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Composed: 2019

Length: c. 20 minutes

Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (2nd = bass clarinet), soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, bass trombone, percussion (glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba, large gong, rattle, rasp, tam-tam, maracas, woodblock, cymbal, snare drum, bass drum, 2 tom-toms), harp, piano (= celesta) electric guitar, bass guitar, strings, & solo vocalist

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: (world premiere)

About this Piece

The only one originated with a request from Chad Smith, then Chief Operating Officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has programmed many of my pieces and wanted to commission a new piece as part of the orchestra’s centenary celebration. I talked with him about my trouble with the traditional instrumentation of the symphony orchestra. Then he said the historic words: “You should write what you want to write.” His reassurance was a good reason for me to say yes.

In the meantime, I had made two new artistic discoveries. The first was a gift from friend and composer Rozalie Hirs of a collection of poems by the Flemish poet Delphine Lecompte. These witty, intelligent, experimental, and sometimes scabrous poems immediately fascinated me. My focus turned to faraway America, with its great tradition of songwriting. This all fit perfectly with my other discovery: Nora Fischer, a young singer who has attracted attention in recent years through both her classical and pop music projects. The depth of her versatility has strongly influenced the musical language of the piece.

While reading through Delphine Lecompte’s work, I made the choice to use texts from her very first publication, The Animals in Me. She uses short lines; it is sharp and radical, almost surrealistic. The title The only one is a translation of the first words from the first poem heard in the piece, “de enige.”

The orchestral lineup includes, as is often my custom, bass guitar and guitar. This isn’t often done, with the exception of film composers. I almost never write for the sound of a full string orchestra, but rather for a reduced section. Six violins per part can already make enough noise. There is a harp and a pianist who also plays celesta. The piece flirts a bit with certain kinds of pop songs and light music, and starts out with a beautiful song. In the end, very little of that remains.

— Louis Andriessen