I Felt a Cleaving (2011)

for soprano, mezzo-soprano, flute, oboe, bass clarinet, & piano
Text by Emily Dickinson
5 minutes

WORLD PREMIERE
The Great Noise Ensemble
David Vickerman, conductor; Lisa Perry, soprano; Sonya Alexandra Knussen, mezzo-soprano;
January 21, 2012, Washington, DC

I Felt a Cleaving captures split voices that weave in and out of harmony, much like the seamstress evoked in Dickinson’s poem. The concept of “cleaving” pervades the musical texture: words disintegrate into syllables and the music juxtaposes excited, dissonant flurries with smooth, reflective melodies. There is also a cleaving of styles: the vocal lines suggest Renaissance chant while the instrumental writing recalls the music of 20th century German expressionism.