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what beckons


Composed in 2010

For soprano and clarinet

Duration: 8:00

Text: Grace Bauer (used by permission)


In 2010, Soprano Amanda DeBoer Bartlett asked several composers

to contribute pieces for a recital to benefit the conservation of the Nebraskan prairie. I set "What Beckons," a languid poem by Nebraskan poet Grace Bauer, and scored it for soprano and solo clarinet. The poem contains beautiful imagery of simple things, both mundane and profound, from the air conditioning, to "a road we

need to see the end of." In this setting, I wanted to explore the intertwining of two singing instruments, and the coloristic possibilities that they offered. In particular, I was interested in the overlap between the timbre of the clarinet and the purity of the human voice. At times, the two are locked in an almost indistinguishable unison, before they break apart from each other into unexpected intervals. I was also interested in the influence of breath on the pacing of this piece, and I tried to leave space for the performers to have a great level of rhythmic freedom. Ultimately, writing for voice without piano was very stimulating and liberating for me, and I have since gone on to explore many more vocal/instrumental combinations in my work.


A dream – say, of a once loved body.

The memory of hands.

The aroma of coffee

singing its praise to waking.

Or the bright orange of day

lilies clinging to their brief glory.

The heat, and how it overpowers.

The air conditioning. How it kicks on

just in time. Water.

The condensation on the crystal

wine glass. The wine. The peal

of laughter we recognize as a friend’s.

The story that elicited such laughter.

And, sometimes, a cry.

And, sometimes, a road we need

to see the end of.  Or a room

in a house we’ve never entered before

with a window that entices the eye

to look out, that pulls the outside in.

Whatever sparkles or startles.

A not quite familiar refrain.

Sometimes, just blue.



First Performance: July 9th, 2010

The First Unitarian Church of Omaha, Omaha, NE

Amanda Deboer Bartlett, soprano; Alejandro Acierto, clarinet



Audio Recording: November 3rd, 2011, New Music New Haven

Morse Recital Hall, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Jessica Petrus, soprano; Wai Lau, clarinet


Video Recording: December 23rd, 2012

Congregational Church of La Jolla, La Jolla, CA

Katina Mitchell, soprano; Eric Jacobs, clarinet


Related Works:

A Dream Within A Dream

A Winter Bluejay

Heloise and Abelard

LA Composition

Songs and Dances

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