PHILIP RICE

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Like the Wheels of Birds

Percussion Trio / 10 minutes

The title of Like the Wheels of Birds is taken from a fragmentary poem by Emily Dickinson, scrawled on an envelope, and published for the first time in the 2013 volume, The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems, edited by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner. One flap of the envelope reads “Clogged/only with/Music, like/the Wheels of/Birds,” while the other flap has written on it, “Afternoon and/the West and/the gorgeous/nothings/which/compose/the/sunset/keep.” The music, for percussion trio, uses high bells, chimes, and antique cymbals to create a shimmering texture above tuned vacuum tubes that are swung around in a “wheeling” motion. In the coda, tiny corrugated tubes are played by all three performers to create harmonic whistling evocative of birdsong.

Dickinson Fragment

ScoreListen

Recording: Matt Roberts, Tia Harvey, and Yun-Ju (Alice) Pan.
Hart Recital Hall at Michigan State University. October 30, 2014.

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