Sweet talk was commissioned by Princeton University as part of their spring 1996 Atelier Program, a yearly program created by Toni Morrison. Work on the cycle began in November 1995 with “I am not Prey” and “Faith,” which were completed in January 1996. “Perfect Ease” and “Bliss” were composed in June and July respectively of the same year, and the final score was completed by September.
Sweet Talk is intimately associated with a fiction project Ms. Morrison has been working on for some time. One of the questions this work posed for her was, “What is the nature of Paradise? What in all of the Biblical, literary, and historical descriptions were the constant features?” It seemed to her that, other than eternity, there were four: Bounty, Safety, Faith, and Bliss. The lyrics of each song are an attempt to evoke both the meaning of and the passion in our desire for Paradise.
The work is clearly a cycle of four somewhat interdependent movements; there is an attacca between movements I and II. And also between III and IV. The moods that are evoked are, however, quite different from one another, as are the texts to which the music is set.
The work is dedicated to Jessye Norman.
— Richard Danielpour