The Whole World Was Listening (SATB a cappella, with Soprano and Tenor soloists, off-stage quartet, more)

Soprano and Tenor soloists, off-stage SATB quartet, SATB choir divisi, a cappella, with or without bass drum and including aleatoric elements (2007) ca. 7’
Carl Sandburg, Text.

Premiered and commissioned by the Manhattan Choral Ensemble, Tom Cunningham, director, as part of their New Music for New York commissioning project.

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Program notes:

Detecting in the poem three kinds of narratives/emotional/functional states, loosely paralleling a Freudian division, I carved up the musical forces so that

1. the soprano solo (and by extension the solo quartet) is the voice of religion/reason/conscience (super-ego)
2. the tenor solo is the narrator/objective observer (ego)
3. the choir proper represents the impulse toward violence (hence their essential wordlessness and martial stomping) that we somehow never seem to collectively keep in check (id)

Jaws – Carl Sandburg

SEVEN nations stood with their hands on the jaws of death.
It was the first week in August, Nineteen Hundred Fourteen.
I was listening, you were listening, the whole world was listening,
And all of us heard a Voice murmuring:
“I am the way and the light,
He that believeth in me
Shall not perish
But shall have everlasting life.”
Seven nations listening heard the Voice and answered:
“O Hell!”
The jaws of death began clicking and they go on clicking.
“O Hell!”

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