The Angle of Repose

baritone voice, alto flute, khaen (1991)
Commissioned by Thomas Buckner

Duration: 14:00

Recorded on Sign of the Times (Lovely Music 3022)

Program Note

The Angle of Repose is an evening song commissioned by Thomas Buckner and scored for baritone, alto flute and khaen (a Thai mouth organ). It incorporates two texts. The first is an Ojibwa Indian text quoted by Peter Matthiessen in his book Nine-Headed Dragon River. The second is from a letter written in 1904 by Rainer Maria Rilke to his wife, the sculptor Clara Westhoff, while on holiday in Denmark. The angle of repose is the angle of inclination of a slope at which sliding earth and boulders come to rest. — A.L.

Sometimes I go about in pity for myself
and all the while
A great wind is bearing me across the sky.


There are here, amidst this realm of fields, strips of dark ploughed land. They are empty and yet they lie here as though the bright stalks round about them were there for their sakes, rows of fencing for their protection. I asked what these dark acres were about. They told me: “c’est de la terre en repos.” So lovely, you see, can rest be and thus it looks alongside work. Not disquieting, but gathering up a deep trust and the feeling of a rich time.
–Rainer Maria Rilke