Bernadette Speach: Reflections

Trio des Trois III (1992)

This trio is one of three trios which are performable by three distinct ensembles: Trio des Trois I - violin, piano and percussion; Trio des Trois II - flute, viola and harp; and, Trio des Trois III - viola, cello and piano. These were the first works I composed at Brant Lake in the Adirondacks.

When It Rains, Llueve (1995)
Written for Anthony de Mare
Dedicated to the memory of Yvar Mikhashoff

The title of this work is inspired by many automobile trips to and from various locations in Puerto Rico. The part English and part Spanish title which means: When It Rains, It Rains, reflects the language mixture on the island, as well as the fact that when it rains in Puerto Rico, it really rains! The musical language is inspired by the Latin rhythms and folk melodies I hear while listening to the radio during these trips, and how these musical fragments return throughout the day. These dance rhythms and melodies also recall the multiple facets of Yvar Mikhashoff - dancer, musician and world traveler.

Chosen Voices (1991)
Dedicated to the memory of John Cage

Chosen Voices was written for my husband, Jeffrey Schanzer, and myself. My toy piano, which was purchased from my aunt, Rose Farone, in Syracuse, New York, was my introduction to John Cage. Pianist Yvar Mikhashoff borrowed this toy piano to perform in a program of works by Mr. Cage in 1982. John Cage then “borrowed” this instrument for many years. In exchange for keeping the toy piano in his apartment, he agreed to be my dissertation reader. Through the following years he became
my mentor and friend.

 les ondes pour quatre (1988)

or, the waves for four, was written for the Arditti String Quartet at the request of Irvine Arditti. The structure of this composition is concerned with cells - their placement, displacement and replacement within a linear context. The work is characterized by chromatic saturation and the mixture of layers and/or sections utilizing notation with approximate durational values against fully notated sections with exact durational values. The pulling motion between the currents and undercurrents caused by the mixture of these rhythmic patterns produce the “waves” - thus, the title. The work was premiered by the Arditti String Quartet in Darmstadt, Germany, where I lectured as a part of the composition faculty, and at the Ravinia Festival, where it received its American premiere.

Angels in the Snow (1993)

Although I often perform this work as an individual piece, I wrote it as a prelude to Woman without Adornment.

Woman without Adornment (1995)

This is the fifth collaboration between poet/writer Thulani Davis and myself. The text was taken from her novel 1959. These passages deal with the mother in the story. At the end of each section of the
suite, Thulani, who is the reciter within the ensemble, adds comments or reflections as well. “Not since the beat poetry/jazz fusion of the 1950s has anyone sought the kind of fusion of spoken word and music that Bernadette Speach and Thulani Davis are exploring. But where beat poetry reveled in an improvisatory relationship between words and music, Speach and Davis have created a snug fit still loose enough to allow for the spontaneity of Davis's reading. And over the years their collaborations have shown how flexible and fertile their self-made genre can be. It's given us vivid pictures of a moment in American society like Telepathy Suite; a panorama of international relations in Baobab 4; and in Woman without Adornment a more intimate, personal memoire from Davis's novel 1959. And through the whole series, Speachís delicate postminimal jazz and Davis's warmly idiosyncratic inflections infuse the genre with subtle shades of color that could have come from no one else.”

- Kyle Gann

Viola (2000)
Dedicated to the memory of my mother, Viola Catherine Bellardini Speach

This work was written while reflecting upon my mother's relationship to my musical life. This work is my way of thanking her for giving me life and always being supportive of my musical life.

"Viola, opens with just one bowed, soulful viola note over and over, and eventually climaxes the same way, insisting on that note against the piano's chordal protestations. For all its austerity, the work bursts the bonds of post minimalism to evoke a thoughtful, introverted romanticism.”

- from American Composer: Bernadette Speach by Kyle Gann,
Chamber Music Magazine


Bernadette Speach's work as a composer embraces a variety of styles, and includes solo, chamber and orchestral works. Ms. Speach and poet/writer Thulani Davis have worked together extensively since
1986. Telepathy Suite, their first collaborative settings, were released on the CD, Without Borders (mode 16), which also included chamber works by Ms. Speach performed by the Bowery Ensemble, Anthony de Mare, Leonard Krech, Michael Pugliese, Jeffrey Schanzer and Jan Williams.

She has performed as pianist with her husband Jeffrey Schanzer as the Schanzer/Speach Duo across the United States, in Puerto Rico, and Europe. Their first CD, Dualities, was released on the Mode/Avant Label in 1992.

Bernadette Speach was born on the first day of 1948 in Syracuse, New York. Ms. Speach received her Ph.D. in Music Composition from SUNY-Buffalo where she studied with Morton Feldman and Lejaren
Hiller. She was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Composers Fellowship in 1992. In the same year she received a commission through the American Composers Forum with funding by The Jerome Foundation to compose for the ensemble Zeitgeist, as well as commissioning funds from The New York State Council on the Arts through MusicVistas, Inc. to continue her collaboration with Thulani Davis. Ms. Speach was a Music Composition Fellow through the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship program in 1998 - 1999. Through her efforts as an administrator, fund-raiser, presenter and educator Ms. Speach continues to bring the work of a broad range of contemporary artists to audiences in the New York metropolitan area and beyond.

Thulani Davis's work as a writer includes theater, journalism, fiction, and poetry. She is the author of two novels, Maker of Saints and 1959, and Malcolm X, The Photographs (1993). She has written and narrated several television and radio documentaries. Ms. Davis is the librettist for three operas: Amistad (1997); X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1986) with Anthony Davis, and The E & O Line (1991, with Anne LeBaron (excerpts of which appear on mode 42). In 1993 she won a Grammy for album notes for Aretha Franklin, and was nominated for a Grammy for the opera X. Her most recent play, Everybody's Ruby: Story of a Murder in Florida, premiered in 2001 at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Produced by: Bernadette Speach & Brian Brandt
les ondes pour quatre was recorded at Crowell Hall, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, February, 1990
David Avidor, engineer & editing
All other works were recorded at LRP Studios, New York City, between April, 2000 - March, 2001
Tatiana Libermann, engineer & editing
24-bit Digital Mastering: Steve Puntolillo, Sonicraft, New Jersey

Art Direction : Brian Brandt
Cover Design: Michael Stillwell
Photo of Ms. Speach: Jeffrey Schanzer
All selections are self-published.
Performances are licensed by BMI.

This recording is funded by a contribution from Victor A. Speach.

The Arditti Quartet are :
Irvine Arditti, violin
David Alberman, violin
Levine Andrade, viola
Rohan de Saram, cello

Also by Bernadette Speach on Mode Records:


Leonard Krech, trombone. Michael Pugliese, percussion. Nils Vigeland, piano.

Jeffrey Schanzer, guitar.


Leonard Krech, trombone. Jan Williams, percussion.


Anthony de Mare, piano.

Telepathy: Poetry/Music Suite

Thulani Davis, reciter. Oliver Lake, alto sax. Jeffrey Hoyer, trombone. Jeffrey Schanzer, guitars.
Myra Melford, piano. Lindsey Horner, contrabass. Bernadette Speach, conductor.

DUALITIES (mode/avant 02)

The Schanzer/Speach Duo perform their own