Silent Voices

Shulamit Ran

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
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Quick Overview

Some three years ago, on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), an acquaintance sent by e-mail two poems by the late Israeli poet Dan Pagis, who was a Holocaust survivor, in the original Hebrew as well as a very fine translation into English by Stephen Mitchell. Being of the generation just following the Holocaust and having grown up in Israel in an era where, through schoolwork, books, films, plays, and of course the personal histories of families ? one?s own and those of so many others ? the Shoah was very much part of the national consciousness and conversation, it almost seemed as though by the year 2008 little could be said on this topic that I have not already, in one way or another, contemplated and internalized. I will confess, therefore, to having been almost surprised to be so overwhelmed with emotion at reading Pagis? two extraordinary poems. The first of these, Written in Pencil in the Sealed Boxcar, became a core poem in das was geschah (that which happened), a work I was to begin composing a year or so later and that received its first performance in a festival in Nuremberg, Germany, in June 2010.

Just days after returning from the performance in Germany, as I began thinking about my next composition ? a short work for the Israel Contemporary Players? 20th anniversary season ? I quickly realized that Pagis? second poem Draft of a reparation Agreement was very much on my mind, compelling me to turn it into sound, but this time in a different way. While das was geschah, as per its commissioning stipulation, was composed for a mixed 12-person choir with saxophone quartet, this new work was conceived as a purely instrumental composition for 14 players that draws its inspiration from the Pagis poem, and from the aura it created in my own mind. Though not mandatory, ideally a reading of the poem should precede the performance of the work.

By not actually setting the words, this allowed for an approach that is not bound by synchronous limits, or by the specific chronology of the poem. Moved by powerful images such as the phrase ?everything will be returned to its place? ?the scream back into the throat,? and later ?you will have your lives back, sit in the living room, read the evening paper??, I titled this single-movement composition Silent Voices.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Israel Contemporary Players, Dan Yuhas, Music Director, in celebration of the ensemble?s 20th anniversary season.
Composition Date 2010
Duration 00:08:00
Orchestration Reader (opt.); 1(dbl. Picc.) 1 1(dbl. B.Cl.) 1 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Str.(1.1.1.1.1)
Premiere 9th, 10th April, 2011. Israel Contemporary Players, conducted by Dan Yuhas; Tel Aviv Museum (9th), Jerusalem Music Center (Mishkenot Sha?ananim) (10th).

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