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Étoiles (2022)


For soprano and chamber ensemble


First performance at the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre, June 25, 2022.

Text: Haiku by Richard Wright

Duration: 4 minutes

Born in Natchez, Mississippi, Richard Wright (1908-1960), was an American novelist and poet, notably the author of Native Son (1940) and his autobiography, Black Boy (1945). He inaugurated the tradition of protest explored by other Black writers after World War II. Towards the end of his life, Wright became a prolific writer of Haiku – over 4,000 in total – which were published posthumously in the collection Haiku: This Other World (1998).


These Haikus illustrate his own coming to terms with loneliness, death, and the immense forces of nature. In the anonymous Haiku ‘A night of spring stars,’ a nocturnal scene is described; drifting liminally between a distant roll of waves and the stars above, to whom Étoiles owes its title. Wright spent the remainder of his life in Paris, thus the tonal and semantic shift offered by the addition of ‘étoiles’ towards the close communicates some of the geographic and cultural equivocacy of his later years; a counterpart to the the dichotomous image in the text.

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