Elegy (for the Mysterious Starling)
Instrumentation: Tenor Voice/Soprano Voice, Organ
Notes from the poet:
Elegy for the Mysterious Starling, icon of human-caused extinction: First described from a single specimen that was shot "hopping about on a tree" in 1825. Ornithologists did not visit Mauke in the Cook Islands for another 150 years, but when they did, they found that the bird had "mysteriously" disappeared. Even more "mysteriously", introduced brown rats appeared to have taken their place.
Notes from the composer:
I was immediately drawn to Lorene Cary’s text which depicts the extinction of the mysterious starling. Although the piece is entitled Elegy, there is a duality in its lamentation. While we recognize the deep sorrow in the bird’s extinction and the mystery surrounding it, we remember a time when the birds were living their best lives, flying freely on the island, hopping from limb to limb. We think of a world when that was possible before humans used them as targets. Musically, I wanted to use the same approach as Lorene. Rather than write a sad, dark elegy about the bird’s death, I chose to use mostly major modes and clusters of harmonies that could be both a reflection on the mysterious starling’s life before the rats, and also the cause of its erasure from the earth thereafter. But if we could go back in time and take away the dangers that killed the mysterious starling, we would merrily fly alongside them and protect them from their impending doom.
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