Our Only Sun (2014)

Music by Jordan Nelson, words by Sophie Anderson

“In exploring the remarkable work in 2013’s River of Words collection, I was immediately inspired by Sophie Anderson’s beautiful set of short poems, Ten Ways of Looking at the Sun. The poems are full of powerful imagery and emotion, and the variety of moods and perspectives suggested to me a musical landscape of multiple contrasting sections sewn into a single continuous journey.” Composer Jordan Nelson deftly creates those contrasts using varying dynamics, tempos, keys and compositional forms as he weaves several of the short texts into his complex and melodic piece. Our Only Sun begins with just a few voices and simple piano accompaniment, adding voices gradually to illustrate the opening text, “one of many stars in faraway galaxies.” Nelson uses the same text to bring the piece to a stirring, unified conclusion.

Jordan NelsonJordan Nelson, a native of Swarthmore, PA, is already a seasoned composer, in addition to being active as a singer, pianist, and arranger. His compositions have been performed widely and have included everything from orchestral works to chamber music for both acoustic and electro-acoustic ensembles to a recent work for piano and live computer processing, entitled Greetings! From Los Angeles. In addition to his YIY—CEC commission, his upcoming projects include a set of miniatures for orchestra and a work for violin and chamber ensemble. Jordan is currently pursuing a D.M.A. in Composition at the University Of Southern California Thornton School Of Music, where he also earned a Masters degree in Composition. He was awarded his B.A. in music with distinction from Yale. Recently, Jordan joined the faculty of the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, where he teaches in the Department of Music Theory. Visit Jordan’s website to get to know him as a composer and a performer.

Sophie Anderson, who composed her Haiku-like set of poems while in Middle School, is also a cellist. She was thrilled to learn that her poetry was being set to music, and was enthusiastic about the sections of her piece that Nelson chose to set. “I am deeply interested in science, especially physics and astronomy, and truly enjoy star gazing. I often think about the idea that there are an incredible number of stars, that we don’t yet know very much about the universe, and that we have so much to discover.”

Ten Ways of Looking at the Sun

I. Sometimes the rain pours
Sometimes the sun isn’t there
Earth is dark and dank
Gray clouds of winter
Replacing our bright and beautiful star
II. Scorching and burning
Beating down on the desert
Harsh and unforgiving
III. Gently opening rosebuds
Born for the first time in months
Turning leaves lively green
IV. Glistening on the undulating surface
Blinding passerby
With the mirror beauty of a summer
V. Ball of hydrogen
Converting to helium
VI. Mighty omniscient ruler of the sky
Powerful giant of the heavens
Born every day
Dies every night
VII. Through the melancholy rainy sky
Comes a rainbow
VIII. Earth whips around
Day and Night
Day and Night
IX. Occasionally harsh
But crucial to our feeble existences
X. One of many stars
In faraway galaxies
One of many stars
But our only sun

Sophie Anderson, age 13
Seattle, WA