Dear Theo: Letters from Vincent Van Gogh (download)
Tenor and 1 percussionist (5 octave marimba and auxiliary percussion)
David Walton, tenor, and Erik Barsness, percussion
As David Walton, Erik Barsness (the commissioners) and I began to discuss the specifics of this commission for tenor and percussion, I was intrigued to learn that a new song reflecting on mental illness and its effects would be a compelling subject for them. I immediately began to research poems by poets who suffered from mental illness ~ there is a long list to choose from, unfortunately. Nothing was inspiring me. I can’t remember how the idea of Vincent Van Gogh came up ~ maybe I had recently seen or pictured one of his paintings. I then discovered these letters written by Van Gogh to his brother Theo while in an asylum in the south of France. There are over 700 letters in all, and they were collected and published by Theo’s wife Johanna in 1914.