Soprano, violin and viola on text by Lloyd Von Brunt (5’30”). For Meghan Dewald, Liana Gourdjia and Rose Armbrust.

China Blue

Clouds like bruises bloom

on the sea at Montauk. Today was china blue.

Clouds became the sand

between our toes.


We stared, our lives like the days of wasps

without a nest.

We stared, our lives larval in the sea.

—Lloyd Van Brunt
This piece was written in fulfillment of one of my doctoral document requirements and embodies that stream-of-consciousness “vibe” that any piece of mine has when written in a 24-hour period. Before I started sketching, some brief research into Van Brunt’s life turned up some harrowing facts—Van Brunt, born into poverty, was abandoned by his father at an early age and lost his mother to illness by the time he turned eight. Afterward, Van Brunt spent years in foster homes and orphanages, where he was frequently abused. Among his numerous volumes of poetry, according to one source, the themes of survival and determination play prominent roles. I didn’t know this before I read “China Blue” for the first time, a poem that struck me as both elegant in its use of everyday language, as well as somewhat enigmatic and melancholy.

I underscored in my setting the aspects that struck me after some repeat reads: the interesting choice of negative-connotation similes, the frequency of alliteration and assonance, as well as the general theme of placing the reader between two extremes (the sky and the earth, pre-birth and near-death). Though only mentioned in the beginning and end, the image of the sea, vast and gray, remains constant in my mind.

Performance by Meghan Dewald (soprano), Liana Gourdjia (violin) and Rose Armbrust (viola).