for soprano, alto flute, vibraphone and piano(1990)
|Text information||Text by Rita Dove from "The House Slave"|
|Commission||Commissioned by ensemble Thamyris with the support of Spelman College and the City of Atlanta Mayor's Fellowship in the Arts (Andrew Young, Mayor)|
|Premiere||October 23, 1990; Atlanta, GA, Sisters Chapel, Spelman College (USA) · Thamyris Ensemble (Cheryl Boyd-Waddell, soprano; Paul Brittan, alto flute; Peggy Benkeser, vibraphone; Laura Gordy, piano)|
Between Sisters (1990) is a musical setting of The House Slave, a poem by former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove, and is scored for alto flute, piano, soprano, and vibraphone. Singleton here captures the just-awakening house slave woman's total powerlessness in the face of her field slave sister's and indeed all field slaves' hopelessly brutalized circumstances. Silence, sometimes as if listening for something and at other times seeming to dramatize a lack of answers, is a major player in the sonic palette of this polytonally blue work. Gone are the flute's typically florid lyricism and the piano's dexterity and power; and gone are the vibraphone's customary sexiness and quicksilver runs. Instead both soprano vocalist and the instruments moan and peep out their pitches and unresolvable harmonic consequences until suddenly at one heart-wrenching penultimate passage the singer shouts forth the desperate words "'oh, pray,' she cries," "'oh, pray.'" Then quiet again as the vibraphone turns to the fragile steady beating of muffled quarter notes (called "dead strokes") over held notes in the other instruments as the soprano sings "and as the fields unfold to whiteness, and they spill like bees among the fat flowers," as if the clock that never stops beats hopelessly on for the slave. All then closes softly in its powerful powerlessness.
– Carman Moore