This work had its origin in the '60s. That's when I met Irene Aebi and Frederic Rzewski in Rome. The three of us have been working together ever since.
The Living Theatre (founded by Julian Beck and Judith Malina in New York) was at that time very active in Italy and, as the most powerful and innovative theatre group anywhere, was becoming part of all our lives. I knew them from New York from the late '50s (The Connection, The Brig), and so did Frederic, who had composed and played with them.
Later, in Paris, Judith gave us a copy of her just published "Poems of a Wandering Jewess" (1982 Handshake Editions, Jim Haynes). But it was Irene who was most struck by the poems. She fell in love with Judith's lyrics because of their heartfelt clarity and the range of feelings therein. She felt that "they would make wonderful songs". The music was written in August 1992, partly in Paris and partly in Greece. Over the next two years it was reworked, arranged and completed by the addition of a previously written song on words by Julian Beck (Theatre, from his obituary, 1985) which serves now as an introduction to the eight others by Malina.
The songs are about theatre, life, death, birth, aging, pain, wandering, being a woman. They were written expressly for Irene, who, for now, is the only singer capable of performing them. All together they form a Cycle of Jazz Art Songs, which function as a musical structure and serve as basis for the improvisational match between the performers. Play-Wordplay-Fixed-Open.
Naturally a work like Packet is different every time we do it. The title refers to the idea of a loosely bound but tightly connected parcel of songs, carried around the world by a "Gypsy-Jewish" Performing Artist, perhaps on a Packet Boat...
PS: Before recording took place, we performed this work first at the Theatre Biplan in Lille, France, then at the Centro d'Arte in Padova, Italy, and finally at the American Center in Paris.
Reviews"Lacy and Rzewski ... make a compatible pair, creating luscious settings for Aebi's art-song renderings of Malina's supple, dark poetry and Lacy's stepwise tunes." - CD Review