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Augusta Read Thomas

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Gathering Paradise (2004)
G Schirmer Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
28 Minutes
Programme Note
Augusta Read Thomas Gathering Paradise (2004)
Composer's Note:

Composing for voice is my first passion in life, and as a result the largest part of my catalogue is music for voice: solo voice, small groups of voices, small or large choirs, with and without orchestral or other kinds of accompaniments. For me, the human voice - possibly the most subtle, complex, and fragile yet forceful, flexible, seductive, and persuasive carrier of musical ideas and meanings - has always been an inspiration for and influence upon my entire musical thinking. I sing when I compose. I adore reading poems, and cherish the opportunity to set them to music: and I believe that text plus music (1+1) must equal at least 24. If 1+1=2, there is no need, for me, to set the text to music.

Emily Dickinson's poems are intensely personal, intellectual, introspective, and offer a meditation on life, death, and poetic creation; her poems share a close observation of nature as well as consideration of religious and philosophical issues. The poems used in Gathering Paradise are marked by the intimate recollection of inspirational moments which are suggestive of hope and the possibility of happiness found in art and in the observation of the natural world.

These poems are all about light. We start with "gleam," "illumination," "fuse is lit, and work through "the Everlasting Clocks - Chime - Noon" (when, in the middle of the composition, there is an actual kind of carillon sounding orchestration to represent a clock striking 12 times). Then, at the end of the work, "Soft as the massacre of Suns," and, finally, "Image of Light, Adieu - ". So there is a kind of cycle of light, from sunrise to sundown ... or perhaps a birth to a death, the final words of the composition being "Impart - Depart -".

—Augusta Read Thomas

  • Ensemble
    New York Philharmonic
    Heidi Grant Murphy, soprano
    Lorin Maazel
    New World Records:
The words "contemporary classical music" often glaze the eyes of the general public. That wouldn't be the case if more people heard the works of Augusta Read Thomas....This is new music that commands attention, delivering its message with almost blinding clarity. The score is sprinkled with suggestions from the composer like "enthusiastic and edgy" or "timeless, smooth and resonant." The lyrics are steeped in Dickinson's palette of uncomfortable emotions and unpredictable rhythms that fit the 21st century better than the Romantic 19th.
Verena Dobnik, Associated Press,1/1/0001
...her music, notwithstanding its alluring colors, striking orchestral effects and organic energy, is challenging. Her musical language is unabashedly atonal, though lulling diatonic elements leaven the astringent harmonies. Still, Ms. Thomas has an acute ear....When the soloist is not singing, the orchestra really cuts loose with some turbulent, pummeling, angst-ridden outbursts, meant, it would seem, to match the sometimes disturbing mystery of Dickinson's writing. was hard to resist immersing yourself in her intelligent and technically impressive music.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times,1/1/0001
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