Requiem Humana

Secular Mass, in English, for SATB soloists, SATB choir,
string quartet, and mallet percussion; 45′ (2001)
text: Kurt Vonnegut

1. Requiem Aeternam
2. Dies Irae
3. Factura Tremendae
4. Aleator Carne
5. Ingemisco / Confutatis
6. Sanctus
7. Ad Te Precor
8. Lux

“Requiem Aeternam,” performed by Sara Guttenberg (soprano), Melanie Kuolt (mezzo-soprano), the UW-Madison Madrigal Singers, and a student string quartet & percussionist, dir. Bruce Gladstone:


“Aleator Carne”


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composer’s note:

UnknownKurt Vonnegut’s secular re-writing of the traditional Latin requiem mass instantly appealed to me when I first read it, in his book “Fates Worse Than Death.” I read in that book that Vonnegut had his words professionally translated into Latin and set to music, which sounds like a wonderful project… but I really wanted to set it in English, to connect directly with English-speaking audiences. I adored Vonnegut’s rewritten lines, for instance: “Let not eternal light disturb our sleep, O Cosmos” (because, Vonnegut explains, how are the dead supposed to sleep with all those lights on, when the original says to let eternal light shine upon them). So I sought to set Vonnegut’s mass in his own native language, to explore his rich “mass” text. I gave each movement a title in Latin, as a bit of a joke in the spirit of Vonnegut’s love of “the sound of all those Latin words.” This work, “Requiem Humana,” is the result: a quirky, wild, and deeply spiritual setting of Vonnegut’s text as a huge secular Mass.

sample page:
requiem II