SATB div., unaccompanied
Darkness and light, nature and technology, movement and stillness. This piece explores contrasts in color, texture, and tempo, and the juxtaposition of long, sustained, quiet sounds with flashes of movement and color. Score and studio recording below.
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This piece comes from a scene I saw while hiking high on the shoulders of Badger Mountain in south central Washington State on a September morning in 2011, looking north across the confluence of the Yakima River and the Columbia River to the Hanford Reach National Monument. The sky was completely covered in very dark, blue-gray cloud, but I could see all the way across the Arid Lands Ecology Preserve and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, to the white bluffs of the Wahluke Slope and beyond. As I stood, watching, I saw a sudden flash of white against the ominous distance. I could not tell what it was, at first, even upon a second flash. All at once, the whole flock of large white birds wheeled and turned and caught the single shaft of sunlight, and the sky was full of them. From that distance, they appeared to be American White Pelicans, a bird that had almost disappeared in the 20th century due to DDT and degradation of the wetlands, but now has returned to the Reach. It was a scene of amazing stillness and movement, from the deceptively motionless sky in the background and the rivers below to the flocking birds above them, flying in turning, flowing patterns, reacting to unseen forces and pursuing a hidden, co-ordinated goal through the air. I have tried to capture those three elements in the music–the slow movement of the rivers below, the flashing and flocking of the birds above, and the darkness surrounding it all.
The first section references the sacred incantation “AUM,” or in Devanagari, ॐ.
The English words in the next sections are “Glory above, and peace below,” a reference to the Angelic Hymn. In Greek, it begins Δόξα Σοι τῷ δείξαντι τὸ φῶς, “Glory to you who has shown us the light.”
This piece was written for Sonous, the premiere vocal ensemble at Eagle High School, Eagle, Idaho, and their conductor, my dear friend Seth McMullen, their conductor. It was premiered at the Northwest ACDA conference in Seattle, WA on March16, 201.2
NOTES ON PREPARATION AND PERFORMANCE
In the section up to rehearsal letter A (and on the last long note), the hairpins indicate the opening and closing of the lips going from “mm” to a dark, mid-back, rounded “oh”. The opening and closing will automatically create a crescendo/decrescendo effect, a constantly gliding movement. Some notes will become more prominent in the chord and then fade into the background as part of this process. Note changes should be unemphasized, almost imperceptable.
Where the notes split (bars 11-16, S1/2), the hairpins above the staff are for the top note and the hairpins below for the lower notes.
In the section at the end, the intent is to create the effect of one voice that can sing all the notes from the lowest to the highest. Enter at the lowest pitch you can, and seamlessly follow the sequence as high as you can and still release easily, using all registers of the voice.
glory above, and peace below