ENS.2008.10 | 15′
Poems by Paul Celan, trans. Pierre Joris
Baritone & Flute/Alto Flute, Oboe/Cor Anglais, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Percussion, Harp, String Quintet



Songswarm was originally composed for baritone and guitar in 2008. However, having at that time no real idea how to write for guitar, the piece I came up with never quite worked. I couldn’t ever seem to voice chords the way I wanted to, and the textures often seemed too skeletal or uninteresting. I considered reworking the piece for two guitars, or harp, but hit a dead and set it aside for a year.

In late 2009 I gave it another go, adding a harp to include some of the same strummed textures as in the original, then a few wind instruments to emphasize the newly linear character of the music, and next thing you know I had an entire chamber orchestra and dropped the guitar entirely!

Songswarm now resembles its prototype in the way a sketch resembles a finished painting: the ideas were there, but needing filling in. The poems are by my favorite poet, Paul Celan, as translated by Pierre Joris, taken from Lightduress, the final book completed in Celan’s lifetime. My title is a word found in one of the poems, and what could better describe my work, not only this piece but virtually all my vocal music?