• 3+pic.2+ca.3(cbcl)+bcl.2+cbn/4.2Ctpt+Apictpt([Ctpt]).2+btbn.1/timp.4perc/hp[=2].pf/str
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Movements (to be listed in the program)
I. ...words of the sea...
II. ...the ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea...
III. ...beyond the genius of the sea...
IV. ...mountainous atmospheres of sky and sea... (Homage to Debussy)

Program note
The four movements of Words of the Sea for orchestra are diverse and distinct, each undertaking to deal with the evocations prompted by a particular poetic phrase by poet Wallace Stevens. Despite their variety and distinctiveness, in fleeting whispers or proclamations, the four movements/scenes/poetic phrases reminisce about and relate to one another, resulting in a labyrinth of deeply interdependent connections.

The work is written to feature many of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra principal players through a series of brief solos as well as by intricate orchestration which results in distinct concertino groups momentarily rising to the foreground. The composition is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who presented the world premiere, and world premiere commercial recording, in 1996.

Wallace Stevens poem prompted and nurtured this music by alluring Thomas to see and imagine the sound of “words of the sea,” to appreciate an ocean’s “ever-hooded tragic-gestured” nature, to imagine vast “mountainous atmospheres of sky and sea” and to contemplate what may be “beyond the genius of the sea.”

Thomas said, “I yearn to reflect in my own singing/composing the ways that listening has changed me. I write music that craves a listener — whomever that listener may be &emdash; and I am concerned with speaking honestly. What I say musically is prompted by a spirit of generosity.”


Words of the Sea for Orchestra: I. …Words of the Sea...
Words of the Sea for Orchestra: II. …The Ever-Hooded, Tragic-Gestured Sea…
Words of the Sea for Orchestra: III. …Beyond the Genius of the Sea…
Words of the Sea for Orchestra: IV. …Mountainous Atmospheres of Sky and Sea - Homage to Debussy



  • Happy 60th Birthday to Augusta Read Thomas
    • Happy 60th Birthday to Augusta Read Thomas
    • Augusta Read Thomas is one of the U.S.’s most recognizable and beloved composers. In addition to writing music of “unbridled passion and fierce poetry” (American Academy of Arts and Letters), she is University Professor of Composition at the University of Chicago, where she has championed new music through founding the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition and its resident Grossman Ensemble.