Trapping Monkeys
4 Short Songs for Medium-high voice
on poems of Gevorg Emin (2017)

by Ron Hannah

#1. Thaw
#2. Firefly
#3. Political Funeral
#4. We Never Discuss Trapping Monkeys

Duration: about 4 minutes

     Here are four very short and snappy songs based on some pithy and clever poems by Gevorg Emin, an Armenian poet whose son, Artashes, I met while working on

Hear #4

by Gevorg Emin

You know how it's done of course
with bottles and sugar. The monkey thrusts
in a paw and can't extricate
his fist without giving up his bait
and won't. He's captured thus.
But why should monkeys concern us?

my opera,
The Illuminator, in March of 2017 in Yerevan. Artashes sent me the poems, translated into English, and has given me permission to use them in song settings. The poems are, as I say, clever and evocative, and quite political. They all speak of ordinary things in odd ways. I love them!

#1 is about trees budding in early spring - the poem warning them that it is too early, frost is on the way, and they are being cruelly fooled - a warning not to listen to political promises?

#2 speaks of a firefly, stupidly showing off its location to predators - a warning to idealistic candidates?

#3 speaks for itself, the politician in his coffin looking dignified for perhaps the first time.

#4 tells of a monkey trapped when he reaches into a cage... well, read it and listen at right. The set was premièred in Vienna in February of 2019, by Christine Reiter, accompanied by pianist Kei Endo. The sound strip will let you hear an informal recording of the last song. Not so long after that, Katrin Stuflesser and Christopher Devine did a superb job at my 75th birthday concert!

The songs are short, like the poems, spiky in their harmonies, dissonant, even atonal, but I have tried to keep the vocal line as clear and easy as possible, giving clues and cues in the piano accompaniment. My wife, Andrea, has been learning them too. She curses me, but says she loves them!

They are available through the Canadian Music Centre, or by sending me an email (below).