“Conversation” in three Scotland concerts

Schonmaier Coast.jpg

On September 5, 6, & 7 the St Andrews New Music Ensemble  performed three concerts  featuring Emily Doolittle’s  Conversation (based on a poem by Eleonore Schönmaier from Treading Fast Rivers).  

Conversation is a 12-minute work for soprano and chamber ensemble, based on the sounds of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) in haul-out. Schönmaier’s poem explores what Doolittle describes as a ‘slightly uncanny sympathy between humans and grey seals’.”



Are my thoughts so noisy they murmur

outside my body?—keening like distant


voices, like wind through buoys.

Each moment carries its own frame.


On the shoals I count fifty seals,

their grey pod-bodies entwined.


Is it their thoughts or mine

that I hear?—a longing


so ardent and spacious.  The past

and its regret talks


back to me:  panting, insistent, it holds

my hand.  I eavesdrop in the lapse


between one wake-up call and the next.

What language emanates from the seals


as they pleasure in the sun?  A vibration

shuddered in the air that lures


me back to or away from myself,

a conversation fetched home.


From Treading Fast Rivers (McGill-Queen’s University Press)