Amy Lowell’s (1874-1928) poem The Giver of Stars speaks of joy and pleasure, and I wanted to express both the quiet reflection and grand excitement of these feelings within the work. At times the work moves forward joyfully, reveling in beauty, such as the section that begins “let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me.” And at other times it builds slowly towards a moment of arrival, such as towards the end of the piece when the voices overlap while singing “the beauty.” This section breaks into a free moment where all of the voices sing overlapping with their own rhythms and individual voices, representing an ecstatic joy and freedom of expression, and the sense of being overwhelmed by something too beautiful.Both the opening and the ending of The Giver of Stars is expansive and floating – I love the line “Hold your soul open” and thought that layering the text “Hold your Soul” would create this other-world feeling of vastness, of possibility, and the pure pleasure of being suspended in a dream-like state, allowing the word “open” to finally move the piece from dreams to earthly delights.
In selecting the text and particularly in setting the spaciousness of the opening of the piece, I kept in mind not only the amazing abilities of the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, but the openness of the performance space for the premiere.
Performed by Vox Reflexa
The Giver of Stars
Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
Let the quiet of your spirit bathe me
With its clear and rippled coolness,
That, loose-limbed and weary, I find rest,
Outstretched upon your peace, as on a bed of ivory.
Let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me,
That into my limbs may come the keenness of fire,
The life and joy of tongues of flame,
And, going out from you, tightly strung and in tune,
I may rouse the blear-eyed world,
And pour into it the beauty which you have begotten.
– From Sword Blades and Poppy Seed
Poem is in the public domain