Curtis Rumrill

The music of Curtis Rumrill explores the intersection of literary form and modern chamber music. His works with writer, naturalist and visual artist Zachary Webber tell darkly comic stories of animals in desperate or violent predicaments.

In May 2019 Kamratōn, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble and Shana Simmons Dance premiered his new opera, Her Holiness, The Winter Dog. His music has been commissioned, premiered and performed by, among others, Ensemble Dal Niente, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, NAT 28, Kamratōn, Alia Musica, Tony Arnold, Thomas Rosenkranz, Aiyun Huang, Jordan Dodson, Kenneth Meyer, the Syracuse University Contemporary Music Ensemble, Lisa Cella and Juna Winston.

He has been performed in the United States and internationally, including Vienna, Austria; Basel and Baden, Switzerland; Maccagno, Italy; Panama City, Panama; Bogota, Colombia; Mexico City, Mexico; Boston, MA; Bloomington, IN; Cleveland, OH; Bowling Green, OH; Pittsburgh, PA; and Syracuse, NY.

In 2013 Rumrill co-founded MusicArte Panama, a new music festival in Panama City, Panama. He is also Board Chair of Alia Musica, a Pittsburgh based New Music ensemble and presenting organization.

Aside from his work in New Music, Rumrill is a committed activist for social justice. This work, a constant over the last decade and a half, has taken many forms: housing, racial justice, activist legal defense, anti-sweatshop and labor organizing.

Rumrill holds a BMus in composition from Syracuse University and a MM in composition from Bowling Green State University. He is currently a Doctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley.


Songs of an Unnamed Kingdom

For Quince Ensemble with Eco Ensemble

In a kingdom, which will remain unnamed, there is a group of singers. You can imagine them as these singers, if that helps, or as a flock of ephemeral songbirds, if you prefer. They are singing to a room, which you can imagine as this room, if that helps. They are a traveling act, and tonight and for the next several nights they work here.

These singers, they sing a multitude of works from an enormous stack of papers. Each time they finish one, another is delivered. They sing to a hall devoid of audience except for their fellow workers-in-song, who dutifully make note in their registers of which songs have been sung, and which songs must still be gotten to. The songsters plod toward the stage with their offerings.


A sparrow-like woman delivers her score to the singers:

I I致e Sweet Sweet Man
I致e sweet sweet man
So soft in face
For cuz: eats lots sweets I致e sweet sweet man
I致e sweet man,
Only, can稚 get boner For cuz: eats lots sweets
Wrote song to plumb love痴 depths Wrote song in face of void
So soft, in face of void
My sweet sweet man

Interlude 1
A man with an old injury hobbles to the stage in order to deliver a score:

II Got Letter, Last Week
Got letter, last week Said mother died
Letter said mom went out
Bent like ostrich
Hugged each animal in the barn goodbye
Gave small kisses
Letter said mom痴 death terrible, long
Said mom cried like seabird
Said mom cursed my name
Said mom could barely go on, for pain
Said mom kept going
Said mom moaned like buzzard
Said mom lived much longer than necessary In pain
To finish cursing name

Interlude 2
A man whose cloths appear to be covered in blood delivers a score:

III It Wasn稚 Me
It wasn稚 me
What shooted Polly Vaughn
Polly Vaughn, what looked like swan
Was Vergen
What shooted her
Vergen say don稚 know nothin 礎out nothin, I know But, was Vergen, I know
She looked right like swan
Said Vergen, what shooted her
And her child bended down,
Polly Vaughn
And reached in his hand, the bleedin tummy
And pulled out three eggs of gold

Interlude 3
A woman, bleeding heavily from the abdomen such that she resembles a red-bellied robin, crawls to the singers and feebly hands them the crumpled and blood-soaked pages of a score. She gives a long and angry look to the composer of the previous song.

IV It Wasn稚 Vergen, What Shooted Me
It wasn稚 Vergen, what shooted me
Was Jimmy
Jimmy is jism-eyed turd mounder
Fap off on puppy, Jimmy!
Fap off on your mom痴 puppy!
I do not look like swan!
Your bung-hair has peens for bung-hair!
The peens your bung-hair has for bung-hair have peen-warts!
The peen-warts look just like your tosspot-titted queef-face!
Spunk-sprouting monkey-flumper! Creampie-brained booger-wannabe!
I do not look like swan!

Interlude 4
The singers, awkwardly and together, back away from the dying woman. Turning to the audience they say now:

Let us turn from this petty dispute about who does or does not look like what kind of bird. It is not this woman痴 or this man痴 fault that they bring us such lowly songs. Such is their place, as we can all agree. However, we are blessed, as singers, to not only sing the lowliest of songs, but the highliest as well. We speak, of course, of the new composition written for us by His Majesty, King Rumrill. We will admit that we had been saving it in order to surprise you at the end of our concert, but we think that now might be the right time to remind ourselves that we are capable not only of singing confusing and unclear things like this dispute about the swanness of this lady, but also clarity enabling things like you are about to hear.

V His Majesty, King Rumrill痴 Composition
Tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet
Caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw
Cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep
Caw, caw, caw, caw
Whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo
Caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw
Tweet twiddle, tweet twiddle twiddle
Caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw
Twiddle, twiddle, twiddle, twiddle, twiddle, twiddle, twiddle, twiddle
Quack Quack Quack Quack Quack