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Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the title both of the poem that inspired this piece, and of the poet’s 1969 autobiography describing the early years of her life. Its heartfelt and heart-breaking description of freedom, and the subtextual implications of what freedom allows, is what moved me to write this piece. The ‘free bird’, daring to ‘claim the sky’, represents the importance of liberty in aiming for and achieving one’s goals, whilst the ‘caged bird’, with clipped wings and tied feet, is left to stand ‘on the grave of dreams’.

Purity of sound and harmony was the main focus of this work. The piece grew from the exploration of sonorities throughout the ensemble, rather than from a pre-planned concept of structure or thematic development. Much like the story of a person’s life, the piece grows from the early material and moves onwards, but the sounds explored in the early stages are crucial in developing the music and ultimately taking it to where it ends.

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