An Illuminated Transience


I. Light
II. Water Lilies
III. Opticks

SATB, a cappella

Composing An Illuminated Transience was a wonderful journey into light, color, and perception. Each movement opens a small window from which we can see a poet, a painter and a scientist observe, ruminate on, create and experiment with light. Ultimately, the piece is a celebration of curiosity, passion and love of learning.


You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Order Sheet Music
Catalog Number: 
Commissioned By: 
Cantori, Robert Cowles, Director Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York
Text Author or Source: 
Joan Wolf Prefontaine, Claude Monet, Sir Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein

I. Light

No wonder scientists
and painters are drawn
to light – that precise
fleeting mosaic of reflection
impossible to catch:
Newton’s prism colors
contracted, disappearing
into whiteness
Monet’s water lilies
illumined by transparent mist.

Poets, too, can be light-obsessed,
watching how a sudden
thought, like a shadow
from a passing cloud,
falls across a bright page.

Joan Wolf Prefontaine *

II. Water Lilies

The Flower,
The Flowers
are just the accompaniment.
The essence of the motif
Is the mirror of water,
Changing at every moment
thanks to patches of sky,
reflected in it,
giving it light and movement.

Passing Cloud,
Refreshing breeze,
The light growing dim
And bright again,
transform the color,
the place of water,
the mirror of water.

after Claude Monet

III. Opticks

The sun shining into my darken’d room,
Through a small round hole,
Made in a plate of Lead,
I placed a Prism to refract the Light,
And form on the opposite wall
The Spectrum of Colours.

All the Colours in the Universe
Are made by Light.

Fortunate Newton,
Happy childhood of science,
Nature to him was an open book,
Beautiful Experiments,
Joy in Creation.

The Sun Shining into my darken’d room,
I turned two prisms
About their common axis.
There arose many slender Arcs of Colour:
White, blue, violet;
Black, red, orange, yellow.

All the Colours in the Universe
Are made by Light.

Sir Isaac Newton
Albert Einstein