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Rise Chanting (2002)

For string quartet

Premiered by the Alexander String Quartet at the Krannert Center, Urbana, Illinois, 18 April 2002
Duration: 7'30"


Program Note

In the tradition of works inspired by words, such as Beethoven's famous quartet in which he encodes the words "must it be? it must be," Rise Chanting is a one-movement work comprised of 6 of primary sections, which closely abide by and respect the form and spirit of this exquisite poem, #1005, by Emily Dickinson.


Bind me — I can still sing —
Banish — my mandolin
Strikes true within —

Slay — and my Soul shall rise
Chanting to Paradise —
Still thine.

The music opens with a short introduction, which encodes the complete Dickinson poem such that there is a chord, note, or motive for each word of her poem. This is followed by an aggressive and percussive section ("Bind me — "), where playful pizzicato escapades fire up ardently and then ebb down into the third section ("I can still sing — "), which is elegant and lyrical. Here, beautiful lines are sung by duos. The fourth section ("Banish — my mandolin, Strikes true within — Slay — ") is determined, energetic. It is at times animated as well as bold, brash and punchy and you will hear Emily Dickinson's mandolin. The fifth section ("and my Soul shall rise, Chanting to Paradise — Still thine.") is sublime elevated earnest. The coda recalls the perfume of the third section and gently closes the piece with mellifluous, glowing, and shimmering music.

Rise Chanting is the final movement of a four movement work, entitled Sun Threads.

Sun Threads
Duration: 39'
for string quartet

Eagle at Sunrise — duration: 7'
Invocations — duration: 9'
Fugitive Star — duration: 9'
Rise Chanting — duration: 13'

My primary artistic concern is to communicate in an honest and passionate voice, which can speak to people from all walks of life. I believe being faithful to my deepest inner promptings and creative urges offers me the best opportunity to communicate with any willing listener, irrespective of prior musical knowledge, professional training, or background.

To all music, every listener brings his or her own unique perspective. In this regard, what is of greatest concern to me in Sun Threads is that I lead my listener to new aesthetic engagements with the world and themselves and that with each new piece, I continue on a life's journey of self-discovery.

Music of all kinds constantly amazes, surprises, propels and seduces me into a wonderful and powerful journey. I am happiest when I am listening to music and in the process of composing music. I care deeply that music is not anonymous and generic or easily assimilated and just as easily dismissed. I would say that Rise Chanting has passionate, urgent, seductive, and compelling qualities of sometimes complex, but always logical thought, allied to sensuous and engaging sonic profiles.

My favorite moment in any piece of music is the moment of maximum risk and striving. Whether the venture is tiny or large, loud or soft, fragile or strong, passionate, erratic, ordinary or eccentricŠ! Maybe another way to say this is the moment of exquisite humanity and raw soul. All art that I cherish has an element of love and recklessness and desperation. I like music that is alive and jumps off the page and out of the instrument as if something big is at stake.

Rise Chanting, which was composed for the Alexander String Quartet, is in one movement and has a duration of about 13 minutes.

Mike Ross, the Alexander String Quartet and the Krannert Center commissioned Rise Chanting.

The work is dedicated to Mike Ross and the Alexander String Quartet with admiration and gratitude.

For a longer Program Note please see SUN THREADS for string quartet.

— Augusta Read Thomas

Selected Reviews

Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 8 February 2003 "Thomas is one of the most performed contemporary composers in the world these days...without denying [her] new music roots, [she] provided us with works that were attractive and accessible, calling on emotional responses that were powerful and familiar.

"Read Thomas, in her first Canadian concert, established her credentials as a composer to watch with her string quartet, Rise Chanting, based on a brief poem by the epigrammatic Emily Dickinson. By assigning a specific note to the 100 or so words that make up the poem, and then expanding on those notes to weave a larger musical texture out of them, Read Thomas provided us with a portrait of Dickinson herself, letting us hear the full emotional range of this elusive artist.

"...all of Read Thomas's works share an enviable characteristic.  Although firmly written within the rhetorical tradition of Western music, they were new without being novelties, original without forcing our attention on their extremes. They were simply works of musical art."



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