Movement I of Cantata Solaris, sung beautifully by the Ithaca College Contemporary Choral Ensemble; Christopher H. Harris, conductor.
I looked out the window today.
The sun seemed colder.
Still it seems there is love
And beauty in this world.
But what good are flowers
If you can’t smell them, too?
And what good is a sunset
If there is no one with whom to share it?
My sweetheart, I sigh for you—
A bit of context for the piece (I don't usually write out full explanations of what certain parts of a piece mean or represent. I generally prefer to give people a title, and let them form their own interpretations. But, however, this piece has a specific meaning that's more important to the essence of the piece as a whole):
Grief and death are two subjects from which I tend to stay away. In this case, though, I was asked write piece about them by a dear friend, and even then, I didn't want the text to be especially morbid or maudlin. The concept behind this piece is that of thinking about someone you care about after a while has passed since they passed away, and after the initial mourning period has passed. Maybe it's a few months after, maybe a few years, maybe a whole lifetime. One of the first things you'll notice is that the Basses hold a low G for a very long time. That sort of represents the sadness that never really ever goes away, though it can be covered up or buried slightly. It's sort of like all that grief is being held back by emotional flood gates, which are still pretty fragile. The "Oo"s in the Alto are very free and are sort of attempting to soothe the Bass part. The entire beginning section (and much of the rest of it, in fact), lacks a clear pulse. I was trying to evoke a sense of being suspended in time, because when during grief, time sometimes sort of stops in our minds. The Tenors and Baritones come in with the Altos to sing the text, sort of dancing delicately on top of the "flood gates" trying not to disturb them. Between phrases and on rests, the Bass note always pokes through the texture, as sadness can sometimes poke through at unexpected moments. On the "sun" of "sunset," the group gets slightly louder (only from pianissimo to piano), and then on "share" they start to let go as the "flood gates," start to open up. I picture this like holding onto a kite on a very very windy day, and keeping it very very close to you for a long time until you finally begin to let it go little by little. Anyway, the whole thing builds up into a massive sigh, the inhale of which is represented by a giant tertian stack, and an arpeggio in the Bass (who are finally singing on text, since the "flood gates" are open), the exhale of which is represented by the subsequent diminuendo until the end. And it's not really the sort of deliberate sigh one might give when one if feeling nostalgic or wistful or exasperated. It's sort of an involuntary sigh that comes from deep down, maybe accompanied by tears. Almost more like a drawn out gasp.
When it's complete, Cantata Solaris will be scored mostly for Choir and Orchestra. The other movements will be a lot more celebratory than this one. This is the only one that's more introspective and melancholy.
Sorry if this is getting all depressing, haha. This movement isn't supposed to be all sad! There's an undercurrent of hope in there, too. :D