6th May – Eric Whitacre

This week I’m recommending a piece of modern choral music – this is music written for singers (or groups of singers in ‘choirs’). Sleep was written by American composer Eric Whitacre only 20 years ago.

Music for choirs is most often written in four parts for the different voices – Soprano and Alto (the higher voices, usually women), and Tenor and Bass (the lower voices, usually men). These four parts could be sung by one person on each part (a total of four singers, performing in a ‘quartet’) or with several people singing each part (a total of…however many people there are in the choir!).

This piece, Sleep, is written for SSAATTBB, so there are eight different musical lines all happening at once. When it was first performed, there were 16 singers in the choir (so I’m guessing there were two people singing each part). In the video below, there are only 8 singers, so there is only one singer on each part.

  • The lyrics for this song can be found in the comments below the video. Do you think the style of the music suits the words? Here’s the first verse: “The evening hangs beneath the moon, A silver thread on darkened dune. With closing eyes and resting head I know that sleep is coming soon.”
  • Does one voice stand out with an obvious tune throughout, while the others provide an accompaniment, or are all the voices equally important?
  • The different notes sung by these singers make chords – can you spot some moments where the music seems to ring comfortably in our ears, and some moments where the chord is more clashy, or ‘discordant’?
  • Let me know what you think of this piece! Is it boring or relaxing? Creepy or beautiful? Would you like to sing it, or to play a piece like this?

You’ll probably need to listen to this in a quiet environment, with the speakers turned up so you can catch the quiet notes!

This article was written by alison