I. The Rain II. Time Spirals III. The Rush of Rain IV. This Unbearable Stillness

Soprano, 3 percussion: [1 - orchestra bells, sand blocks, tambourine, temple blocks, triangle (small, medium), wood block (medium), water gong], [2 - snare drum, suspended cymbal (small, medium, medium, large), slide whistle, tom-tom (low)], [3 - bee-bee shaker, brass bell tree (hanging), marimba, tam-tam (large)], celeste, string orchestra

Text: Dima Hilal "A Different Morning Altogether" and Sekeena Shaben "Fourteenth Ode" and "Tempest".

Duration: 17 minutes

Commissioned By:
Myrna Seiken Root for the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University with additional support from the Syracuse Symposium and Pulse

October 13, 2008 by Eileen Strempel, soprano, and the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Hege, conductor

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Composer's Notes:
This Unbearable Stillness: Songs from the Balcony, four songs for soprano and string quartet on poetry of Dima Hilal and Sakeena Shaben, is the story ofwaiting, inevitability, and the quiet acceptance of affliction.  In each song, "The Rain," "Time Spirals," "The Rush of Rain," and "This Unbearable Stillness," the singer, alone in a room overlooking the everyday life of the city below, never reveals her affliction. Is it love, death, cruel fate? We are not to know and are left to feel only. What we do know is that the poets’ words suspend us in a span of time, an unbearable stillness, which exists beyond increments of seconds, minutes, hours. Perhaps it is this span of time we experience when we first accept our own mortality and our senses cry out to take life in.

Both poets show us that circumstances can not only be endured but can be made sacred, through noticing life in its simple moments—the sound of a garbage truck, the image of men in shorts drinking beer under an awning, the rain drumming on a tin windowsill or on the umbrellas of kids on their way to school. All of these are God's vernacular metaphors for life itself—shown to us by the angels who engulf us to soften the blow of mortality.

— Libby Larsen, October 2003