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Batter my heart, three-person'd God (2015)

Instrumentation: 2 Sopranos, 1 Mezzo-Soprano
Duration: ca. 5'
Text by John Donne
Commissioned by Eya: Ensemble for Medieval Music
Premiere Date: March 21, 2015, Washington, D.C.

Program Note

John Donne’s Divine Meditations (or “Holy Sonnets”) were written later in his life, combining love poetry with a questing spiritual consciousness. In Batter my heart, three-person’d God, he allows the experience of an individual’s love to expand to a universal drama of faith, unifying the sacred experience with the bodily. Here, Donne revels in the unity of extremes: “…for I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.” The composition, commissioned by Eya: Ensemble for Medieval Music, explores the metrical effects which Donne uses in his departures from the typical iambic rhythms of the sonnet (for instance, the three accented words “knock, breathe, shine” explode from their iambic constraints). Certain techniques are used to reference the time period of the original text, including the use of imitative counterpoint, as well as a pseudo-faburden style that calls to mind early English music. Other techniques, like clusters of tight intervals which circle about themselves, serve as a more contemporary means to enter into the mystery and meditation of the poem.

Batter my heart, three-person’d God was premiered by Eya: Ensemble for Medieval Music on March 21, 2015 at St. Mary Mother of God church in Washington, D.C.

— Douglas Buchanan


Batter My Heart, Three Person'd God



Batter my heart, three-person'd God, was commissioned by the award-winning DC-based women's vocal trio EYA: Ensemble for Medieval Music. A setting of John Donne's Holy Sonnet XIV, the work seeks to illumine the text through expressive and interactive textures, frequently resulting in musical acrobaticism on the part of the performers.


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