Waking in New York
Portrait of Allen Ginsberg

Opera from the poetry
of Allen Ginsberg

Music and dramatization by
Elodie Lauten

Allne Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Photo: courtesy of Allen Ginsberg Trust



Photo by Allen Ginsberg
View from his apartment, 1984


Allen Ginsberg, Baritone
Freedom Muse, Soprano
Compassion Muse, Mezzo Soprano

WAKING IN NEW YORK is about experiencing daily life in New York through the eyes of Ginsberg, pictured in the later part of his life. From his apartment in the East Village, he tells everything about his state of mind, his body, his food, his work, his political causes - the Middle East, the death penalty, peace - all in the same breath. He is in a constant dialogue with his muses, Freedom and Compassion. He tells stories about the real people in his neighborhood, from the junkies and the homeless to the yuppies. Ginsberg expresses his love of life in a down-to-earth, occasionally satirical vision of the world, alternating with moments of deep emotion and classic lyricism. There is an uplifting element in Ginsberg's tolerant and all-inclusive vision of the city with its exciting jaggedness, its energy. Elodie Lauten met Ginsberg in 1973 when at 22, she first came to New York. She stayed at his East Village apartment, and occasionally accompanied him in his public readings. He introduced her to Buddhism with the chanting of mantras and meditation and became somewhat of a mentor. In her setting, she closely followed Allen's train of thought, alternatively introspective and expansive, edgy, playful or lyrical, sometimes triggering hints of different musical styles and unexpected chord changes. Because of her deep understanding of Ginsberg's personality and philosophy, she felt strongly about a melodic setting as opposed to narrative over music, as others had done before: in Waking in New York, every word is sung, even the most unlikely.

Waking in NY CD


Waking in New York was included in Sequenza21's list of 111 most influential post-1970 works.

"Lovely, effecting and affecting." THE NEW YORK TIMES (Kozinn)

"The poetry of Allen Ginsberg has inspired a wide range of composers from Lee Hyla (whose Howl pits the Kronos Quartet against a recording of Ginsberg reading his celebrated poem) to Philip Glass (whose Ginsberg settings include the eclectic Hydrogen Jukebox and Symphony #6 which is a Mahlerian adaptation of Ginsberg's Plutonian Ode.) In terms of authenticity, however, all are trumped by Lauten's moving memorial to her creative mentor". NEW MUSIC BOX

"Lauten reveals greater artistry the further you look beneath the surface, successfully marking the leaps in Ginsberg's own impressionistic narrative with appropriate changes in metre and key." GRAMOPHONE UK

"Strange but oddly compelling work...often wild and marvelously demented chord changes... this is a music of Gotham updated to our times, immortalized by one of its best poetic voices, and put in motion by a composer in tune with the pulse of her city". AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE

Waking in New York VILLAGE VOICE REVIEW by Kyle Gann