the gyre

The Gyre

Song for Baritone and Harp

Commissioned by Daniel Neer and NeerSighted Productions

Poetry: Daniel Neer

Music: Robinson McClellan


In spring of 2009 I was approached by a well-known choral organization to perform three monologues from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to precede each corresponding movement of Tristia, a choral piece by Hector Berlioz inspired by literature’s most famous Danish tragic-hero. Daunted by the thought of performing these famous and very difficult speeches, I instead suggested writing three original monologues that invoke the introverted revelatory style of Hamlet’s character while utilizing modern global references such as the media, politics and the environment. ‘The Gyre’ is the second monologue of this effort, and juxtaposes the tragic death of Shakespeare’s character Ophelia with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an enormous gyre of floating plastic trash larger than Texas. As a by-product of the Pacific coastal “kingdoms” with large 21st-century industrial footprints, the gyre symbolizes the silenced and wasteful death of Ophelia as observed by the mighty residents of Elsinore Castle, each a master of manipulation and ego-driven sanctimony. The performer of this text, in a struggle with his own definition of reality and sanity, attempts to describe the scene of the gyre, its shameful origin and unfathomable impact to himself and the unwitting accomplices of mankind.

My search for a collaborative project with composer Robinson McClellan resulted in sharing the text of ‘The Gyre’ with the thought that an ethereal harp accompaniment to a high baritone vocal part would be the best choice as a setting. The resulting music expertly enhances my intent to dramatize the tragic beauty and immense wonder of the gyre – a colossal repercussion of global progress and modernity.


Performance History

September 30, 2010

World Premiere

Morse Recital Hall, Sprague Hall

Yale University

Daniel Neer (baritone), Alyssa Reit (harp)


January 29, 2012

Second Performance

Andrea Clearfield Salon, Philadelphia PA

Daniel Neer (baritone), Alyssa Reit (harp)


April 27 and 29, 2012

Narkissos, multimedia recital

The Tank Performance Space

Daniel Neer (baritone), Alyssa Reit (harp)


May 11, 2012

Narkissos, multimedia recital

The Secret Theater

Queens New Music Festival

Daniel Neer (baritone), Alyssa Reit (harp)