And Yet You Have Seen
A parlour drama
For 2 sopranos, flute, bass clarinet in Bb, vibraphone, piano, violin, and violoncello
Text by Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by Aaron Wyanski
Thank you to the Vermont College of Fine Arts and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for providing the ideal conditions for the creation of this work.
This work was born out of an innocent and simple premise: Wouldn’t it be fun to use Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories as a source for text? I have long had a deep love for the Holmes canon and return to those stories again and again. There is something intriguing about the desire to endlessly reread mystery stories, a traditionally formulaic genre that on its surface is all about the unfolding of plot. But what really brings me, and countless others, back to Doyle’s work is the joy of being immersed in the world created by his prose. And Yet You Have Seen is my elaborate and surreal exploration of this world and the text is comprised of excerpts from the twelve stories that make up The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Though the text cuts freely between the different stories, the overall shape of the mystery story trope is always retained, beginning with excerpts taken from the first page of each story, and moving through systematically to excerpts from the last page of each story. In this way And Yet You Have Seen can create the impression of having a dramatic arc, but upon scrutiny the narrative cohesion quickly breaks down, much like when recalling a dream. As mysteries, the Holmes stories are all about revelation; subversively, And Yet You Have Seen has more questions than answers, the first and possibly largest of which is: Who are these two characters singing? This work is born out of the world, and not the characters, of the Holmes canon; I think of it as having pushed itself out from that world into a new space, and the choice of two sopranos was made specifically to distance the singers from being identified as Holmes and Watson as much as possible. I hope that listeners might approach them without expectations, simply as two people trapped in a tightly defined universe, desperate for connection but never quite sure when they are in the same place.
A: To the man who loves art for its own sake, it is frequently in its least important and lowliest manifestations that the keenest pleasure is to be derived. A certain selection and discretion must be used in producing a realistic effect...it is no easy matter to know which to choose and which to leave.
B: You will excuse my calling so late. Perhaps I interrupt you.
A: I do not encourage visitors.
B: I didn’t know what to do, so I came straight to you.
A: That was always the way. I forgot that I had not seen you for some weeks. You have come to tell me your story, have you not?
B: I have come for advice.
A: That is easily got.
B: And help.
A: That is not always so easy. I could manage it better if I were alone.
B: Through the gloom one could dimly catch a glimpse of bodies lying in strange fantastic poses, bowed shoulders, bent knees, heads thrown back and chins pointing upward, with here and there a dark, lack-lustre eye turned upon the newcomer.
A: I have seen those symptoms before.
B: I can stand this strain no longer; I shall go mad if it continues. I have no one to turn to – none, save only one, who cares for me, and he, poor fellow, can be of little aid.
A: It gave even my hardened nerves a shudder to look at it. There were four protruding fingers and a horrid red, spongy surface where the thumb should have been. It had been hacked or torn right out from the roots. I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection.
B: You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.
A: I can see nothing.
B: You may advise me how to walk amid the dangers which encompass me.
A: The words fell quite distinctly upon my ear. I glanced down …
Premiere upcoming in 2020. Subscribe to my mailing list for updates.