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clarinet, violin, cello, piano (1998)

SOLI Chamber Ensemble: Stephanie Key, clarinet; David Mollenauer, cello; Ertan Torgul, violin; Carolyn True, piano

Crows is available on Albany Records (SOLI Chamber Ensemble, Música, Por Un Tiempo)


Duration: 16 minutes
Commissioned by: SOLI Chamber Ensemble with Meet the Composer/Mid-America Arts Alliance
Premiere: May 8, 1998
SOLI Chamber Ensemble at Trinity University, San Antonio, TX

program note

Crows is dedicated to the SOLI Chamber Ensemble. Inspired by the writings of poet Joy Harjo, each movement is based upon a short excerpt that describes some aspect of life in the desert southwest. These excerpts serve as a starting point for the creation of five musical landscapes:

red earth
My house is the red earth; it could be the center of the world. I’ve heard New York, Paris or Tokyo called the center of the world, but I say it is magnificently humble. You could drive by and miss it. Radio waves can obscure it. Words cannot construct it, for there are some sounds left to sacred wordless form…

We fly into the body and we fly out, changed by the sun, by crows who manipulate the borders of reason…

silver breaths
I see the flash of silver breaths on the wing of the sky, and hear the explosion of a thousand horses running…

I think of the lush stillness of the end of a world, sung into place by singers and the rattle of turtles in the dark morning…

drying stone
Invisible fish swim this ghost ocean now described by waves of sound, by water-worn rock. Soon the fish will learn to walk. Then humans will come ashore and paint dreams on the drying stone. Then later, much later, the ocean floor will be punctuated by Chevy trucks, carrying the dreamers’ descendants, who are going to the store.

Poetry by Joy Harjo, from Secrets from the Center of the World (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1989) and The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994).

In Native American tradition, the crow represents the gateway to the supernatural, possessing the ability to see simultaneously past, present, and future. While writing this piece I often wondered how these birds (which appear often in Harjo’s poetry) might experience the journey through these musical expanses from their special perspective.


…a thoughtful, compact and deeply beautiful
work that one fervently hopes to hear again.

— Mike Greenberg, San Antonio Express news

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