Bones and All completed

Delighted to have finished setting my daughter’s ravishing and ravaged poem BONES AND ALL for soprano, trumpet, english horn, percussion, harp and strings. This 30 minute work moves from still and dark to animated and expressive and back again. I am very happy to have it completed!


I tend to the land grief
It started as barren and broken waste, 
So I watered it. 
The water and salt of tears only grew grass, wild and 
unruly, not quite living. 
On the precipice of this waste were trees; tall, dark, and 
They sent you. 

You were a sparrow, fragile and small 
You came wrapped in barbed wire and grime cloaked in 
scent of ruin. I untethered you, stitched up your wounds with blood 
soaked fingers, and fattened you up then returned you 
to the wood. The world had not been kind to you, 
I thought this would be enough. 

The grass sprouted flowers, blooming with vengeance, 
and in them found another. 
The rotting carcass, burnt and branded by the world, its 
flesh, ripped from its bones held together by mere strings 
of muscle. I imagine you alive, sturdy, clever, and striped.
Wearing your bandit mask properly—not skewed as it is 
now—playing a violin. 

I reconstruct you, slowly, heart first, on woven blankets 
from grass. I cover your torn body with 
flowers. I tuck your legs, hiding your shattered feet, 
hiding your ripped neck, laying your head down. 
You look almost asleep but I know this is never 

I have buried so many in this wasteland; 
Each one stays frozen in place, exactly where I left them. 
Later they come for me, gathered in the rainforest of my 
mind we sit together eating tropical fruits, shrouded by 
sunlight, a greenish-golden glow bouncing off my skin 
and refracting off their exposed bones. 

They cannot be touched here, things are clean, soft. 
We are loved by the sun, bones and all.


Douglas Knehans
Preparing for Carnegie Hall

So the piece is finished. It is called Lí—Brightness and is dedicated to a very dear friend of mine, Prof. Carey Denholm, in Australia.

Here is the program note for the piece:

Lí—Brightness takes its title from the 30th hexagram of the I-Ching:

___ ___
___ ___

The image for this is brightness or fire over fire indicating brightness. The four main sections of the work correspond to the four trigrams embedded with the hexagram:

Below=Radant (Lí) the image of fire, sun or lightning;

___ ___

Lower=Gentle (Xùn) the image of wind, wood

___ ___

Upper=Joyous (Duì) the image of lake, rain, and

___ ___

Above=Radant (Lí) the image of fire, sun or lightning;

___ ___

Each of the trigrams and the hexagram as a whole also carry with them profound emotional, psychological and philosophical imagery and messages as well. There is deep scholarship within Chinese culture regarding the I Ching of which this current hexagram represents only one of sixty such hexagrams. The overall meaning of the hexagram relates to good character and proper conduct of one’s life resulting in brightness, clarity, radiance, and warmth. This work is dedicated to my good friend Carey Denholm, whose life is and has been so far a demonstration of the qualities and meanings of Lí—Brightness.

Douglas Knehans