By Lewis Spratlan | For SATB Choir a cappella | 17′
Title: Elephant Rocks
Composer: Lewis Spratlan
Text by: On poems by Kay Ryan
Year Composed: 2008
Instrumentation: For SATB Chorus a cappella
Format: Choral Score
Page Size: Letter
Catalog Number: OM0411
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From the composer:
Brilliant, funny, and sobering poems by U. S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan make up the text for these nine choral songs. Kay Ryan, U. S. poet laureate, 2008-2010, has said that her poems do not start with imagery or sound, but rather develop “the way an oyster does, with an aggravation.” This piqued quality of her work, apart from its droll, pinpoint language drew me to these nine poems from the collection Elephant Rocks.
The cycle consists of three sets of three songs each. The first takes the title song, with its observance of nature but closing ecological warning, as its point of departure. “Dew” traces its own short life and demise. “How Birds Sing” follows the unpracticed efforts entailed in making birdsong, closing “The wings and the rest compress a musical squeeze which floats a series of notes upon the breeze.”
The second group of songs opens with “How a Thought Thinks,” observing its subversive attitude towards “apparently healthy notions.” A big pun, “Bestiary” notes some beasts that make the cut, in the realization that only the fiercest prevail. “Crustacean Island” imagines an island paradise clicking away with lobsters’ china mitts and articulated tails, and no people, with their points of view.
In “If the Moon Happened Once,” the final set of songs begins with the idea that change is what makes our love of the moon so constant. The last two songs form a unit that ponders our ultimate reduction to fundamental matter.
Commission/Dedication: Commissioned by the Da Camera Singers, Sheila Heffernon, director.
Premiere: First performed January 30, 2009 at Raymond Concert Hall, Rhodes Arts Center at the Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, MA by the Da Camera Singers, conducted by Sheila Heffernon.