Pandora's Gift

This re-telling of the Greek myth of Pandora is a staged work for two unaccompanied choruses: treble choir and mixed choir. The libretto is by Denise Newman. It traces the movement from a world without evil in it to the unleashing of evil into the world to hope as the last and smallest thing in the box, but the most important thing in the box. In experiencing the story, one has “started in one place and moved to another.” The myth touches on curiosity, evil, fear, and finally, hope. The three movements are preformed without pause

Denise has created a perfect mix of curiosity / the calm before the storm / apprehension in Dawn. The music reflects these elements. It starts with phonemes (individual sounds with no meaning), representing that “missing something” (both evils and hope). Dawn is a combination of fast and slow, words that are clear, text that is obscured, sung sounds, spoken and other non-sung sounds, culminating in a whispered “furious” as it dissolves into uncoordinated chittering and hissing. This Dawn does not remain silky for long.

In the second movement, All Hell breaks loose when Pandora opens the box and all the calamities are unleashed on the world. Much of this section is from words written by the children from the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir. Denise conducted a poetry workshop with the group and these remarkable young artists dove right in, creating poignant and sonically rich poems. The use of phonemes after the “Ticking time” stanza intensifies the rhythm at that point in the piece, but also has its own symbolism: some calamities are so horrible that words completely fail us.

Finally, in the third movement, the last remaining thing in the box is discovered -- Hope. Even though the third movement isn’t particularly long, its music has the slowest unfolding and is the most settled in the entire piece. The movement toward Hope becomes inexorable, inevitable, growing into the most important tree in our human forest.