She Speaks is a choral song cycle composed by Alice Dryden and Amy Gordon, which sets the text by Sharon Goldstein. It weaves together the experiences and voices of different women, both artistically and literally. The text and the music were a result of a close collaboration among the composers and the poet. The cycle is a progression through generations of strong women. Each woman throughout history has been able to build on the strength and courage of her ancestors.
Movement 1, She Is Silent, represents a past generation that endured hardship and suppression for the sake of the next generation. The thread from the woman’s sewing machine becomes the motivic thread that weaves throughout the other movements, anchoring future generations in her quiet resolve.
In Movement 2, She Dreams, the next generation spends her days trapped, speaking other people’s words and ideas. Yet inside her, she holds dreams of her own stories and her own identity, and being recognized for her own worth.
Movement 3, She Speaks, explores vocal percussion and extended vocal techniques. The women gradually find their voices and speak out, with difficulty and first but with increasing confidence- This. Is. Wrong! This movement honors those who would no longer stay silent in the face of injustice.
Movement 4, She Rages!, is the most specific and direct response to current events. The voices of women, silenced for too long, break free- and they are furious! Each voice demands to be heard as they build on one another. The movement transitions into a triumphant march honoring the women that came before them, referencing each of the previous movements in both text and music.
The ending, co-written by both composers, ties off the thread that wove through each movement. All the voices, men and women, speak together to convey one unified message: It is more important now than ever to find the courage to listen and to speak out.
I. She Is Silent
She is silent.
The thread in her sewing machine
Anchors her children to food,
A roof, clothes.
Her job imprisons her in silence.
The threads are poisonous vines.
If she speaks the vines will strangle her
Her children will starve, naked, on the street.
She is silent.
II. She Dreams
She dreams other people’s words,
Other people’s stories,
Other people’s songs.
She dreams of her happiness
Not depending on her beauty.
III. She Speaks
She speaks. She says: this is wrong!
This shouldn’t be the price;
My security and fulfillment shouldn’t depend
On the loss of my self-respect.
This. Is. Wrong!
IV. She Rages
She inhales fury and exhales lightning
She breaks the ceiling and the floor and the walls
We free the legacy of our silent grandmothers.
We draw on the inheritance of our dreaming mothers.
We claim the birthright of our own self-respect.
We break our own chains!