The Rest is Silence (2017)


Music by Samuel Beebe.

Inspired by a Roberto Ifill poem of the same name, The Rest is Silence was initially conceived as a choral work. The poem was written following the death of the poet’s sister, Gwen Ifill, and makes reference to Hamlet’s final words just before he dies. Ifill’s lyrical lines of verse consider the moment of passing from life to death, and relate this mysterious transition to imagery such as a person plunging into a frigid lake, and the moment when a baby’s head droops into sleep.

The phrasing and textures in the orchestral score still very much resemble the original sketches from the choral setting, particularly the rests (silences) between the phrases, originally designed to offer the singers an instant to take a breath before heading into the oncoming line. These pauses were left intact, allowing the orchestra to have the feel of a choir, breathing between phrases. As the music moves throughout the orchestra, each choir in the orchestra brings out its own expressive interpretation of the original choral material, highlighting particularly the four horns and the strings. The expansive, shimmering opening, along with its reprise later on as climactic closing section, were added later in the composition process, framing the internal, restrained material, lending additional depth to the emotional narrative of the work.

Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Susan Deaver.