• Augusta Read Thomas
  • In My Sky at Twilight — Songs of Passion and Love (2002)

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)


  • 1+pic.1.2.0/2.1+pictpt.0.0/2perc/hp.2pf(cel)/str4tet
  • piano reduction available
  • Soprano
  • 22 min
  • Ono no Komachi, Robert Browning, Gustave Flaubert, Kshetrayya, Sappho, E.E. Cummings, Anon. Egyptian
  • English

Programme Note

Composer note:
William G. Simpson generously asked me to make a composition based on the theme "enduring love that spans the chasm of death." The result is In My Sky at Twilight, a collection of songs inspired by passion and love, commissioned in loving memory of Marilyn M. Simpson by her devoted family.

Last year in Paris, Christine Brandes premiered the solo part in my Daylight Divine for solo soprano, chorus, and orchestra. She was absolutely amazing, and I was eager to work with her again. In My Sky at Twilight was tailor-made for her voice.

Pablo Neruda's poem, "In My Sky at Twilight" (translated by W. S. Merwin), was the starting point of my research for texts to include in this composition. Of great concern to me was the sound of the words, which I wanted to be musical, graceful, and resonant.

      You are taken in the net of my music, my love,
      And my nets of music are wide as the sky.
      My soul is born on the shore of your eyes of mourning.
      In your eyes of mourning the land of dreams begins.

The music, which emerges in two large sections, Deeper Than all Roses and Lament, can be heard as suggestive of a fantastic dream. An orchestral interlude separates the two parts.

The two opening texts, "Ablaze with desire, . . . " and "0 lyric love, half angel and half bird / And all a wonder and a wild desire," establish the contrasting nature of the music: at times blazing, at times lyric. The music is fiery, colorful, elegant, and bold; then, on a dime, it transforms into a tender, gentle, and smooth sound world.

The words from Christina Rossetti's beautiful poem "Echo,"

      Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
      Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
      Speak low, lean low,
      As long ago, my love, how long ago.

open the Lament and set the stage for the entire second movement, which ends with quiet resolve.

I am a firm believer that form must be the best reaction to the objects calling it into being. One cannot stuff a piece into an ABA form, like putting a square peg in a round hole. The aura and quality of the musical materials inspire the music into its asymmetrical form, however, the music always reveals my ear's concern for contrasting colors and a detailed control over the flow, flux, proportion, and trajectory of the sounds.

I compose music that at times seems improvisatory and improvise music that at times seems composed. Hopefully the result is an "alive," "ardent" sound world. Nuance is essence for me, and my scores are always highly detailed. The entire piece is harmonically rooted, although great attention is given to motive, counterpoint, and color. I write music intuitively, but always with my brain turned on. One of my main artistic credos for a long time has been to examine small musical objects (a chord, a motive, a rhythm, a color, etc.) and explore them from every possible perspective. The different perspectives reveal new musical elements, which I then transform, and which in turn become the musical development. Thus my works take on a kind of organic, circular, self-referential quality, while at the same time they clearly move forward.

Voice, bell, sun, spirit, prayer, stars, ceremony, sky, ritual are themes which have run through my music for years. I think of my music as lyricism under pressure.

In My Sky at Twilight is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Pierre Boulez, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Christine Brandes, and William G. Simpson. I would like to extend a very special thanks to Henry Fogel, Martha Gilmer, Cliff Colnot, Matias Tamopolsky, and Laura Pryzby.

— Augusta Read Thomas

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