The Willow (2006)
"Kenneth Rexroth, the modern American poet, was famous for translating ancient Chinese texts. These texts have always fascinated me, and I have used them many times in my music. 'Sì Jì, Reflected,' one of my recent song cycles and also my first composition to be performed in concert, used four of these translations by Rexroth. 'The Willow,' another of these beautifully simple poems, formed the text for one of my first pieces, and still one of the nearest to my heart. In high school, when I was beginning to experiment with composition, most of the stuff I was writing wasn't great. I knew next to nothing about theory and was writing entirely by ear, sitting at the piano and plunking out chords and melodies and notating them. This piece was an important exception. Rather than worry about trying to make something sound 'cool' or 'unusual,' or even "'ike Whitacre,; I read through the text and immediately heard the music in my ears. After hours of trying to decipher which pitches and rhythms were coming into my head, I had my first piece I could really be proud of. After some revisions, it is possibly the piece that I hold closest to me, because in many ways, it started my love of composition."