rain song, for chorus and viola (or cello) scordatura

Duration: 6 minutes

Instrumentation: SATB choir and viola (or cello)

Premiere: April 28, 2017 by the Texas State University Chorale, Dr. Joey Martin, director in San Marcos, TX

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Rain Song is a setting of Carl Sandburg’s “Monotone” from Chicago Poems. Only three short stanzas in length, it begins as a poem about the beauty of nature, but by the third stanza it has shifted to a much more intimate expression of beauty. My music was inspired by this duality between the impersonal beauty of nature and personal, individual beauty.

An unusual feature of this work is that it is scored for choir and viola scordatura, meaning that the strings of the viola are retuned to different pitches. By retuning the strings, I am able to create different harmonies using open strings and those harmonies make their way into the choir music as well. In fact, the viola and choir remain closely connected throughout the piece: for example, the choir imitates the sound of the viola pizzicato and the viola takes a fragment of the vocal line to spin out an extended solo. As such, the viola is not simply an accompaniment instrument but rather an equal partner in dialogue with the choir.