About the Piece
Premiered by St. Martin's Chamber Choir under the direction of Tim Krueger on Feb. 22nd, 2019 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Denver, CO.
"Silent Noon" is a piece that is very near and dear to my heart. This work is symbolic of a growth point in my compositional process, and a trying of new strategies to deal with artistic expression in a choral work. I interpret this poem as the poet remembering a moment paused in time, a memory shared with a loved one that is no longer here. When starting the process of composing, this begged the questions: "How do I make this piece seem timeless?" and "What does a memory sound like?"
The answers to these questions came eventually: in regards to a timeless piece, I could simply make the piece void of meter and hard-set rhythmic values. To do this, I emulated a technique I came across in a piece I performed several years ago ("Celendines" by Robert Walker) where a number of words in the poem have a single notehead attached to them. The choir then feels the rhythm of this phrase of words under the single notehead together, creating an infinitely variable work since each choir will feel the pacing of these word-groups differently.
In order to emulate the sound of a memory, I decided to try my hand at quartal harmony (chords built off of the interval distance of fourths as opposed to the common tertian harmony built off of thirds). So, the basis of most of these chords is a quartal chord, sometimes revoiced for ease of voice-leading. This creates a sonic tapestry that is not quite in a key, but still has moments of "arrival" or "heading home." I believe memories are often like this-- a swirl of accurate general details but when it comes to specifics it can be very wishy-washy and unclear. However, some memories can be sharp-- especially when they're attached to emotions. So, I went back and found a few moments where the poet is speaking of the loved one specifically, and set these short phrases in a timed meter with tertian sonorities. Thus, the piece was completed.
See the Score:
Poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(From "The House of Life" number 19)
Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,—
The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
Are golden kingcup fields with silver edge
Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge.
'Tis visible silence, still as the hour-glass.
Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragon-fly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:—
So this wing'd hour is dropt to us from above.
Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When twofold silence was the song of love.