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The Streets Were Running – Time Stood Still



Premiered by Matthew Jaskot on September 19, 2019 in Worcester, MA

About the Piece

Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem, It sounded as if the Streets were running (below), this piece explores how perceptions of time are altered by one’s experiences. When reading Dickinson’s poem, I was immediately struck and inspired by the contrast of “running” and “still” in the first two lines. The sudden shift from “running” to “still” resonated with me personally on many levels, but also connected to my interest in blending “active” and “static” musical gestures. Throughout this work, there are clear moments that are either active or static, as well as passages that blend these ideas by simultaneously standing still and pressing forward. I relate this to the idea that at a concurrent juncture, two different peoples’ perception of time can be wildly different.  While one person might be experiencing a moment where time stands still (i.e. a tragic moment, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, a euphoric moment), another may be proceeding with their frenetic everyday life, time seemingly flying by.  


This piece is by no means a line by line reading of the poem, but instead focuses on the aforementioned opening lines. In addition, specific words from the poem such as eclipse, awe, and air, were on my mind during the compositional process, as well as imagery that the poem conjured up in my mind – that of the random business of a city street, dispersing and ramping up with the ebbs and flows of the day, all through the lens of a high above panoramic camera.


Emily Dickinson

No. 1397


It sounded as if the Streets were running
And then — the Streets stood still —
Eclipse — was all we could see at the Window
And Awe — was all we could feel.

By and by — the boldest stole out of his Covert
To see if Time was there —
Nature was in an Opal Apron,
Mixing fresher Air.

Video from premiere

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