A New Eaarth (2012)
Commissioned by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Association in conjunction with a three-year Music Alive residency; funded by New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras.
Although I have lived in cities most of my life, I don't think of myself as a city person, and have always felt more connected to the outdoors rather than to asphalt and tall buildings. Many of my works are inspired by nature, and I am deeply concerned about environmental issues, particularly global warming.
Of the many excellent books on the environment, one of the best I have read and that moves me most is Eaarth by Bill McKibben, a well-known author, educator and environmentalist. McKibben's assertion is that we have waited too long, and that massive climate change is not only unavoidable, but already underway. He states that we may as well call this new planet Eaarth, because it is still recognizable, but fundamentally different. I feel strongly that he is correct, and wanted to express this in a musical way. A work for orchestra, chorus and narrator seemed like the ideal vehicle for reflecting on this crucial issue.
In A New Eaarth, I intersperse my own narrated text with poems and quotes from around the world, including texts by Wendell Barry, James Joyce, Percy Bysshe Shelly and William Wordsworth. The text and poems allude to the four ancient, classical elements—earth, air, fire and water—a theme that permeates many of my other works.
A New Eaarth is commissioned by the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association through a Music Alive! residency grant from New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras, and will be premiered with the Vermont Youth Orchestra and Vermont Youth Orchestra Chorus, conducted by Jeffrey Domoto, with Bill McKibben, narrating.
– Robert Paterson
Reviews and Quotes
Review of World Premiere from Times Argus, Montpelier, VT, May 9, 2012
"[A New Eaarth] proved a grand statement about the dangers of climate change... the 30-minute work decries the current situation yet offers hope. While the message was predictable – preaching to the choir in Vermont – Paterson’s music was anything but. Ranging from clashing atonal to serenely tonal, the score employed myriad musical effects—including a substantial percussion section—that illustrated the libretto. More than that, with the chorus, it was an amazingly colorful tone poem... the music was beautifully crafted. There was immense power in parts, pathos in others. The VYO and Chorus clearly enjoyed every second of it, performing with passion and skill." – Jim Lowe
"[A New Eaarth] is quite powerful—it gets at the essential scientific truth of the moment, the sudden and violent flux of the physical world as the 10,000 years of the calm Holocene comes resoundingly to an end. A very inspiring piece, and people left ready to take action..."
Quote from David Feurzeig, Associate Professor of Composition, University of Vermont, May 8, 2012
"I'll be honest, I came with low expectations because I didn't see how it would all work: narration of not just glum but (I mis-assumed) fairly technical language, plus youth chorus, which I knew would limit your harmonic options, and orchestra, all on a shortened rehearsal schedule. But it was awesome! The recitativo style choruses made a beautiful and effective link between all the other elements. You wrote beautifully for the group--challenging but stuff that they could really get. The final chorus rhythm is both beautiful and catchy—it's an ear-worm, but in a good way—which is not only great in itself but great in an ending, leaving it in your mind after the piece is over. The audience seemed really moved. I heard the people around me, who were parents and boosters and obviously not going to dump all over the piece no matter what, but they were clearly pleasantly surprised and impressed."