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Song Without Words (2018)

For soloist and piano

Duration: 6'30"
Versions exist for Flute, Alto Flute, Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Bassoon, Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Tuba, Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass.
First performance for trumpet and piano was presented by Amanda Ross, trumpet, and Dr. Liz Ames, piano, performed live at the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, Michigan, on 19 December 2019.

First performance for oboe and piano was presented by Jared Hauser, oboe, and Caleb Harris, piano performed live in the Turner Recital Hall, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University on 22 October 2020. This was the world premiere of the oboe version.

First performance for clarinet and piano was presented by Béatrice Berne, clarinet, and Peter Bannister, piano, performed in Salle Boris Vian, Maison de la Culture, Clermont-Ferrand, France on 21 November 2022.

First performance for violin and piano was presented by Darrian Lee, violin, and Galen Dean Peiskee, Jr., piano, performed in Tallahassee, Florida at Dohnanyi Recital Hall in Florida State University on 15 April 2023.

First performance for viola and piano was a recording session by Jordan Bak, viola, and Richard Uttley, piano, for release on Delphian Records, at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK on 13 July 2023.

First performance for viola and piano for a live audience by Jordan Bak, viola, and Richard Uttley, piano, at Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK on 2 November 2023.

To be performed with dancers when feasible.

CD Available
Augusta Read Thomas: Bell Illuminations

Link for digital platforms
Augusta Read Thomas: Bell Illuminations

World Premiere of Song Without Words for oboe & piano performed by Jared Hauser and Caleb Harris

Song Without Words, the Trumpet Version. Amanda Ross, trumpet; Dr. Liz Ames, piano


There are many versions of this short recital composition:
Highest version range: C4 to A6
(Violin, Viola, Cello, Flute, Alto Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Trumpet)

Middle version range: A3 to F#5
(Violin, Viola, Cello, Alto Flute, English Horn, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Trumpet)

Lower version range: C3 to A5
(Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Bass Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Trombone)

Lowest version range: A2 to F#4
(Cello, Double Bass, Bass Trombone, Tuba)

Program Note

SONG WITHOUT WORDS is chamber music shared between equal partners who work together to create a beautiful performance of a lyrical, elegant, resonant, poignant composition that is immediate while, at the same time, holds deep, rich sonic meanings.

This music’s delicate use of sonic alliteration, assonance, simile, slant rhymes and other poetic devices reveals a composer with a poetic sensibility who composes entirely “heard” music. The contrapuntal back and forth between the lyrical solo line and the somewhat jazzy piano harmonies develops and increases, always allied to an interwoven flow, timbre, texture, and resonance. The duo braid together to create an artwork that captures and expresses the aura of the e.e. cummings poem: “I Have Found What You Are Like,” without a single word of text ever being sung or spoken.

Highly nuanced and polished, this composition reveals a composer who, for 50 years, has spent life dedicated to composing music.

"The music of Augusta Read Thomas has always inspired me by its space," Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Oboe Emeritus Alex Klein says. “There is a fluidity and grandeur within it, an entire universe of sound in a small package. I have noticed that in her chamber works as well as her orchestral writing. The result is an ethereal, calm landscape that is a welcome challenge to the instrumentalists, the musicians and the thinkers on stage." — Quote from Augusta Read Thomas: “Song Without Words” Cedille Records CDR 3012


Song Without Words for soloist and piano

To obtain examination or performance material for this
Augusta Read Thomas work, please contact Nimbus Music Publishing.