Language of the Birds

Program Notes

This work was written for Magen Solomon, the San Francisco Chorale Artists and the Alexander String Quartet to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the San Francisco Chorale Artists.

This piece was inspired by the San Francisco artist Brian Goggin's site-specific sculptural installation, The Language of the Birds, which he created with Dorka Keehn. The installation, outside City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, is an illuminated flock of twenty-three translucent, suspended open books with bindings positioned to simulate the wings of birds in flight. Words, taken from books by neighborhood authors, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, are scattered and embedded in the plaza as if the words have fallen from the pages.

The plaza is on the corner of Broadway, Grant and Columbus Streets in San Francisco. Goggin and Keehn teamed up with scientist David Shearer and Lawrence Ferlinghetti?s City Lights Bookstore to power the installation with solar panels mounted on top of the bookstore. It is the first permanent solar-powered public art piece in the United States.

I met Goggin at the DJerassi Artists Residency while he was developing this work. When given the opportunity to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the SF Choral Artists I immediately thought of this piece and fell in love with the Ferlinghetti fragment that Goggin used and selected five fragments from Felinghetti's San Francisco Poems. Three deal specifically with birds and the other two with trees and fog. I imagined walking from the lovely old trees in Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog into San Francisco where one might encounter all sorts of the interesting personalities, who perhaps put their caps in a cage and go out with birds on their heads.

Commissioned by the San Francisco Choral Artists, and Magen Solomon, Artistic Director. Written for the SF Choral Artists, Magen Solomon and the Alexander String Quartet. This work is dedicated to Magen Solomon, Susan Bienkowski and Wang Chung Lee.


Audio / Visual


Vox Nova Chamber Choir
Shannon Chase, conductor
April 14-15, 2018
Luminous Night
Grace Chorale of Brooklyn
Jason Asbury, conductor
Friday, January 23, Brooklyn Heights
Saturday, January 24, Park Slope, NY
Sunday, January 25, Fort Greene
C4x4 New Music for Chorus with String Quartet
With the Canite Quartet
New York/Brooklyn
2011 (world première)
San Francisco Choral Artists
Magen Solomon, conductor
The Alexander String Quartet
Saturday, May 7, San Francisco
Saturday, May 14, Oakland
Sunday, May 15, Palo Alto


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