The Separated Starrs and Skies

for harpsichord

James Erber

🔍 Preview Score
Logged-in user discounts applied
Log in to get discounts (now or at checkout)
Ask us about multi-copy choral discounts


for harpsichord

Ask about this work
Composer James Erber
Year of Composition 2018
Duration 6'30"
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-je1tssas1


This piece was suggested by the poem “The Starr” by Henry Vaughan (1621-1695). Helen Gardner has suggested that the poem refers to a passage from Magia Adamica, a Hermetic treatise by Vaughan’s twin brother, Thomas, a portion of which stands at the head of the score: “To speak plainly, Heaven it self was originally extracted from inferiors, yet not so intirely, but some portion of the Heavenly natures remained still below, and are the very same in essence and substance with the separated starrs and skies”.

The piece is in two sections. The first is a sort of free fantasia/prelude, which sets out the whole of a 21-bar rhythmic grid. During the second part, which is a kind of pavane with variations, the 21-bar grid is divided into three 7-bar segments, each of which is a variant of the preceding section. The three sections are then repeated with further variations.

Thus, the opening section is “heavenly” music, the unchanging music of being, which could, in theory, flow on for eternity (though, of course, we only hear 21 bars of it). The second section (derived from the first – “the very same in essence and substance…”) , but differentiated texturally and registrally from it) is “earthly” music – a dance form – the mutable music of becoming: music in constant flux, which eventually moves towards something reminiscent of the music of the opening (“…some portion of the Heavenly natures remained still below…”).

The Separated Starrs and Skies was begun in Via San Giovanni, Corridonia (MC) between 20th and 23rd June 2018 and completed in London SE25 between 15th July and 17th August 2018. It is dedicated to Sara Stowe. I am also incredibly grateful to Timothy Roberts for his invaluable help and advice during the composition of the piece.