Jonathan Pitkin

A MOTION OF DAWN for soprano and six instruments (2008)

Duration: 13.5 mins
Click here to see the SCORE.

The words of A Motion of Dawn are taken from a description of daybreak by the American poet Sidney Lanier. Lanier was also a professional musician (a flautist in the Peabody Orchestra in Baltimore), whose experimental style often led him to create quasi-musical effects.

The poem’s depiction of a scene of complete stillness becoming increasingly animated as the sun rises is reflected in the ensemble parts, in which flickers of movement emerge against an initially quiet, sustained backdrop, before breaking through into a succession of vivid and colourful instrumental interplays, each spilling over into the next as they build and sustain momentum. Against this the vocal setting, initially enigmatic, becomes increasingly willing to embrace and expand upon the acoustic effects of the poetry.

The inherent circularity of the scene being described (with sunset due to effect a return to stillness, before the whole cycle begins again) is reflected in various aspects of the harmonic and melodic material used – successive intervals tend to widen out before narrowing in again – as well as in the return, in the final bars, of features of the opening instrumental texture.