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Flash (2011)

For SATB chorus (approximately 90 voices) and orchestra
Texts: Gerard Manley Hopkins

Chorus SATB (approximately 90 voices) and 2+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4.4Ctpt(2pictpt).2+btbn.1/5perc/pf./str (14/12/10/8/5 players, some db with low C)
First performance: University of South Florida Orchestra and Chorus, William Wiedrich, conductor, 3 April 2011
Duration: 7 minutes



Fragments from poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 ­1889) rearranged and created into a wholly new lyric by Augusta Read Thomas


i rise up!
- ring right out!

i lift up heart, eyes and ear
- sing!

i hear noises too old to end
-musics too fine to end
-too grand to end

i magnify
Pour and pelt musics till none's to spill nor spend
-with delight

-praise all things counter, original, spare, swift, slow; sweet, adazzle
-hear them chant
-a rainbow footing and magic cuckoocall



barbarous beauty

magnificent glory

flame out shining praise


hear the lark ascend in crisps of curl off wild winch whirl

strike lightning
shine gold-vermilion
praise the sweetest, sweetest spells

hear them chant
strike lightnings

brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air buckle!
-and the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion times told lovelier


- ecstasy
-barbarous beauty

all things rise
magnify with delight
lift up heart
strike lightnings
ring, ring
I rise!

Program Note

Dedicated with admiration and gratitude to
William W. Wiedrich and the University of South Florida Orchestra

The world premiere of FLASH for large chorus and orchestra, commissioned by The University of South Florida to celebrate and inaugurate their new concert hall, took place on April 2 and 3, 2011, Dr. William W. Wiedrich, conducting.

Scholars suggest that the word "Tampa" means "sticks of fire" in the language of the Calusa, a Native American tribe that once lived just south of today's Tampa Bay.  This might be a reference to the many lightning strikes that the area receives during the summer months.

The text, as the chorus sings it, is a compilation of poetic phrases by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 ­1889), which I arranged, creating a wholly new lyric.

A large, colorful array of drums and drumsticks, distributed between 5 percussion players, (inspired by the "sticks of fire" imagery) are used throughout the composition for rhythmic articulations, color, energy jolts and also to evoke Gerard Manley Hopkins' sprung rhythm phrases, such as "strike lightnings..." or "The thunder-purple seabeach plumèd purple-of-thunder..." or his "It will flame out, like shining from shook foil..."

My works are organic and, at every level, concerned with transformations and connections.  In response to the sprung rhythms of Hopkins' poetic technique, the performers (vocalists and instrumentalists) create blazing symphonic, punchy, jazzy ("Big-Band jam-session") swing-rhythms, fused with the relentless energy of a drum corps (if you can imagine THAT in your inner ear!).  Plus, throughout this composition are faint and fleeting perfumes of the sumptuous beauty found in the cantabile vocal lines of Tudor Church Music.  This all further interwoven and crisscrossed with dreamy, otherworldly musings on the more recent corporeal rhythmic rapture and ecstasy of early 20th century modernist ballets — all of which musics I adore!

FLASH has no quotes of music by any other composer or improviser; it is my wholly original composition.

Composing for voice is my huge passion in life, and as a result the largest part of my catalogue is music for voice(s). The human voice — possibly the most subtle, complex, and fragile yet forceful, flexible, seductive, and persuasive carrier of musical ideas and meanings — has always been an inspiration for and influence upon my entire musical thinking.  I sing when I compose.  I believe that text plus music (1+1) must equal at least 24.  If 1+1=2, there is no need, for me, to set the text to music.

— Augusta Read Thomas


At world premiere of FLASH with Scott Kluksdahl, James Bass, William Wiedrich, and Carolyn Stuart.
Photo by Theresa Cusmano

Two commissions were generously offered at the same time, both requesting works for large chorus and orchestra.  One commission was for a 7-minute work and the other for a 15-minute work. Coincidentally, these two new works were to be premiered on almost the same week, in two different cities, by two different groups of musicians.

Inspired by creative hope and aspirations to compose a substantial, wide-ranging, and expansive composition, I set out to imaginatively make the 7-minute work one that could both stand alone independently, as well as be a part of a much larger, 22-minute work. (7 minutes + 15 minutes = 22 minutes)

The result is FLOATING TEMPLES for chorus and orchestra, which has a duration of 23 minutes and 30 seconds.

My main aims with this detailed explanation is to insure that the commissioners get accurate, clear, full credit for their commission along with clarifying that I was not paid twice for composing the same music.  My reason to merge the two wonderful commission opportunities was strictly a result of a striving artistic dream.

In short, FLOATING TEMPLES was co-commissioned by The University of South Florida (1/3) and The University of Arkansas (2/3).

Bars 205 to 354 of FLOATING TEMPLES can be played independently as a stand-alone composition, entitled FLASH, which has a duration of 7-minutes; this is very the segment of the FLOATING TEMPLES that was commissioned by The University of South Florida.

The other 16.5 minutes of FLOATING TEMPLES was commissioned by The University of Arkansas.

— Augusta Read Thomas

To obtain examination or performance material for any of
Augusta Read Thomas's works, please contact G. Schirmer Inc..