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Songs from a Silent Land

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Michael Daugherty

Michael Daugherty

Subtitle: For Soprano and Chamber Winds

General Info

Year: 2019
Duration: c. 18:20
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Michael Daugherty Music, through Hal Leonard
Cost: Score and Parts – Available 2020


1. Water Is Taught by Thirst - 4:00
2. De Profundis - 5:15
3. Remember - 8:30

Instrumentation (one player per part)

Full Score
C Piccolo/Alto Flute
English Horn
B-flat Soprano Clarinet
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
C Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II
String Bass
Percussion (2 players), including:

  • Castanets
  • Chimes
  • Crotales
  • Glockenspiel
  • Kick Drum
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Vibra-slap
  • Wind Chimes
  • Xylophone

Soprano Voice


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Songs from a Silent Land (2019) for soprano and chamber winds is a 16-minute song cycle for soprano and chamber winds. Inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson (1830-1866) and Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), the cycle is comprised of three songs, reflecting on this world and the possibility of a next world. In the first song, I incorporate two of Dickinson’s poems that reflect on our experiences of life and nature in the world around us. The song begins with Water is Taught by Thirst (1859). Just as the poem proclaims that life’s experiences and desires are defined by absence, I interrupt the music after each line of verse to enhance our appreciation of sound through silence.

The rhythms in the vocal line for the first poem are transferred to the instrumental ensemble in the second poem, to accompany the soprano’s soulful rendition of I Think That the Root of the Wind is Water (1873). For the stirring second movement, I set the words of Rossetti’s De Profundis (1876). Her poem laments the impossibility of reaching heaven during one’s lifetime, while longing for the joy and beauty of heaven. The syncopated music for the first three quatrains is agitated, repeating the question: “Oh why is heaven built so far, / Oh why is earth set so remote?” By contrast, the music for the final quatrain is serene and uplifting: “I strain my heart, I stretch my hands, / And catch at hope.”

My song cycle concludes with a bittersweet musical rendering of Rossetti’s sonnet, Remember (1862). I have composed wistful and melancholy music for the first two quatrains (or octave), where Rossetti encourages her beloved: “Remember me when I am gone away / Gone far away into the silent land.” But with the word “Yet” at the start of the final six lines (or sestet), Rossetti changes her mind, conceding that it might be better to “forget and smile” than to “remember and be sad.” To dramatize this turn (or volta) in the sonnet, the music becomes brooding and darkly beautiful. The soprano’s ascending line at the end of the song leaves us suspended between remembering and forgetting, just like Rossetti’s paradoxical poem.

Songs from a Silent Land (2019) was commissioned by Damon Talley and Louisiana State University with a consortium of 27 universities and conductors. The world premiere was given by the Louisiana State University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Damon Talley, with Hila Plitmann, soprano, at the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) Convention, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona on February 20, 2019.

- Program Note by composer


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Symphony Band (Michael Haithcock, conductor) – 27 October 2022
  • Baylor University (Waco, Tx.) Wind Ensemble (Eric Wilson, conductor; Amy Petrongelli, soprano) - 23 April 2021
  • University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Hila Plitman, soprano) – 1 February 2020
  • Illinois State University (Normal) Wind Symphony (Anthony Marinello, conductor; Elizabeth Thompson, soprano) – 21 November 2019
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Wind Ensemble (Damon Talley, conductor; Hila Plitman, soprano) – 20 February 2019 (CBDNA 2019 National Conference, Tempe, Ariz.) *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works