I Lie by David Lang

I lie is a piece composed by David Lang and was performed on 17 June 2001 in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA. This piece is consisted of just libretto, which is “the text of an opera or other long vocal work”. The text is in Yiddish, which is a language that is predominantly used by the Jews in the Eastern Europe before the holocaust happened. This simple fact plays a big role in this piece as does it’s title “I lie”. The text was created by Joseph Rolnick.

This piece starts off very slow and it has a sad vibe to it. I don’t understand the words but I feel like there is just a little tiny bit of hope, a little tiny chance of being saved. This hope grows in me as the song progresses. There is the main vocalist that is singing in Yiddish. Just at the moment when I thought everything was fine, the sad vibe sets back in and everything is just getting worse again. After everything seemed lost, one new vocalist is added to the main one, while the main one is still singing in the background, the new vocalist adds an another dimension to this song but they both fade and the piece is finished.

The original text in Yiddish goes like this:

Leyg ikh mir in bet arayn Un lesh mir oys dos fayer Kumen vet er haynt tsu mir Der vos iz mire tayer Banen loyfn tsvey a tog Eyne kumt in ovnt KhÕher dos klingen Ð glin glin glon Yo, er iz shoyn noent Shtundn hot di nakht gor fil Eyns der tsveyter triber Eyne iz a fraye nor Ven es kumt mayn liber Ikh her men geyt, men klapt in tir, Men ruft mikh on baym nomen Ikh loyf arop a borvese Yo! er iz gekumen!

Which, translated to english means:

I lie in bed and turn out the light my beloved will come today The trains come twice a day one comes at night hear them clanging – glin, glin, glon Yes, he is near The night has many hours each one sadder than the next only one is happy when my beloved comes Someone comes, someone knocks someone calls my name I run out barefoot Yes, he has come.

After reading this text, I understood that the song was supposed to be in the sad vibe. The main vocalist is representing the hope that the loved one will come back but whenever each train passes, the hope is instantly killed and the vibe of the song goes sadder and sadder. When the new vocalist is added and the main is moved to the background, I believe that it symbolizes the loved one’s return and the extreme joy that the person is going through.

The questions that I would like to ask David Lang are:

1) What is the true story behind “I lie”?

2) Why is this piece in Yiddish and what role do the trains play in the piece?

3) Was there any connection to Holocaust in this piece?

4) How did you cooperate with Joseph Rolnick? Did he write the text first or did you compose the piece first?

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