Tone Poems of Etherality

by Jennifer Bellor (1983-present)

Sponsored by NV Energy

About the Composer

Jennifer Bellor is a versatile composer who enjoys collaborating with classical and jazz musicians, singers, dancers, librettists, and visual artists. Her works have been featured by ensembles, festivals, conferences, and forums including Washington National Opera, Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra, ACO Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute readings in New York City, North American Saxophone Alliance Conference, Aspen Music Festival, June in Buffalo, Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, Eastman Wind Ensemble, Eastman Saxophone Project, California State University East Bay Wind Symphony, Connecticut State University Wind Ensemble, Stephen F. Austin State University Wind Ensemble, Nazareth College Wind Symphony, Eastman in China, Florida State University Festival of New Music, Ritsos Project in Greece, and many others in the United states and abroad.

She received a 2013 DownBeat Award for her composition Midnight Swim for big band in the original composition/orchestrated work category at the graduate college level. Her composition Noir for big band won the 2nd Annual Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra composition contest, and was performed in Seattle November 2014, featuring Grace Kelly on alto saxophone. Judges considered her piece “really beautiful and haunting,” and “reminiscent of Ornette’s collaboration with Howard Shore for the film Naked Lunch.”

Jennifer received her Ph.D in music composition at Eastman School of Music, a Master of Music degree in composition at Syracuse University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude in music at Cornell University. Her principal teachers included David Liptak, Robert Morris, Andrew Waggoner, Sally Lamb McCune, and Steven Stucky. Jennifer is currently Visiting Lecturer in Composition at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she teaches courses in composition and music theory.


About this Piece

Tone Poems of Ethereality is set of two orchestral songs inspired by my favorite poems by poets John Donne and Yannis Ritsos. Each of these songs originally existed as a song for soprano, but I always imagined them existing as instrumental versions as well. The first tone poem, Air and Angels was inspired by the first stanza of the poem, “Air and Angels,” by poet John Donne (1572-1631).

I. Air and Angels
By John Donne

Twice or thrice had I lov’d thee,
Before I knew thy face or name;
So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame
Angels affect us oft, and worshipp’d be;
Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing did I see.
But since my soul, whose child love is
Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do,
More subtle than the parent is
Love must not be, but take a body too;
And therefore what thou wert, and who,
I bid Love ask, and now
That it assumes thy body, I allow,
And fix itself in thy lip, eye, and brow.

The piece was first written as a song in 2008, and the version for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble was commissioned by mezzo-soprano Quinn Patrick Ankrum for performance on her DMA recital at Eastman School of Music. The song was later revised in 2014 to not only fit with my set for soprano and piano, which was premiered by mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley at the University of Nevada, las Vegas in December 2014, but to also exist as a movement for orchestra.

The second tone poem, The Distant,  originally existed a a song that was commissioned by the Ritsos Project for soprano, flute, alto saxophone, and piano and was performed in Greece July 2014, featuring soprano Sophie Burgos. The Ritsos Project was a project founded by composers Aristea Mellos and Harris Papetrechas to commission composers to take the poetry of a wellknown Greek poet, Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990), and set some of his selected works as art songs. Premieres took place July 4: Lilian Voudouri Library, The Megaron Performing Arts Complex, Athens, and July 10: Karlovassi Town Hall, Karlovassi, Samos Island, Greece. The English translation of “The Distant” was used for the piece.

2. The Distant
By Yannis Ritsos

O distant, distant; deep unapproachable; receive always
the silent ones in their absence, in the absence of the others
when the danger from the near ones, from the near itself, burdens
during nights of promise with many-colored lights in the gardens,
when the half-closed eyes of lions and tigers scintillate
with flashing green omissions in their cages
and the old jester in front of the dark mirror
washes off his painted tears so that he can weep–
O quiet ungrantable, you with the long, damp hand,
quiet invisible, without borrowing and lending, without obligations,
nailing nails on the air, shoring up the world
in that deep inaction where music reigns.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer K. Bellor. All Rights Reserved.

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