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Floating Temples (2011)

For SATB chorus (approximately 110 voices) and orchestra
Texts: Matsuo Basho and Gerard Manley Hopkins

Chorus SATB (approximately 110 voices) and 2+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4.4Ctpt(2pictpt).2+btbn.1/5perc/pf(cel)[=pf.cel].hp/str (14/12/10/8/5 players, some db with low C)
First performance: University of Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Robert Mueller, conductor, Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville, AR: 15 April 2011
Duration: 24 minutes



1800s woodcut of Basho and listeners

Fragments from Haiku by Basho (1644 - 1694) along with suspended fragments from poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 - 1889), rearranged and created into a wholly new lyric by Augusta Read Thomas


pitter patter
petals of tiny flowers drop
a waterfall of sound

butterflies and birds
restlessly they rise up
a cloud of flowers

a strange flower
for birds and butterflies
the autumn sky

the full moon
seven story-songs of a woman
turning towards the sea

snow on snow
this night in December
a full moon

famous moon!
circling the pond all night
even to the end

Mogami River, yanking
The burning sky
Into the sea.

moons and flowers
these are the true ones
the masters

Wake! The sky is light!
let us to the road
again . . .

a floating temple
awakened our hearts

i rise up!
ring right out!

i lift up heart, eyes and ear

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 adazzles

hear them chant
a rainbow footing
and magic cuckoocall


Gerard Manley Hopkins

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

brute beauty and valour
and act, oh, air

ecstasy - and the fire
that breaks from thee then
a billion times told lovelier

a winter peony
the plovers must be
a cuckoo in snow

for a while
flowers are above
the night's moon

unlock the door
let the moon come into
the Floating Temple

star festival
autumn has set in
first of the nights

fading temple bell
the fragrance of flowers strikes
at evening

the temple bell stops
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers

where's the moon?
as the temple bell is —
sunk in the sea





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..