Narrow Are the Broken Spines (2014)

Soprano, violin, viola, cello

Performed by Sarah Shafer (soprano), Soovin Kim (violin), Steven Laraia (viola), and Emily Taubl (cello) at the 2014 Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival in Vermont.

Poem by Chelsea Komschlies:

Narrow are the broken spines who told of this.
Few the ink-blots, dust, and dank, and paper-thin.
Empty bone-box of the one who cared of this,
Now rattled on the glass-white shore of must and sin.

Lovely are the tiny souls we made for this
Evanescent tendrils of the shiv’ring swans, which,
Caked with chalky powder from the falling mists
of Wisdom, wonder why it is that warmth is gone.

Fragile willows stoop to steal a raspy kiss
from silent flutt’ring lashes thread and bone made dull.
Glass beneath is clouded through with loneliness
And cries the tears that all the world finds beautiful.

About the Piece:

This piece is about fascination with pain as a thing of beauty. The poem was inspired by the peculiar yet (briefly) rampantly popular trend in the first few years of Instagram of teen girls portraying themselves as frail, arcane, faceless, skeletal, suffering, doll-like creatures in photographic self-portraits. The poem comments on this occurrence while simultaneously conjuring the sorts of images associated with these portraits.

This work is also inspired by the aesthetic of the Steampunk genre and of filmmaker Tim Burton.