Letters, most often written from one individual to another, make an interesting choice for the text of a choral composition. The chorus is the voice of many, not a single person. However, the chorus, with its larger gamut of range and dynamics, can represent the tone and mood of a letter in ways a solo voice cannot, going beyond the literal words. Add to that a string quartet, and there is a large palette to express the “tone and mood” of these writers. Such was what generated the sound-world of my Letters.

The first movement (Verba das Ventis) uses the very learned letters of 12th century lovers (and teacher / pupil - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose) Abélard and Héloïse, set in Latin. As two intellectually gifted people writing in a very civil and thoughtful manner, the tone and mood of this movement is somewhat restrained, with much of the vocal writing plainsong-like. The second movement (Intima Verba) uses letters from Leos Janáček and Kamila Stösslová. As the object of his affection, Stösslová was the direct inspiration for his second string quartet. The mood of this movement is inspired by the mercurial nature and passion present in his letters, contrasted with the more placid and even mundane nature of hers. Even though Virginia Woolf’s life overlapped several decades of Janáček’s, her clean, sharp, clear prose couldn’t be more different. In the third movement (Ex Verbis), her words emerge and recede from a more instrumental texture where the chorus sings phonemes (syllables with no literal meaning) and blend in directly with the string quartet. Hovering over the entire piece is the ghost of Janáček and his "Intimate Letters". I used several motives from the quartet, which often hover below the surface or are harmonized and combined in new ways.