Elucidation 2010
1 mvt | 5 min
Swedish and English
a cappella

single print license


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Premiered by

The Esoterics
Yale Chamber Singers

commissoned by

Roger Jordan

About this Piece

Karin Boye (1900-1941) was born in Göteborg (Gothenberg), Sweden, and moved to Stockholm in 1909. She studied at Uppsala University from 1921 to 1926, and debuted in 1922 with a collection of poems entitled Moln (Clouds), from which this poem, Förklaring, is taken. With two of her colleagues, Boye founded the poetry magazine Spektrum, which introduced the work of Surrealists and TS Eliot to Swedish readers. She was largely responsible for translating Eliot’s work into Swedish. Throughout her work, Boye explores her own personal turmoil with lesbianism, socialism, and her religious upbringing. Boye died in an apparent suicide after swallowing several sleeping pills, and her body was found on a boulder on a farm outside of Gothenberg. This boulder has become a memorial to Boye. Karin’s “wife,” Margot Hanel, committed suicide shortly Boye’s death. In 2004, the Uppsala University Library named a branch in Boye’s honor. In her poetry, Boye is brutally honest and surprisingly simple. For me, her work is about the desire for perfection, the pain of imperfection, and the ever-growing rift between the beauty of aspiration and bitterness of reality.

As a Buddhist, Boye’s verses that struggle with expectation and suffering resonate very deeply within me. When I became friends with Roger Jordan, a fellow Buddhist and photographer, and saw some of his work that captures the fleeting beauty of clouds here in the Puget Sound region, we decided to collaborate on a piece in which my choral music would accompany a slideshow of his photographs. In Jordan’s photos, the Sound and the sky are captured from the same vantage point, several times over the course of a single day. Since the water and the clouds feature so prominently and speak so compellingly in this piece, I wanted to set a text from Boye’s Clouds that is “immersed” in such beauty – hence my choice of Förklaring. I have attempted to compose a piece that is seamless and continuous, but not overly dramatic, so as to not detract from the photographs that it is meant to accompany. Below, you will find the twelve lines of Elucidation: in Swedish and IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), which explains how the Swedish is to be pronounced in the score.

Text Credit

Karin Boye

Sample Text

Immersed in your beauty
I see my life explained;
From the riddle of darkness
An answer is revealed.
Immersed in your beauty
I am inspired to pray;
For the world is now blessed
Because you are near.
Your clarity is endless
And drenched in light;
I could die in your presence
Immersed in your beauty.