This World is not Conclusion

Commissioned in 1998 by the New Music Festival of Sandusky, This World is not Conclusion is comprised of four movements for chorus, string orchestra, and clarinet on poems by Emily Dickinson: Crisis Is A Hair, We Like March, This World is not Conclusion, and Heart! We will forget him!

Although these movements are structurally and stylistically related, each piece can stand on its own. In addition, I’m tempted to regard the final double-bar as temporary; I can imagine working with so many of Dickinson’s poems (a hundred would not be an exaggeration), each possessing her magical ability to be transparent and opaque simultaneously, that I foresee this composition evolving over the years into an open-ended, unordered collection, a “songbook” if you will, from which choruses may pick and choose according to the dictates of time, occasion, or whim.  (See Nobody  for chorus and oboe.)
Dickinson’s poems suggest incompleteness (as in “unfulfilled,” not “unfinished”) and this suggestion is echoed in the role of the solo clarinet, which in the company of a string section conveys the sense of an incomplete orchestra. (Next to the strings the clarinet is, in my opinion, the most versatile of instruments, able to “cover” other winds and brass.) My writing for the chorus here, like in USA Stories, attempts to create the illusion of a single, complex, reverberated voice, each choral part contributing to the sense of mass through repetition, imitation, hocket, and the avoidance of rhythmic unison.

Available through American Composers Alliance (BMI)

This World is not Conclusion
(four poems of Emily Dickinson)

Crisis is a Hair
Toward which the forces creep
Past which forces retrograde
If it come in sleep
To suspend the Breath
Is the most we can
Ignorant is it Life or Death
Nicely balancing.
Let an instant push
Or an Atom press
Or a Circle hesitate
In Circumference
It – may jolt the Hand
That adjusts the Hair
That secures Eternity
From presenting – Here –
[ca. 1864]

We like March—his shoes are Purple.
He is new and high—
Makes he mud for Dog and Peddler—
Makes he Forests Dry—
Knows the Adder’s Tongue his coming
And begets her spot—
Stands the Sun so close and mighty—
That our Minds are hot.
News is he of all the others—
Bold it were to die
With the Blue Birds buccaneering
On his British sky—
[version of 1878]

This World is not Conclusion
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible as Music—
But positive as Sound—
It beckons, and it baffles—
Philosophy—don’t know—
And through a Riddle, at the last—
Sagacity, must go—
To guess it, puzzles scholars—
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown—
Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies—
Blushes, if any see—
Plucks at a twig of Evidence—
And asks a Vane, the way—
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit—
Stong Hallelujahs roll—
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul—
[ca. 1862]

Heart! We will forget him!
You and I—tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave—
I will forget the light!

When you have done, pray tell me
That I may straight begin!
Haste! Lest while you’re lagging
I remember him!
[ca. 1858]

Listen to Mark Shapiro and his amazing Cantori singers.  (Recording available on my CD Five.)

Listen to This World is not Conclusion

This World is not Conclusion

Cantori New York - Mark Shapiro, director