads ...

1st & 2nd Travel Agents: Goodbye...

Chorus: The shivering roads,
The battered dogs,
The killing jokes,
The pushing people.

Travel Agents: ...The slow people.
Goodbye the poor people.
Goodbye the rich people.
Goodbye the stinking.
Goodbye the squeaking.
Goodbye the shouting.
Goodbye the whispers.
Goodbye the loving, the hating.
Goodbye the city.
Goodbye the present.
Goodbye the here.

Bill: Listen.

Can you hear the cowbells in the valley?

Listen. (Listen, can you hear the cowbells in the valley?)

Can you hear the metal birds of paradise?
They are in love, I think.

1st & 2nd Travel Agents: Nothing.

The Map of Everything ...

Bill: This is a map of everything.

Fly by pipe-dream to a castle in the air.
Sail through the first rain-storm.

1st Travel Agent: Watch Icarus drown,
Hear Prometheus scream!

2nd Travel Agent: On a seven-day hop, survey the emergence of homo sapiens.

Bill: Travel to the fourteenth century when the world was flat.

Travel Agents: Trek the four corners of the earth.

Bill: All is here!
What will you choose?

Anna: So much bright light.
This can’t be all.
So much bright light.
This can’t be all.
So much bright light.
This can’t be all.
This can’t be me.

Listen!

Bill: Watch Icarus drown,
Hear Prometheus scream.

2nd Travel Agent & Chorus:
Travel to the fourteeth century
When the world was flat and trek the
Four corners of the earth;
Fly by pipe-dream to a castle in the
Air; sail through the first rain-storm;
Hear the last love-song of the last
Whale; on a seven-day hop sur-
Vey the emergence of homo sapiens.

The Midnight Train ...

Anna: What do I see?


Tell me, tell me.

Travel Agents: A train, a train.

Anna: What train?

Travel Agents: Midnight.

Anna: What train?

Travel Agents: The midnight train. (Train.)

Anna: A midnight train?
Where will it go?

Travel Agents: I cannot say.

Anna: Will it go far?

Travel Agents: Perhaps.

Anna: Will it be dangerous?

Travel Agents: Madam.

Madam, I do not know – I wouldn’t like to say.
It is the midnight train. That must do.
It will cost so very much.

Anna: How much?

Travel Agents: Too much.

Anna: How much?

Travel Agents: Far too much.

Anna: But how much?

Travel Agents: How much do you have?

Anna: How much do I have?

Chorus: The midnight train, the midnight train.

Heading for the Bank ...

Anna: Where now?

Chorus: We know.

Anna: Where now?

Chorus: We know where you are going.
What you are heading for and why you must.
The bank.

Anna: Where now?

Chorus: Light and cladding up ahead.

Anna: I can choose to turn away.

Chorus: Then where are you going?

Anna: I can choose to turn away.
Your choice is yours, my choice is not.
Where now?

Chorus: Light and cladding up ahead,
The arid safe, those codes and coins,
The bank.

Anna: What now?

Chorus: The bank.

Anna: Where am I going?

Please not the bank, please. Please not!
The arid safe, those codes and coins, dull currency.
Dull currency.

Chorus: All is ahead.
All is here before.
All will be behind.

Anna: When I leave, I will leave my wealth behind, massing in my roaring past.
Scene Two

A loan from ‘Honest’ Lee ...

Lee the Banker: Oh yes! Certainly.
Delighted, madam, we love lending,
we love your loan.

Madam: Good, good. How long will it take?

Lee: Three days. (Madam)

Madam: Three days?

Lee: Three days.

Chorus: Three days.

Madam: And may I wait here?

Lee: Oh yes! Certainly, madam. Adam will show
you your bed, madam.

Madam: This way, this way, lie here.

Lee: Wake me, please, when my loan is ready.

Madam: We will,

Lee: Madam.

Lee & Other Banker: Yes, Anna?

Anna: I must catch the midnight train.
There is no time, there is no time. I need a loan.

Lee: Now, now, Anna, please relax, it is not
midnight for a while;
Time is running behind tonight,
the clocks are dozing.

Chorus: Clocks are dozing.

Other Banker: Today,


Two Bankers: Giddy Earth was spinning rather
slowly.

Good for some, bad for others.

Good for Anna!

Chorus: Good for Anna!

Lee: And so to your loan.

Anna: What can I offer as security?

Bankers: Everything.

Security for Anna’s loan ...

Anna: That’s quite a lot.

Lee: (items ticked off a list by the Other Banker)
Your T.V. and your cooker,
Your car and your flat, for instance.
The savings and the freezer and the double bed,
And your curtains, for instance.
The little glass cow who sits on your desk.
A present when you were six –
That will have to go.
The photo of your parents
and your laptop
and your squash racket.
Letters from your penpal.
All you got, all they gave, all you got.
When you were twelve.
All your body.
All your music.
All your qualifications.
Your tears, your smiles, your jokes.
Perhaps all your glands, all your blood, all your cells.
Perhaps all your body, all your home, all your bread, all your days.
Perhaps all your friends, all your loves, all your desires.
All your desires.


Lee & the Other Banker double-check the list:
Your T.V. and your cooker,
Your car and your flat, for instance.
The savings and the freezer and the double bed,
And your curtains, for instance.
The little glass cow who sits on your desk.
A present when you were six –
That will have to go.
The photo of your parents
and your laptop
and your squash racket.
Letters from your penpal.
All you got, all they gave, all you got.
When you were twelve.
All your body.
All your music.
All your qualifications.
Your tears, your smiles, your jokes.
Perhaps all your glands, all your blood, all your cells.
Perhaps all your body, all your home, all your bread, all your days.
Perhaps all your friends, all your loves,
all your desires.
All your desires.

The Currents of Time ...

Anna: I do not like your little bank.

Bankers: Then leave you chose to enter.
You chose to enter then leave.
To enter then leave you chose.

Anna: Do you need this much?

Lee: Do you?

Anna: Do I?

Lee: Time is flowering,
Night’s Yucca is stickily waiting.

Other Banker: Time is nearly fully-charged,
Its fizzing currents ready to discharge.

Lee: The taut iron tracks are humming for the coming train.

Anna: You can’t be real.

Bankers: Midnight is not ever late.
Time is flowering,
The Yucca of the Night is almost fully-blown.
Time is nearly fully-charged,
Its fizzing currents ready to discharge.

Anna: You talk of trains, there isn’t any train,
Just the hot and airless dark,
And your cruel, dreamy joke, your mad lark.

Out of my head, Out of my bed,
Out of my dream, Into the red.

Bankers: You are here Anna. Now, Anna, in this world, Anna. Decide in this world.

Anna: You talk of hurry, there isn’t any hurry,
Just a slow and cloudy night,
And your painful, senseless, senseless game.

Bankers: Midnight is not ever late.

Anna: Your midnight flight.

Bankers: A break.

Anna: Perhaps.

Bankers: Anna, a break.

Anna: Perhaps.

Bankers: You must have a break.

Anna: A break.

Bankers: Break off, Anna!

Anna: A break.

Bankers: Let break.

Anna: Let go!

Bankers: Break down you.

Anna: Let go!

Bankers: Break in you.

Anna: Break off!

Bankers: Anna, a break.

Anna: Break off!

Bankers: Anna, break up.

Anna: Break-down.

Bankers: Break up.


Anna: Break down.

Bankers: Oh Anna, Yes!

Anna: Yes!

Bankers: Anna?

Anna: Yes!

Bankers: Go.

Anna: Yes!

Chorus: Look at your hands.

Will we travel with empty hands,
Will we arrive with hollow cases,
With nothing to show for our days and years and lives.

Anna: My hands?
Scene Three

The Neighbour & the Hollow Suitcase ...

Sophie the Neighbour: Anna, where have you been?
You should have left an age ago.
There is so little time, so little time.

Chorus: Time.

Anna: Sophie, why are you here? It’s almost midnight, Sophie, why are you here?

Sophie: Have a cup of tea, look love, Time is not on your side.

Chorus: The station waits in orange light,
A phone is ringing through a door,
Its ringing beats the neon light,
It almost hides the diesel roar;

Sophie: The station, the train, is due, so, so, soon.

Anna & Chorus: Soon, so soon.

Sophie: But you’ll need so much stuff,
I doubt that thirty bags will be enough!

Chorus: The midnight train is almost here.

Sophie: Your books and clothes,
Your mobile goes.
A deckchair, shades,
Your college grades.
An ironing board
To iron abroad.
Your typhoid jabs,
A net for crabs,
A funny hat,
And, of course, the cat.
A first-aid kit,
Your charm and wit.
A baking tin,
Some London gin.


A toaster and blender,
Your name and gender.
A pen, some paper,
A bathroom scraper.
That Yucca plant
And your travel grant.

Sophie: The station’s waiting...
Anna: Sophie, I don’t need this stuff,
Skin and bones must be enough;

Sophie: The telephone is ringing...
Anna: Where I’ll be, I don’t know,
Who’ll be there I cannot say;

Anna: These things, these surplus things
Sophie: The rails are singing...
Anna: Are no advantage at the close of day;

Sophie: The sleepers are waking...
Anna: Just let yourself out,
I don’t have time to stop.

Chorus: Your sleepwalk steepens,
Our dreamtalk deepens.

Anna hits the snooze button ...

Sophie: Goodnight!

Lee: Good luck!

Bill: Goodbye!

...

credits

from KNOWN UNKNOWN [EP​]​: Anna's Rapid Eye Movement, released January 7, 2022
starring Anna Fraser as Anna (*pp.12,14,16,18,20,24,25,28,34,35)
Alexandria Siegers as Sophie the Neighbour (*pp.18,25,26,35)
Robert Macfarlane as Lee the Banker (*pp.18,20,22,25,28,35)
Andrew O’Connor as Bill the Travel Agent (*pp.14,18,25,35)
Antony Pitts Conductor (*pp.25,30,35)
recorded live as part of the Dreamers of the Day tour to Sydney Opera House,
The Street Theatre Canberra, The Independent Theatre North Sydney, and Wollongong Art Gallery

Susannah Lawergren | Juliet Allan | Nyssa Milligan | Natalie Shea | Geraldine Mynors
Richard Black | John Byron | Mark Donnelly | Stephen Maddock The Faraway Chorus
Jonathan Thorpe Drums & Percussion
John Drinkwater Digital Programming
Antony Pitts Four Pianos
Geoff Miles Recording Engineer & Studio Producer (UK)
Greg Ghavalas Recording Engineer (Australia)
recorded at the University of Surrey, Guildford; and at Fine Music and Golden Radio, Sydney

Volkmar Zander Photograph: Anna’s Rapid Eye Movement (cover, p.10)
Yolanda Koning Design: Imagin’d Corners – ‘The Map of Everything’ (cover, pp.4–5,14,16,36)
Peter Hislop *Concert Photography as reimagined in A.R.E.M. (pp.12–35)

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The Song Company Sydney, Australia

The Song Company belongs to a land whose first peoples have always used songlines and vocal music to pass knowledge and culture from one generation to another. We bring together Australia’s finest voices in innovative performances, commissioning new music, emerging artist development, educational outreach, and collaborative music-making across art forms. ... more

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