Clinical Notes of the Bipolar Therapist

2017 listen

Clinical Notes of the Bipolar Therapist sets to music three poems from Steven Heighton's 2016 book The Waking Comes Late: “Coronach, Post-Kandahar”; "Clinical Notes of the Bipolar Therapist"; and "Humanitarian War Fugue". The poems look through different lenses at Canadian Forces veterans returning from the Afghan war. I was drawn to them for their vivid portrayal of the traumas suffered by returning soldiers and those close to them. The poems address the men's struggles with overwhelming emotions and stress, and in particular the difficulties that they face in a society that values masculine self-control and strength - a dilemma which becomes unbearably intense when those men must transition from violence to peace. The poems themselves reference musical elements, notably the coronach (a Scottish pipe tune mourning the dead) and the fugue, which are reflected in the music itself.

The connection of this concert to the 150th anniversary of Confederation offers a wonderfully apt context in which to acknowledge the contributions of soldiers to our country, as well as to give voice to the pain they experience at war and at home.

Clinical Notes of the Bipolar Therapist was commissioned by Continuum Contemporary Music with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council. My thanks to them, to Ryan Scott (Artistic Director, Continuum) and to Steven Heighton.

Continuum performed the world premiere of this work on Friday, December 8, 2017 as part of Urgent Voices.

James Rolfe CA

Toronto composer James Rolfe has been commissioned and performed by soloists, ensembles, orchestras, choirs, theatres and opera companies in Canada and abroad. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the K. M. Hunter Music Award, and the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music. The Canadian Opera Company, Queen of Puddings Music Theatre Company, Tapestry New Opera, and Toronto Masque Theatre have commissioned and produced his operas. Current projects include a new operatic version of Gogol's The Overcoat with writer Morris Panych, to be premiered in spring 2018 by Tapestry Opera, Canstage, and Vancouver Opera, and a new work for Soundstreams for June 2018.

James Rolfe