The Premonition

for SSATTB choir; 5′ (2000)
poetry: Theodore Roethke

performed by the UW-Madison Madrigal Singers, dir. Bruce Gladstone:

buy the score:


composer’s note:

theodore-roethke“The Premonition” was written as a companion piece to “Now Blue October,” one of the first pieces I ever wrote for mixed choir. I wrote these works as I was discovering the beauty of Renaissance choral music, and while their harmonic language is distinctly romantic, full of chromatic complexities and unexpected tonal shifts, they’ve got a lot of the “text-painting” madrigalisms that I find so fascinating in the works of Monteverdi, Gesualdo, and other Italian Renaissance composers. In this way, “The Premonition,” more than almost anything else I’ve written, is a modern American take on the Renaissance motet. The “ripples” in the poem ripple out through the choir. When the narrator is “lost in a maze” the counterpoint becomes incredibly dense and confusing to the ear. The “walking” in the poem is portrayed by a steady rhythmic figure that walks along beneath the text. By the end of the piece, “The Premonition” goes in many different musical directions, following the text wherever it may lead, but always coming back to the same “walking” idea. This creates a dramatic arch that’s easy to grasp, despite being made of such a diverse musical patchwork.

sample page:
The Premonition