The last poem of Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) begins with the line Tabi ni yande, often translated as “ill on a journey.” Bashō spent years walking around Japan, in good weather and bad, in health and in sickness, allowing the landscapes he encountered to inspire his poetry. The four poems included in this setting exemplify his approach to finding beauty in the world around him, even while suffering.
This text appears in Act II, Scene 7 of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, sung by a nobleman living in the forest with the unjustly banished Duke. Continue reading
In May 2010, sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder was accused of robbery, arrested, and imprisoned on Rikers Island in New York to await trial. He was there for three years, much of the time in solitary confinement. Pressured to plead guilty, he insisted he was innocent and wanted to go to court. Continue reading
I wrote Climate Honesty around the time U.S. Senator James Inhofe brought a snowball to work in an attempt to deny the existence of climate change. My song is not addressed to the senator—I have no words for him—but rather to those who want to believe what people like him have to say, not only on this subject but on any where it is comfortable yet irresponsible to be ignorant.
Excerpt sung by Margaret Streeter, Crystal Tung, Julia Tang and Diana Hill. Conducted by Evelyn Troester DeGraf:
The text for La nostalgia is a response to René Magritte’s 1940 Le mal du pays [Homesickness]. Continue reading
This piece will sound best with 8 to 16 voices. Continue reading
This work’s origins can be traced back to a contemplative neighborhood walk, at a time when I struggled to balance my own needs with those of others who I care about. These words “arrived in mind” as I walked. The music I wrote later was influenced by my thoughts about the relationship between a community and its individual members: the 20-32 sopranos and altos of the choir begin by independently repeating short melodic phrases, each singer making autonomous decisions about tempo and rubato, listening carefully as she negotiates her role within the group.
Out of Her Place was inspired by the iconic women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony. The first and last stanzas of the text are from speeches she gave at women’s rights conventions; the middle stanza contains lines from her personal letters.
The Driscoll Alphabet for chorus is a set of twenty-six blocks of music, each corresponding to a letter in the English alphabet. It can be performed in two ways:
- The entire alphabet can be performed, A to Z, as written. The duration is about 15 minutes.
- Any of the letters can be performed, in any combination. They need not spell actual words, although this might be a good place to start. (At the first performance, VocalEssence spelled out “Voices of Quiet Joy”, a piece lasting about 7 minutes.)
The text for Keen, Fitful Gusts is a poem by John Keats which illustrates the power of the mind to create a world for itself. Keats describes a traveler, walking a great distance in very bad weather, who is nevertheless content because his mind is filled with poems he has read. The first half of the piece depicts the violent weather and the long journey; the second half, which is gentle and tonal, represents the world inside the traveler’s head.