Ill on a Journey

for vocal soloists, chorus and string orchestra

Ill on a Journey is a multilingual opera/oratorio about navigating life with chronic illness—the story of Aurelia, an adventure-loving woman whose health increasingly restricts her mobility. Featuring ancient and modern texts from around the world, it explores the theme of travel and alternative means of fulfillment for those who are unable to leave home. The title is taken from the last poem of Matsuo Bashō, a 17th-century Japanese journeyman-poet with whom Aurelia feels an affinity.

Aurelia’s worsening illness precipitates a search for meaning in her favorite activity: traveling. From the isolation of her bedroom, she voraciously reads, trying to pinpoint exactly why traveling is so special to her, and how she might find similar purpose in her new housebound life.

The story takes place over the course of a year and is divided into 12 movements corresponding to each month. The chorus and its soloists present material that Aurelia reads (texts by Han Yu, Matsuo Bashō, Gabriela Mistral, Claude McKay, and Alexander Pushkin, among others, in the original languages), and she responds in solo (soprano) passages, on texts by the composer in English. Three of Aurelia’s solo movements have been independently performed in chamber ensemble arrangements, available below.

Please contact Rebekah if you are interested in performing this piece.

September: Mt. Carrigain

January: Brin’s Mesa

May: Green-wood Cemetery

Tabi Ni Yande

for SATB chorus (unaccompanied)

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.

Please contact Rebekah if you are interested in performing this piece. For information about Japanese pronunciation, read the Japanese Diction Guide.

Thou Winter Wind

for SATB chorus (unaccompanied)

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 

When I Learned of Kalief Browder

for SSATBB Chorus

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 

For Lantau

for chamber choir and viola

This work was composed while living on the large and mostly rural island of Lantau, in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. In recent years the Lantau landscape has undergone dramatic transformations—tourism and transportation developments that can be seen from space, and an exponentially increasing population—with more changes planned for its future. Continue reading 

Arrived in Mind on Winter’s Walk

for treble voices

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.
Continue reading