for mixed chorus (SATB a cappella)
text by Leah Soderberg
cover art by Ashlyn Gehrett
Leah Soderberg and I met during a 4-way collaboration established between the Phoenix Art Museum, the ASU School of Music String and Composition departments, and the ASU Creative Writing department. The intent was for the composer to integrate words by their poet counterparts into pieces for string quartet, all the while drawing inspiration from not only the words, but from a selected piece of art on display in the museum as well.
It is probably fair to say that this assigned collaboration did not work too well between the composer and poets, but Leah and I got along so well that it would be a shame not to attempt to engage in a successful project. Her poetry resonates with me, and she seems to really enjoy my music, so I asked her if she would be interested in doing something a little more mainstream: a choral work.
We discussed at great length what the project should be, listening to the eclectic collection of choral music I keep on my computer, and finally decided to be as simple as possible: Leah would write a poem, and I would set it to music. She sent me the poem while she was in China in early Summer 2009, and I had a preliminary draft of the piece by the end of June.
I found very quickly that her words are not ones that warrant text painting, much to my great joy—it seems cliché to me, of which I am terrified. So what needed to happen was figure out the tone, color, and form of the poem to inform the music. What resulted was a sombre, modal painting that I hope does some justice to Leah's words!