Snowdrops (2023)

Vancouver Chamber Choir, cond. Kari Turunen (live). Used with

10 min.
This piece is the result one of those clichéd flashes of inspiration that rarely happen in real life, when I encountered Louise Glück’s poem in connection with her being awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2020. The scattering of lines spoke frankly and with vulnerability of a tentative emergence from a state of depression: the electric newness of long suppressed feeling, the still present memory of the abyss, and the blend of fear and exhilaration at being whole in the world again. Her words simply leapt off the page, and I knew exactly how I wanted to set them to music.

The atmosphere is contained at first, bleak and halting, with tightly packed unison canons like a mind looping stuck thoughts, inhibiting progress, yet comforting in their sameness. Harmonic warmth appears only in brief flashes before falling back into ambiguity. Very gradually the mood opens outward and becomes surer of itself, acquiring warmth and expression, perpetually speeding up toward a joyous and contradictory tangle of feelings. A brief coda opens onto a vision of a new beginning.

Snowdrops was commissioned by the Vancouver Chamber Choir, with the assistance of the Madetoja Fund.