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Last month I finished the score to my first work written during a joint residency with the Charlotte Street Urban Culture Project and Copland House (Cortland Manor, NY). I spent the month of October just north of New York City in Aaron Copland’s home—now converted into a studio retreat for resident composers—working on a number of projects that I plan to finish back in Kansas City. The first of these includes a setting of Emily Dickinson’s “I taste a liquor never brewed” for SATB choir. The work is commissioned by Cantori Choral (Robert Cowles, director) and will be performed on a tour throughout the Northeast, culminating in a home concert in Geneva, NY at Hobart and Williams Smith Colleges in late April. I still have one—possibly two—additional works to write as a part of this commission but am holding off until I get another project close to finished which I hope to announce soon.
In “I taste a liquor never brewed,” Dickinson describes the euphoric effect of nature in a playful and charming manner through an extended metaphor of drunkenness and intoxication. The poem is straightforward and entertaining to read with a lot of energy and excitement. This parallels a work that I wrote a few years ago for choir, a song of joys (2008/revised 2011), based on a Walt Whitman text from Leaves of Grass. You can find a recording of that work here (not available on mobile): http://www.instantencore.com/music/player.aspx?ListItemId=4564311
Like a song of joys, I taste a liquor never brewed exists in the same harmonic world (diatonic) and makes use of a major third relationship to shift between key centers. There are short canonic figures (repeated phrases) used to emphasize certain lines of the text as well as clusters (chords built upon major and minor seconds) on specific words to create a shimmering effect. The work is in four sections with the first and last using the same musical material. The two middle sections could be grouped together to form a larger middle section that bridges the opening and closing material together. I’m really excited to have worked on this piece, it was a nice departure from the instrumental music I’ve been composing lately.
My next post will talk about other projects taking place in December as well as my collaboration with Charlotte Street UCP resident Jennifer Lynn Williams. You can check our her work here: http://www.jenniferlynnwilliams.com/