Phantoms of Myself


Phantoms of Myself


song cycle for voice and piano on poetry of Susan Griffin (2000) 

  • Premiere: 10 May 2000  / Theresa L. Kaufmann Concert Hall, 92nd Street YMHA, New York City  / Ashley Putnam, soprano / Daron Hagen, piano
  • Instrumentation: voice and piano
  • Duration: 15'
  • Text: Susan Griffin (E) 

1. I Wake Thinking of Myself as a Man
2. A Story
3. Confession
4. Her Sadness Runs Beside Her Like a Horse
5. 'Quiet, quiet heart'
6. Absence
7. "I wake to your gestures...'

Program note

I had seen (and loved) Ashley as Mimi and as Violetta, but she was appearing as Tosca with the local opera company in Madison, Wisconsin when stage director and librettist Ken Cazan introduced us. Ashley was looking to commission something in memory of her friend, stage director Cynthia Auerbach. Already an admirer of her artistry as a singer, I was moved by her intelligence as we discussed possible themes and poets.

Together we settled, cross-legged on the floor of my apartment in New York City, on the poetry of Susan Griffin. Susan Griffin, philosopher, poet, Emmy-winning playwright, and feminist thinker, celebrates not only feminism and femininity but also human nature in her poetry. I am drawn to her work because of its enormous emotional and technical range. 

I made a few inquiries and was informed that the rights were available. Ashley and I were free to each seperately choose our favorite poems. The result: before I had written a note, I already had in hand three that both of us agreed demanded inclusion. We settled on several others to surround those three.

I then arranged the poems into a twenty-four hour cycle, beginning and ending with the act of waking, following the poet through what I imagine might be the sequence of her thoughts and emotions during the course of a single day.

I had the pleasure of accompanying Ashley in the premiere of Phantoms of Myself on May 10th, 2000 at the Therese L. Kaufmann Concert Hall of the 92nd Street Y in New York City.

Susan Griffin

Susan Griffin


Mr. Hagen's new cycle ... was based on a set of poems by Susan Griffin, suggested to the composer by the performer, the dynamic soprano Ashley Putnam. In the first poem, [Hagen frames] the pugnacious vocal line with chunky parallel chords and volleys of pointillistic figurations in the piano part. ... The audience's response was enthusiastic.

— Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 5/15/2000

Premiered last week at the 92nd Street Y, Hagen's "Phantoms of Myself" opened with a dazzling flurry of chords and vocal display. Putnam displayed searing emotionalism in "Confession." Hagen brought glittering pianism to "Her Sadness Runs Beside Her Like a Horse." The harmonic language ranged from the cozy tonality of "Quiet, quiet heart" to the acrid twelve-tone blues of "A Story." A cycle of great breadth, the duo premiered it with elegance and panache.

— David Efron, Singers Companion, 5/20/2000

(Banner photo: Ashley Putnam)

Anthologized in the  Daron Hagen Songbook

Anthologized in the Daron Hagen Songbook