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A Far Cry & Shara Nova, 'We are as paper'

Music projects that feature multiple composers often succumb to the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen syndrome and can sound disjointed at best, but The Blue Hour is a stunning exception. The 75-minute song cycle flows seamlessly, thanks to a lush, integrated composing style adhered to by Caroline Shaw, Angélica Negrón, Rachel Grimes, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Shara Nova, who sings the entire cycle. The music is gorgeously realized by A Far Cry, the Boston-based chamber orchestra.

The texts are sourced from Carolyn Forché's expansive poem "On Earth" (from her book The Blue Hour), tracing a woman's journey from life through death, via a storehouse of evocative images and associations in her mind.

Nova, best known for her work as My Brightest Diamond, gives what may be her finest vocal performance yet. With its flickering vibrato, the luminous voice expresses an interior vulnerability, but it also soars to operatic heights. Her song "We are as paper" is propelled by plucked strings and sweeping bow strokes, shifting with the dreamlike language. The words speak of "fragmentary light" and the "wet paper of our flesh," ephemeral images that end with a question: "Why do I seem no longer alive?"

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.