Karim Al-Zand: Music: Songs from the Post-Truth Era

Songs from the Post-Truth Era

for soprano & bassoon

Facts are a feeble match for belief. Emotion trumps observation.
Lie and truth are transposable, reason and fellow-feeling abandoned. Words careen through the air, cleaved from their meaning,
simply sounds in the void.
It is a post-truth era.


Songs from the Post-Truth Era is a short song cycle based on a poem about telling the truth: “Incorrect Speaking” by Charles Lamb, a didactic verse taken from his 1809 collection Poems for Children. Lamb’s poem is used as the first song’s text. I derive the text for the following two songs as “vocabularyclept” poems, a technique that preserves all the words from an original poem, but rearranges their order and syntax. The new poems, “The Charm of Anna” and “The Supply of Flies,” generate unexpected, humorous and contradictory meanings—and eventually produce no meaning at all. Songs from the Post_Truth Era was written for Pushback Collective (Ally Smither, soprano; Ben Roidl-Ward, bassoon).

Incorrect Speaking

Incorrectness in your speech
Carefully avoid, my Anna;
Study well the sense of each
Sentence, lest in any manner
It misrepresent the truth;
Veracity’s the charm of youth.

You will not, I know, tell lies,
If you know what you are speaking.
Truth is shy, and from us flies;
Unless diligently seeking
Into every word we pry,
Falsehood will her place supply.

Falsehood is not shy, not she—
Ever ready to take place of
Truth, too oft we Falsehood see,
Or at least some latent trace of
Falsehood, in the incorrect
Words of those who Truth respect.

—Charles Lamb
from Poetry for Children (1809)

The Charm of Anna

Unless we are seeking to pry the truth
From my words of youth,
Carefully avoid the charm of Anna:
She is not shy, not shy in any manner.

If you study well your speech,
And diligently misrepresent into each
Sentence, lest it supply
The what, will, who and know,
Incorrectness will take Veracity’s place—you see?
In her place, we sense, flies some latent trace of oft.

Speaking of Truth:
In truth, every word of those you respect is
Falsehood, Falsehood, Falsehood, Falsehood!
(Or is at least incorrect.)

The Supply of Flies

Take carefully each speech
Pry every sense from my sentence

Speaking, seeking
Of youth, of truth,
Or of lies—
We will ready the supply of flies!

I, you, my, we
Study your veracity’s
You see?

if, of, oft
the will, the well, the words

We respect, incorrect
Truth, shy, truth
(Place into you-know-who)
Falsehood, shy, falsehood

it us, in lest, at least, in some
not word, what know, those are

Not to avoid charm
Truth is she any?
Unless in latent her manner too diligently is…

Of truth tell not ever

purchase score & parts

Learn More




6 minutes

soprano, bassoon

Pushback Collective, with funds from Illinois Arts Council

September 9, 2018, Archway Gallery, Houston TX
Pushback Collective
Ally Smither, soprano; Ben Roidl-Ward, bassoon

1. Incorrect Speaking
2. The Charms of Anna
3. The Supply of Flies