EARTH SYMPHONY

CHORUS & ORCHESTRA

ABOUT

“Earth Symphony,” the EMMY® award-winning, ground-breaking choral symphony from GRAMMY® nominated composer Jake Runestad and librettist Todd Boss, is a 5-part dramatic monologue from the voice of post-anthropocene Mother Earth. The work imagines Earth’s hope for humanity, her discovery of its power, her ruination at its hands, her lament at its loss, and her recovery. By anthropomorphizing Earth herself, “Earth Symphony” enables entry into our own ecological shame, guilt, responsibility, potential, and redemption, all from a wide-angled, time-telescoped lens, thereby asking our most immediately pressing environmental questions in an entirely new way.

 

JAKE RUNESTAD

 

Considered “one of the best of the younger American composers” (Chicago Tribune), award-winning composer and conductor Jake Runestad has received commissions and performances from leading ensembles such as Washington National Opera, the Swedish Radio Symphony, the Netherlands Radio Choir, the Dallas Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Pacific Chorale, and True Concord Voices & Orchestra. Jake’s “Earth Symphony” garnered a 2022 EMMY® award for musical composition, and “The Hope of Loving,” an all-Runestad album from Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare, was nominated for a 2020 GRAMMY® award. Jake’s visceral music and charismatic personality have fostered a busy schedule of commissions, residencies, workshops, and conducting engagements, enabling him to share his passion for creativity, expressivity, and community with musicians around the world.

Dubbed a “choral rockstar” by American Public Media, Jake is one of the most frequently performed composers in the world and has traveled to work with ensembles on all but one continent. Jake Runestad holds a Master’s degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts.

TODD BOSS

 

Todd Boss, a critically-acclaimed poet, librettist, public artist, and film producer, holds a diverse career with a passion for collaboration. His works for both page and stage have been read and produced throughout the world. Boss’s 2008 poetry debut, Yellowrocket was followed by Pitch in 2012, Tough Luck in 2017, and Someday the Plan of a Town in 2022, all from W. W. Norton & Co. Todd’s poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, The London Times, The New Yorker, NPR, Best American Poetry, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Boss frequently collaborates on libretti and lyric poetry for choral and dramatic works with award-winning composer Jake Runestad. Together, they have written commissioned works for the Choral Arts Society of Washington D.C., the Larimer Chorale & Orchestra, Cal State University – Fullerton, True Concord, and the American Choral Directors Association, among others.

PROGRAM NOTE

Over hundreds of years of musical creation, composers developed the symphonic form into a potent, large-scale framework for exploring profound ideas. The sheer number of musicians involved and long duration of the work, allow the time, space, and sonic possibilities for a significant musical journey. For this commission from True Concord Voices & Orchestra, I knew that creating a large work for these forces would necessitate a significant story to tell — one of relevance and power, drawn from our beautiful and complex human experiences. Everyday we hear of more fires, floods, hurricanes, droughts, tsunamis, extinctions, and diseases that impact life around the globe. The earth is changing, due to the impact of human behavior, and how we respond to these changes will determine the survival of our species.

Through brainstorming with my frequent collaborator, poet/librettist Todd Boss, we decided that giving voice to Mother Earth would be a powerful approach for this piece. Todd created a sweeping, gorgeous, and compelling five-part monologue of a mother telling the history of her children — how they admired her, harmed her, and ultimately how she recovered.

Her story begins in a pre-life genesis that tracks the evolution of humans, whose apprehension of Earth’s laws endear them to her as nothing short of miraculous (her beloved “Mirabilia”). Movement 1: “Evolution” hints at the musical themes of each subsequent section and establishes a sonic relationship between Earth (D Major) and humankind (Eb Major), which is explored throughout the work. Movement 2: “Ambition” dramatizes humanity’s fall from grace by retelling the Greek myth of Icarus and harkening to ancient instruments and melodies (including the Seikilos Epitaph — the oldest, complete musical composition yet discovered). Movement 3: “Destruction” charges through a series of ecological cataclysms — forest fire, storms, earthquakes — illustrated by growling brass, raging percussion, and shrieking woodwinds. Movement 4: “Lament” expresses Earth’s grief in a loving farewell to humanity that echoes Henry Purcell’s 17th-century aria, “When I Am Laid in Earth” (Dido’s Lament), and its iconic descending bass-line chaconne. Movement 5: “Recovery” finds Earth restoring balance and moving on, into a deep spacetime like the one from which she emerged. By anthropomorphizing Earth herself, drawing on the familiar earth-mother trope, “Earth Symphony” enables entry into our own ecological shame, guilt, responsibility, potential, and redemption, all from a wide-angled, time-telescoped lens, thereby asking our most immediately pressing environmental questions in an entirely new way.

CONVERSATION WITH THE ARTISTS

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Ensembles are encouraged to engage in community impact activities surrounding the performance of “Earth Symphony.” For the world premiere in Tucson, AZ, composer Jake Runestad secured a $5,000 gift from a generous donor to help offset the carbon footprint of the performance, and to support a local organization that works toward sustainability. The gift was made to the Community School and Garden Program which connects students in public schools with Tucson’s 4,000-year agricultural legacy by planting, maintaining, and engaging in school gardens. Using gardens as dynamic educational tools, they help cultivate community, connect students with their local food system, and use gardens as STEM learning labs.

Librettist Todd Boss, composer Jake Runestad, and conductor Eric Holtan with students at Manzo Elementary School in Tucson, AZ.

Conductor Eric Holtan, librettist Todd Boss, and composer Jake Runestad in the greenhouse at Manzo Elementary School.

LIBRETTO

EARTH SYMPHONY
Poetry by Todd Boss

 

I. Evolution

Forever alone —
four billion years of empty
space and dormant stone.

Then you were born:
Humankind!
and soon upon your face
there dawned a trace of mind!

You scorned the odds
to be reborn as gods of reason,
authors of wonder,
inventors of alchemy,
chemistry, astronomy.
You alone unwound
the helix of my chi. You
mirrored me to me.

Mirabilia!

You were my light.

Never shall I dare to dream
another dream so bright.

 

II. Ambition

And how are you fallen so
soon?

Do you remember Icarus,
whose father gave him
wings of wax and feathers
for a toy?

There he is — in memory’s eye —
canary of a boy!

[Icarus:] O, joy — so much
at hand! — to soar
the strand, over sea
and shore! Whee! — to taste
ambition pure!
Two wingbeats more,
and I can see the patterns
on the ocean floor.
O, me!
I’m free as albatross! Stronger
than ever with a father so
clever with beeswax and
feather! I flap them together
and higher and higher I rise! —

I am a dream!
I’ll touch the moon!

How small she is — the blue-
green planet far below…
I belong to her no longer.
Who am I, without her?

The sun.
The sun grows.
The sun grows ever hotter…

[Earth:] Yes I remember Icarus,
who flew too near the sun.
Waxen wings undone,
he tumbled, thrashing, and
came crashing
into the sea!

So fell humanity.

So fell I.

 

III. Destruction

Timore atmosphaeram, you
make your mother torturer!
Twist me against my nature,
waste me to tinder,
roast me under the
torches of the sun
till I’m undone.

You dam my
waters,
bleach
my corals, flood me,
strangle me,
slaughter each other,
set me
on fire!

I am rage! I am war!
Where are your gods now?

Mirabilia!

What have you done,
over-blessed one?
Briefest of species,
what have you done?

 

IV. Lament

Sleep now, my children, now your days are done.
Nevermore shall you adore the setting of the sun.

Sleep now, forever, lofted in time.
No seraphim to rouse thee, no carillons to chime.

Mirabilia!
Never shall I dare to dream a dream so bright.

Sleep now, my children, my wonder, my light.
Never shall I dare to dream another dream so bright.

Mirabilia!
Never shall I dare to dream a dream so bright.

Sleep now, my children, though the cradle fall.
You rest among the yesterdays, the softest place of all.

Mirabilia!

 

V. Recovery

Alone forever,
the mirror
dims.

Empty
space.

Dormant
stone.

No. I shall not go alone.
Ivy shall recover every avenue,
seaweed swallow every drain,
and forestry sow a sorcery
over every human stain.

None shall weep,
 and none shall witness,
while my wordless work is done.

Slowly, in the shell of a factory,
a gray whale, circling aimlessly,
writes a disappearing history
in the shadows of the deep,

and none shall weep.

There shall come a day
like the first day,
so heavenly,
so clear.

Mirabilia,
you would love it here.

PRESS & CONTACT

Promotional Content

Rental / Performance Requests

More info: Earth Symphony

Contact: JR Music LLC

Jake Runestad, Media Inquiries

Anna Osterman

Todd Boss, Media Inquiries

Mallory Capri Henson