Still Morning

ENS.2007.4 | 7′
Poems by Yvor Winters
Soprano & Bass Oboe, Amplified Viola, Farfisa Organ
Soprano & Piano


I. In Winter

II. In Spring

III. In Summer and Autumn

It was in Still Morning I first found a way to fuse my interest in repetitive forms with the freer approach I’d been taking in my vocal music. At the time I was listening to a lot of Webern, whose music I love but whose harmonic and melodic approach is foreign to my own sensibilities, and as a lover of miniatures I wondered, can there be a tiny minimalism? Can Webern and Philip Glass be made to coexist?

The text is by American poet Yvor Winters, whose shockingly brief book, The Magpie’s Shadow— an imagist collection comprised entirely of evocative six-syllable poems—is set in its entirety. Arranged into three parts following the seasons (with summer and autumn elided), the instruments mostly play in unison, though they occasionally comment on and decorate the vocal part. Nevertheless, while the vocal line ranges freely, the accompaniment is always one single line of obsessively repeated tiny musical phrases.

There are two versions of the work. There is a later, smoothed-out all-acoustic “classical” adaptation for clarinet and piano duo, but this is the original, featuring a highly unusual ensemble of bass oboe, amplified viola, and farfisa organ inspired by the Velvet Underground and early Philip Glass.