There Came a Wind Like a Bugle

for SATB choir and piano; 3′ (2011)
poetry: Emily Dickinson
(commissioned by the Festival Choir of Madison)

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text:

There came a wind like a bugle;
It quivered through the grass,
And a green chill upon the heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the windows and the doors
As from an emerald ghost;
The doom’s electric moccasin
That very instant passed.
On a strange mob of panting trees,
And fences fled away,
And rivers where the houses ran
The living looked that day.
The bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings whirled.
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the world!

composer’s note:

mrnhmyiMy setting of “There Came a Wind Like a Bugle” starts right away with great speed and energy, like a hurricane. An unsettling melody in the piano and choir loops around on itself repeatedly, going through many variations and textural shifts, piling on top of itself. As the piece continues, it accelerates, wildly careening through harmonic progressions, painting a powerful picture of how “the flying tidings whirled.” And, after this huge flurry of energy, the final few lines are delivered in relative stillness, as if in the eye of the hurricane, before the piano picks the wind back up again for a thrilling ending. My music has often tended towards the slowly-evolving, the long dramatic arch. “There Came a Wind Like a Bugle” does the opposite, throwing caution to the wind and heading right for the meat of Emily Dickinson’s powerful, amazing poem.

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There Came a Wind Like a Bugle