Premiered on May 28, 2010, The Serpent Speaks by James Hall, is a composition for jazz sextet + two actors, setting Robert Siegel’s poem of the same name. The piece reflects on the fall of man in Genesis 3.
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14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art , and unto dust shalt thou return. 20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. 21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
22 ¶ And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
I first read Robert Siegel's The Serpent Speaks in 2007, as my love of poetry was just being sparked. Though I was immediately interested in setting the poem to music, it wasn’t until receiving a Fellowship at the Trinity Forum Academy that I had the time and resources I needed to realize the project.
My setting of The Serpent Speaks blurs distinctions between composition and improvisation using a mixture of verbal cues; traditional, and non-traditional notation. The style blends free and contemporary modal jazz with spoken word.
James Hall is a trombonist and composer from Nebraska based in New York City. A versatile musician, his projects have spanned jazz, classical, latin, and popular music in the US and Europe.
As a composer and bandleader, James was named a finalist in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Competition, won three ASCAPlus Awards for composition, and was a featured performer/composer at the 2012 Chelsea Music Festival. As trombonist in Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra, he has performed at B.B. Kings', S.O.B's, MassMOCA, The Kennedy Center, The Blue Note Jazz Festival, and has appeared in the pages of Rolling Stone Magazine. He has appeared on several recordings with Postmodern Jukebox, with whom he has toured Europe and the US. James' trombone playing earned third place, runner-up, and honorable mention in the Antti Rissanen, J.J. Johnson, and Carl Fontana International Jazz Trombone Competitions, respectively.
James' first CD as a composer/bandleader was released in October 2013. Entitled "Soon We Will Not Be Here" by James Hall Thousand Rooms Quartet, the body of work sets contemporary poems by NYC-based poets to 3rd-stream chamber music. His sophomore release, "Lattice," is currently in post-production.
James holds degrees from the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in Wisconsin and Aaron Copland School of Music in New York. His teachers have included Luis Bonilla, Hal Crook, Michael Dease, Nick Keelan, Ed Neumeister, and Fred Sturm.
Photo by Bill Wadman.