Portrait of a Machine
For Medium Voice and Piano (2023)
by Ron Hannah


Duration: about 2 1/2 minutes

     This one surprised me when I wrote it! Even in the MIDI version which you can hear by clicking on the button below, it is powerful indeed. The piano is the massive machine of the poem, working away, pounding away, in chunking bi-tonal triad/dominant seventh simultaneous chords (à la Stravinsky?), while the singer intones words of great foreboding. If it works for you, the hair on the back of your neck will stand up - it does for me, and I know exactly what to expect in the music! Here is the poem, brace yourself...

Hear MIDI version:

Louis Untermeyer (1885-1977)

What nudity is beautiful as this

Obedient monster purring at its toil;

These naked iron muscles dripping oil

And the sure-fingered rods that never miss.
This long and shining flank of metal is

Magic that greasy labor cannot spoil;

While this vast engine that could rend the soil
Conceals its fury with a gentle hiss.

It does not vent its loathing, does not turn
Upon its makers with destroying hate.

It bears a deeper malice; lives to earn

Its master's bread and laughs to see this great
Lord of the earth, who rules but cannot learn,
Become the slave of what his slaves create.

     To obtain the complete work, please send me an email (my only request being that if you perform this work, that you inform me of the date and location of the performance so that I can keep my performances page up-to-date), or visit the Canadian Music Center.