Of War

By Lewis Spratlan | For Mixed SATB Chorus and Orchestra | 25′

Title: Of War
Composer: Lewis Spratlan
Text by: Constance Congdon, Walt Whitman, and Lewis Spratlan
Year Composed: 2014
Instrumentation: For SATB Chorus and Orchestra
Duration: 25′
Format: Full Score in C
Page Size: Tabloid (11″x17″)
Catalog Number: OM0429

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From the composer:

Of War contemplates our habit of destroying one another from four points of view: a young recruit, upon his induction into the army, ponders the future; a native American warrior prepares for the Battle of Wounded Knee; the poet keeps watch over a dying companion on a Civil War battlefield; and a soldier delivers a micro-incremental account of her own death from artillery fire in the Iraqi desert.

Sung continuously, the first two sections comprise a unit. Each present the words of the subject surrounded by reiterations of labels identifying what drives the conflict, first our lust for oil and then for territory. The third section, a necro-homoerotic cry mourning the loss of a young soldier, is the most personal moment of the piece, evoking nature as witness. The fourth, beyond the account of explosive death, presents a litany of battles ancient and modern and, in closing, the words of Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atom bomb, on the occasion of its achievement: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” This paraphrase of lines from the Bhagavad Gita is given redemptive hope through the addition of the final utterance “no more.” The author has further paraphrase Oppenheimer’s remark as “I am become death, shatterer of worlds.” The lines from the Bhagavad Gita are set as chanted in the original Hindi.

The four sections of the piece are thus titled: Milk Duds (Exxon has my back), Manifest Destiny, Vigil Strange, and Pink Mist (Religion in the Desert). It is dedicated to Dr. Andrew Megill on the occasion of his inaugural season as Director of Choral Activities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


Commission/Dedication: Commissioned by and dedicated to Dr. Andrew Megill on the occasion of his inaugural season as director of choral activities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Premiere: First performed on April 9, 2015 at Foellinger Great Hall, Granert Center for the Performing Arts, Urbana, Il by the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra, the University of Illinois Oratorio Society, and the University of Illinois Chamber Singers, Andrew Megill, conductor.

World Premiere: Movements 1 & 2
World Premiere: Movement 3
World Premiere: Movement 4
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