for narrator and viola (2017)

Photo by Melia Watras

Photo by Melia Watras


World Premiere:
Arturo Alto, narrator; Melia Watras, viola; March 28, 2018, Seattle, WA

Duration: 4:17

Program Notes:
I composed Viola for narrator and viola after coming across a text attributed to Arturo Alto: man of mystery; equal parts legend and enigma. I admit that I know very little about the man himself, but I was able to gain permission from him to use his words for my musical composition. How happy I was that Arturo also agreed to perform as the narrator for the premiere and video of the work!

In Viola, I generated some of the pitch material for the viola part using a cryptogram system based on one created by Arthur Honneger. I spelled out words related to the text, as well as variations on the name of Arturo’s alter ego (an in-depth analysis of the pitches may reveal the true identity of the subject!). At one point, I reversed the order of the words, so that the narrator speaks the poem backwards (with the permission of Mr. Alto, of course). Arturo Alto would now like to say a few words: 

“Arturo Alto, the writer and narrator of the text wishes to offer a disclaimer: NOT A POET. NOT AN ACTOR.  A few years ago I had a box full of magnetic words, which I whimsically spread on my fridge door. I then copied the resulting ‘poem,’ and titled it Viola—some of my best friends are violists and after all so is my identical twin brother—adding but a very few out-of-the-box words (such as ‘horsehair’—didn’t our viola need a bow?).”

—Melia Watras

Viola for narrator and viola (2017)
Composer: Melia Watras
Text: Arturo Alto
Performers: Arturo Alto, narrator; Melia Watras, viola
Videography: Steve Sobiech, Bloomington Gramophone


An elaborate picture of essential love
Crushing into thousand frantic whispers
As we manipulate through bare roads
Worshiping some sad moments
Tiny lies smeared about as rusty beauty

Wicked witch
My queen of the night
Waxed old skin beneath a gorgeous dress
A dark symphony of mean shadows
Pounding me with mad music
And your enormous lust

Move your anxious fingers
Wag your horsehair tail
Play the sordid fiddle
Moan an ugly chant
Your aimless melodies
Songs of love and grief
With no strings attached

True love is behind and above
Life and death
And sweet dreams

—Arturo Alto (1996)

© 1996 by Arturo Alto