Additional Information

In his unpublished notes, Robert Musil writes,

All lines lead to the war. Everyone welcomes it in his fashion.

This piece takes place in the Serbian fields: at once, the peaceful, gentle rolling hills, their green and murky brown soils weighed with the inevitability of what’s to come, and, at the same time, imagine that there is more blood and death in the same ground than earth. It has become the resting place of the pre-war world. This piece is two at once, unfocused. 

I have not endeavored to find a middle ground, for it does not exist. The musical drama is in the sharp slash, the wound, of an end of time and of a beginning of time.  

The absurdity of music as a monument is that it is completely ephemeral and abstract, it is the smoke one reaches out to but cannot grasp as it dissipates away. Yet memory is somehow stronger than even stone and steel. 

Let these singers become not only monuments of their own, but take on the face of those ghosts one hundred years ago; let this stage become the transforming Serbian fields; the music, the last breaths of air of a world left behind.

Eugene Birman
18 march 2014 – Oakland, CA, USA

Commission: the European network for professional chamber choirs – TENSO, Young Composers Award 2013

Instrumentation: mixed choir + 4 soloists

Duration: approx. 12 minutes


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Field of the Dead