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Resurrection, Imperfect (2019)

Instrumentation: SATB a cappella
Duration: ca. 5'
Text by John Donne
Premiere Dates: April 19, 2019, Baltimore, MD

Program Note

As a composer who often finds himself working with text and poetic materials, it is still sometimes surprising when a musical idea leaps into one’s mind, unbidden, after perusing a poem. This was the case with John Donne’s sonnet Resurrection, Imperfect, which I found myself reading following an intensive year of composing and performing. An aspect of Donne’s poetry that has always appealed to me is its intentionality of speech rhythms to bolster his rhetoric. These imply a sensuousness combined with a direct semantic meaning, as in the declarative “Batter my heart, three-person’d God” or in the present ruminative opening, “Sleep, sleep old sun.” The straightforward, plaintive nature of the opening lines, then, seemed a welcome invitation to simplicity after existing in such a crowded headspace for so long – thus, the work is almost entirely non-divisi, yet plays with a number of different choral textures.

Donne’s rhetorical directness is balanced by the, often labyrinthine, clauses which wind about themselves. The alternation between simple/complex and sensuous/semantic creates a potent energy which inevitably charges towards the conclusion, as is certainly the case in the current poem. Musically, I endeavor to follow the shape of the sonnet, using thematic and textural material to link rhetorical moments, and, ultimately, push towards the revelatory conclusion.

Resurrection, Imperfect was premiered by the Choir of St. David’s on Good Friday, April 19, 2019.