I love the detective novels of Raymond Chandler, an author who wrote stories about the fictional detective Philip Marlowe set in the 1940’s/1950’s. I thought it would be a great adventure to write a work for narrator and ensemble based on the gritty world of a detective from this era, and I approached Timothy Decker, who is a published author/illustrator of the gorgeous children’s books The Letter Home; Run Far, Run Fast; and For Liberty to write me original text in this style. What I hope to portray in The Woman with the Unfathomable Eyes (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano sheet music) is this detective’s world as told in his own words with music serving as a backdrop to his adventures from Southern California to Baja, Mexico. We meet the detective through the lone theme played by the clarinet, look into the “unfathomable eyes” of the beautiful woman who hires him, brawl in a bar and take a trip to Mexico with ranchero-inspired music as our detective is led closer to the truth….This piece was written for a world premiere by the Definiens Project during the 2010 Fresno New Music Festival as well as a Southern California premiere by the Biola University New Music Ensemble on November 9, 2010 in La Mirada, California.
Performed during the 2018 LunART Festival in Madison, Wisconsin
Liz Sexe – dancer
Buzz Kemper – narrator
Aaron Yarmel – violin
Brian Grimm – cello
Iva Ugrcic – flute
Kristina Teuschler – clarinet
Kyle Johnson – piano
Promenade Hall – Overture Center for the Arts
Text by Timothy Decker
My father always said.
Nothing good ever came out of the rain,
at least not in Los Angeles.
And she was obviously no good.
Not in that dress.
Not with that hair.
Not with those lips.
Lips that could pour lies like smooth, Kentucky bourbon.
But it was her eyes, that’s what got me.
I couldn’t read them.
And that’s what made me a sucker.
She said they kidnapped her sister.
To get the girl back, it’d take money.
A roll big enough to choke a horse and then some.
The family was good for it.
Old money from back East.
Boston Brahmins with deep pockets
and a need to keep off the front page.
When she’d reached L.A. she learned to never trust a lawyer.
Especially one that’s your husband.
He up and vanished with the ransom money.
So she found me.
Those unfathomable eyes and a lost girl.
Just the sort of things to get me into the right bar on the wrong side of town.
His boys weren’t as tough as they looked.
One punch and a nose gave way like an oyster cracker.
I pistol whipped another.
After that, they made nice.
They said he didn’t trust her.
Just like a lawyer, just like a husband.
They said he said that all she cared about was taking the cash.
That she had other plans.
It didn’t take much persuading to get his address.
It was morning when I reached his motel.
It was hot, even for Baja.
I checked my watch, it would get hotter.
He was right where they’d said he’d be.
Looking nervous, looking scared.
So I didn’t take my eyes off him.
You’ve got it all wrong, he said.
Is that so, I replied.
And then I got cold-cocked from behind.
So I guess I did have it all wrong.Hadn’t noticed being followed either.
I awoke to a blood-red sunset.
It didn’t take many pesos to find my pretty, American dame.
She’d driven to the marina.
To a ghost ship, as it turned out.
No sister, no money, no clues.
Just her hubby floating on the tide.
And I finally understood what her eyes gave away.
That I was an easy mark.
I was smart enough to find her husband.
To find the money.
And dumb enough to lead her to it.
To let her get away.
All I could think of was what my old man used to say.
That nothing good ever came out of the rain.
© 2010 Timothy Decker
Used with permission of the author
Narrator, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano sheet music