• Simon Holt
  • Clandestiny (2000)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Part 4 of the cycle 'a ribbon of time'

  • Soprano/organ
  • 20 min
  • Emily Dickinson
  • English

Programme Note

Clandestiny is scored for soprano and organ and lasts approximately 20 minutes. It is a collection of ten poems or quotations from the American poet Emily Dickinson. The movements vary in length from 16 seconds to seven minutes. Although the set is for soprano and organ, Friday and The Pedigree of honey I are soprano solos and Circumference is for organ alone.

Simon Holt began the set by writing The Clock for the wedding of a friend, the oboist Melinda Maxwell, and another friend commissioned the rest; Clandestiny is part of a series entitled A ribbon of time each based on the poems of Emily Dickinson. Others include Sunrise’ yellow noise and the Two movements for string quartet.

The movement titles are quotes from the text, as Dickinson’s poems are without titles, Holt comments: ‘Her style is very condensed, and I’ve tried to portray that intensity here. Movements are linked by important words: ‘life’ is set the same way in no 2 as it is in No 7; ‘despair’ is similar in Nos. 3 and 7. The Pedigree of honey I and II refer to two poems she wrote several years apart. They begin the same way, but the later setting is extended, and this is repeated in the musical setting: the soprano begins the same unaccompanied way but as the second setting continues, the organ joins her. Throughout the work the organ’s role is to enhance the vocal line.

1. The Clock

The clock strikes one that just struck two-
Some schism in the Sum-
A Vagabond for Genesis
Has wrecked the Pendulum-

2. Friday

Friday I tasted life.
It was a great morsel.
A circus passed the house-
Still I feel the red in my mind.

3. Winter Afternoons
There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons-
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes-

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us-
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are-

None may teach it - Any-
'Tis the Seal Despair -
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air-

When it comes, the Landscape listens-
Shadows - hold their breath -
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death-

4. The Pedigree of Honey I

The Pedigree of Honey
Does not concern the Bee-
A Clover, any time, to him,
Is Aristocracy-

5. Rendezvous of Light

Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light,
Pangless except for us-
Who slowly ford the Mystery
Which thou hast leaped across!

6. The Pedigree of Honey II

The Pedigree of Honey
Does not concern the Bee,
Nor lineage of Ecstacy
Delay the Butterfly
On spangled journeys to the peak
Of some perceiveless thing-
The right of way to Tripoli
A more essential thing.

7. Despair

I cannot live with You-
It would be Life-
And Life is over there-
Behind the Shelf

The Sexton keeps the Key to-
Putting up
Our Life- His Porcelain-
Like a Cup-

Discarded of the Housewife-
Quaint - or Broke-
A newer Sevres pleases-
Old Ones crack.-

I could not die - with You-
For One must wait
To shut the Other's Gaze down -
You - could not-

And I - Could I stand by
And see You -freeze-
Without my Right of Frost-
Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise- with You-
Because Your Face
Would put out Jesus'-
That New Grace

Glow plain - and foreign
On my homesick Eye-
Except that You, than He
Shone closer by-

They 'd judge Us - How-
For You - served Heaven- You know,
Or sought to-
I could not-

Because You saturated Sight-
And I had no more Eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise.

And were You lost, I would be
Though My Name
Rang loudest
On the Heavenly fame-

And were You - saved-
And I - condemned to be
Where You were not-
That self -were Hell to Me-

So We must meet apart-
You there - I - here-
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are - and Prayer-
And that White Sustenance-

8. Frost

Apparently with no surprise
To any happy Flower
The Frost beheads it at its play-
In accidental power-
The blond Assassin passes on-
The Sun proceeds unmoved
To measure off another Day
For an Approving God.

9. Circumference

My business is circumference.
My business is to sing.
My business is to love.

10. Close

My life closed twice before its close-
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

(Emily Dickinson)