for full SATB choir,, and electronics


5 minutes

Commissioned by/Premiere

Premiered by NC State’s Raleigh Civic Symphony and Chamber Orchestra (Peter Askim, conductor) and the NC State Chorale and University Singers (Nathan Leaf, conductor) on April 10, 2022. This work was commissioned by the NC State University Department of Music and the Raleigh Civic Symphony Association.


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I have long been enamored by the Japanese monk and poet Matsuo Bashō, particularly by his ability to capture both an image and an idea in his short poems. In January 2021, I came across his short text “What divine instrument / has taught these birds? / No waves swell so high / as to swamp their home”; I found this notion of waves and birds in natural accord to be beautiful, and pregnant, with meaning. So I constructed a short piece wherein the tenors and basses and low orchestra members created two gradual swells—waves—that come just to the top of their range before receding again, all set against floating altos, sopranos, and strings which the swells could never quite reach. In the score, many of the instruments are given small choices as to when exactly to play their notes to simulate the stochastic movements of bird flocks and waves, images that seem quite clear from far away and yet have an internal movement that is hard to predict.