Meditation at Oyster River (text: Theodore Roethke) song for soprano and piano; 9' (1999)
composer's note: “Meditation at Oyster River” was one of my first attempts at extending an art song out into something like a scene, a form to which I’ve returned numerous times since (for instance, “Kids Who Die,” “Annabel Lee,” “Return and Return Again,” and many of my chamber works such as “GIC to HAR” and “Facts About the Moon”). It’s also one of the last scores I fully notated by hand, using very high standards of hand-engraving as taught to me by many excellent teachers... which sadly means that some of the music has been lost to water damage.
The music itself is episodic in interesting ways, flying quickly through many different styles of songwriting, but always lingering the longest on a slow, languid figure in the piano with a soaring vocal melody floating above. That musical idea, based loosely on Messiaen’s “Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus,” with which I was obsessed at the time (and still love), feels like home. It provides a strong place of quiet rest in the midst of a wild, dramatic song… a meditative center where the music (and the text) comes to rest between flights of fancy.