This Window Makes Me Feel

Appears on drawn only once: the music of john supko
Performed by Hai-Ting Chinn (mezzo), Erin Lesser (flute),
Greg Beyer (percussion), &
David Broome (keyboards)
Narration by Trish McKenna
Text by Robert Fitterman
Video (2005) by Don Sheehy

This Window Makes Me Feel was composed in 2005 as part of the requirements of the General Examination in the music Ph.D. program at Princeton.  The piece, originally scored for mezzo soprano, keyboards, percussion, and electronics, is a partial setting of Robert Fitterman’s long text of the same name.  In his work, Fitterman uses the phrase “This window makes me feel” as the basis of hundreds of Google searches in which the results complete the sentence over and over again, creating over time a unique portrait of humanity.  Sometimes funny, sometimes mundane, often surprisingly meaningful, the text accumulates a poignancy that I found intriguing. I also saw in it a simple musical structure: with the title phrases acting as a ‘refrain’ and each search result supplying the verses.  I applied this structure to the musical setting in which the mezzo-soprano sings “This window makes me feel” continuously in long, slow phrases while a recorded voice whispers the rest of the text.

After I finished the music, I had the idea to approach Don Sheehy, at that time a senior in Princeton’s Computer Science Department, about making a video for my piece.  He agreed and got to work taking a digital camera – often clandestinely, sometimes illegally – around New York. Though there is nothing explicitly connected to New York in the text, we felt that it gave the impression of being in the middle of a bustling city in which each sentence represented a different person’s private thoughts.  This view of the text provided a meditative counterpoint to the image of contemporary urban life and, we hope, can be heard and seen in the various sonic and visual layers of the work.