Disturbed Earth was commissioned by the Radcliffe Choral Society Foundation at Harvard University. It was composed in Cambridge, Massachusetts and completed in January of 2018. The poem is by Margaret Atwood.
Disturbed Earth was written as a tribute to the legacy and women of Radcliffe Choral Society. I wished to write a piece that would empower the individual women in the group, challenge them, and provide pleasure to rehearse and perform.
In the poem, Margaret Atwood portrays a complex relationship between the protagonist gardener and the unwanted plants that emerge from her garden soil. Those “weeds” are uninvited, but they nevertheless impress with their resilience and with their emphatic, cunning and fierce names and personalities. I chose to emulate the experience of the gardener in the poem by planting musical seeds in the mouths of the singers and players; seeds of sounds over which, as the composer, I would have limited control. This appears in the piece in the form of guided improvisation, interspersed through fully-composed music.
As the protagonist works through her frustration with the unsolicited crops, I wished to join along her journey to embrace them, even become one with them. I’ve invited the singers, the players, and now the audience to hop along to surrender to the things that we cannot control, and to find beauty in the unexpected and the mundane.