ENS.2006.7 | 6′
Text by Anthony Doerr
Tenor & 2 Bass Clarinets, 2 Violins
I found myself pleasantly surprised by Anthony Doerr’s About Grace, a “realist” literary novel I’d picked up for a dollar at the Strand because his other book had shells on the cover and I like books with shells on the cover. It turned out to be genuinely moving, combining stretches of astonishing beauty describing the natural world with meaningful insights into human nature. Four brief passages especially struck me, and I set them aside for further use.
One thing that has long interested me is the setting of essentially arrhythmic prose whose only regularities are that of speech. Like Janáček I generally prefer to set such texts as naturally as possible, my music matching the rising and falling of the line rather than attempting to artificially corral the irregular text in a singsong rhythm. However, the latter approach can be effective—as proven by Barber’s perfect Knoxville: Summer of 1915—and that’s the direction I went in this work, with its lilting barcarolles suggesting the rise and fall of the ocean.