The Bohlen-Pierce Symposium
First symposium on the Bohlen-Pierce scale, Boston, March 7 – 9, 2010
Bloomfield: When the Ravens Descend

Owen Bloomfield: When the Ravens Descend (2008/10)

for soprano and Bohlen-Pierce soprano and tenor clarinets

When the Ravens Descend is a work in three movements that is inspired by a poem of the same name by Rae Crossman.  While the first two movements, Alpha and Ravens, were written in 2010, the third movement, Wanderer, was completed in 2007.  Alpha and Ravens expands on the musical language used in Wanderer.  While Wanderer is based around BP pitch sets, the other two movements combine those pitch sets into a mode that is used throughout in transposition.  When the Ravens Descend explores the melodic, polyphonic, and heterophonic tendencies of the BP scale.  Particulars such as tendency tones and the notion of a tonic are brought into relief.  The outer two movements are instrumental, the first for soprano and tenor BP clarinets and the third for two soprano BP clarinets.  The middle movement, Ravens, is scored for two soprano clarinets and contains Crossman’s poem sung by soprano voice.

The poem graphically explores the death of a deer after being hunted down by wolves and scavenged by ravens.  While this is the surface text, the poem has an existential element that asks us about our own perspectives on mortality and the instance of death.

When The Ravens Descend

by Rae Crossman (published with permission by the author)

what flits

through the skull

of the starving deer


out of the cedars

onto the frozen lake

legs buckling

upwind of death

nostrils crusted with ice

breath in heaves

does the eye of the deer


the beak of the raven

as it’s pecked

from the socket and swallowed

does the ear of the deer


the raven’s call

for the wolf

to tear open the throat

what leaps

when the belly’s ripped

into the ethereal forest

what exhalation

above the din

from the rib cage perch

what story now on the wind


what will flit

through my skull

when the ravens descend

what will rise

besides the steam

when my guts

are dragged out across the snow