The Man in the Mangroves

I have been performing with Donna Decker for some years now. We have done a number of readings of her poetry where she reads/recites/performs the poem and I accompany her on either banjo or saxophone. We were doing poems from her collection Under the Influence of Paradise of poetry written while living in Key West, Florida. This poem struck me personally. It is a first-person monologue from the point of view of a homeless man living in the mangrove swamps adjoining Key West. As the poem goes on, it comes out that he was a mathematician. Being a mathematician myself, all I could think of was "there but for the grace go I". I wanted to do an electronic treatment of the poem along the lines of my earlier (1970's) short pieces using speech synthesis. I had always wanted to do a long-form piece as well, and this poem seemed like a perfect vehicle.

I talked over my ideas with Donna. She suggested that we have our friend and musician Frank Lindamood be the voice of the "man". Frank graciously agreed, and in the Fall of 2017, Frank came to my basement studio and recorded three readings of the poem. I had my neighbor, William Heebink, come in and record a reading of the first 300 prime numbers as well. After that, it took me about a year to get the speech analysis/synthesis technology working as well as I needed, then another year to actually compose the piece. The intergalactic premiere of the piece was held in the 56 channel Stanford "Dome" at CCRMA on October 4, 2019. Here is the program for the performance with the program notes for all the pieces presented that evening. "The Man in the Mangroves" was the last piece of the evening. It ended up about 13 minutes in length (it takes about 3.5 minutes to just do a reading of it).

With a bit of work, I can make a multichannel surround version for just about any setup your theater might have. We are soliciting performances, so please contact us for performance requests. I will need the geometry of the speaker placement - angles and distances. Note that it takes about 5-6 hours of compute time to synthesize the piece for a given venue, so please don't leave it to the last moment. Anyone wishing a custom mix for your surround theater, please contact the author(s) for a made-to-order multichannel synthesis. The "standard" formats include the usual cinematic surround mixes - 5.1, 7.1, and 9.1 (last two channels are left and right overhead). Note that Donna is available for "live" readings/performances of her poetry. 

Here is a stereo version of the piece. It is but a pale reflection of the original immersive-surround presentation. I hope you will get to hear it in full surround sometime. For your reference, here are the words to the poem. If this is your first listening, please set aside 13 minutes when you can listen to the entire piece without interruption. If at all possible, use a good set of headphones. I generally suggest you hear it the first time cold, then read the words, then listen to it again.

Ready? Here goes:


Work is covered by the following registered copyrights: SRu 1-383-580 Work is registered with Broadcast Music Inc. as BMI 38466216 Permission is given for air play or performance for non-profit or educational purposes. Please include the BMI number in the cue sheet. For any other uses, please contact the author(s).

This piece does have a reference to the THX logo theme The THX people have asked me to include the following:

THX, the THX logo, and the THX Deep Note audio mark are registered trademarks of THX Ltd.