while I sleep (2011) by John Liberatore
for violin and viola
West Coast premiere

while I sleep is a short duet for violin and viola. The title is excerpted from an anonymous sixteenth-century English "mad song", included in the anthology Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry: "Till slumber hath quieted me / in sorrow I'll sigh and weep, / the clouds are my canopy / to cover me while I sleep." I find poignancy in these lines as the speaker seeks comfort in something far away and neutral. The lines remind me of our tendency to project our inner selves onto our surroundings — that we speak to ourselves through nature, and find beauty in indifference. Perhaps as a metaphor for this, the piece assimilates as its primary material a musical quotation of great personal significance — buried, obscured, and far away. The piece was written and premiered at Tanglewood in August of 2011.

— J. L.    

[from program for May 15, 2017 concert]