Composing for voice is my first passion in life, and as a result the largest part of my catalogue is music for voice: solo voice, small groups of voices, small or large choirs, with and without orchestral or other kinds of accompaniments. For me, the human voice - possibly the most subtle, complex, and fragile yet forceful, flexible, seductive, and persuasive carrier of musical ideas and meanings - has always been an inspiration for and influence upon my entire musical thinking. I sing when I compose. I adore reading poems, and cherish the opportunity to set them to music: and I believe that text plus music (1+1) must equal at least 24. If 1+1=2, there is no need, for me, to set the text to music.
Emily Dickinson's poems are intensely personal, intellectual, introspective, and offer a meditation on life, death, and poetic creation; her poems share a close observation of nature as well as consideration of religious and philosophical issues. The poems used in Gathering Paradise are marked by the intimate recollection of inspirational moments which are suggestive of hope and the possibility of happiness found in art and in the observation of the natural world.
These poems are all about light. We start with "gleam," "illumination," "fuse is lit, and work through "the Everlasting Clocks - Chime - Noon" (when, in the middle of the composition, there is an actual kind of carillon sounding orchestration to represent a clock striking 12 times). Then, at the end of the work, "Soft as the massacre of Suns," and, finally, "Image of Light, Adieu - ". So there is a kind of cycle of light, from sunrise to sundown ... or perhaps a birth to a death, the final words of the composition being "Impart - Depart -".
- Augusta Read Thomas