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There will come soft rains

Oratorio for ZZYZX, Mojave Desert Preserve, for percussion, strings, voices, images--about the need for water and the meaning of rain

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There Will Come Soft Rains Awarded NEA Art Works Award

Posted on January 28, 2018 by Pamela Madsen


Images and sounds from the Mojave Desert wed music in Pamela Madsen’s new five-movement oratorio, “There Will Come Soft Rains.” The National Endowment for the Arts has approved an Art Works award to the professor of music for her multimedia piece.

Madsen’s concert-length work will feature percussion, strings, orchestra, voices, video and electronics. She and selected video artists will be in residence at the California State University Desert Studies Center in Zzyzx, located within the Mojave National Preserve. Cal State Fullerton provides administrative oversight of the center.

The professor of music also will be a guest composer at Crystal Cove Conservancy, the nonprofit public benefit partner to Crystal Cove State Park, where she will work with selected ensembles and Cal State Fullerton students to document sounds and images for the composition.

“This new, sonic landscape work explores the 20th-century fascination for utopian salvation in California, the need for water and the meaning of rain,” says Madsen, who also received a New Music USA projects grants award for the project.

Her work also will serve as a model for students participating in the Cal State Fullerton College of the Arts’ InterArts Collaborative Projects Symposium.

“There Will Come Soft Rains” will premiere in spring 2018, with outreach activities, lectures and demonstrations through spring 2019. Selected ensembles scheduled to perform the composition include the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet and the CSUF Symphony Orchestra and University Singers with guest artists. The work was commissioned by the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet; percussionist Cory Hills; cellists Maggie Parkins and Ashley Bathgate; the Eclipse String Quartet; the CSUF Symphony Orchestra; and the University Singers. Madsen will collaborate with visual artist Quintan Ana Wikswo.


There will come soft rains is a 90  minute, multi-movement oratorio for the earth by composer Pamela Madsen for percussion, strings, voices, projected images and sounds, created in collaboration with performers and video artists. “There will come soft rains” reflects upon the need for Deep Listening in the wilderness, social justice and the global ecology of self-consciousness; resonance of the human body and our connection to the earth, and the need for water and the meaning of rain. Supporting artists who have committed include:

  • Los Angeles Percussion Quartet
  • Cory Hills, percussionist /spoken voice
  • Vanessa Tomlinson, percussionist/spoken voice, Australia
  • Ashley Bathgate, cellist from Bang on a Can (BOAC), NYC
  • Eclipse String Quartet, Los Angeles
  • Quintan Ana Wikswo, Video Artist/poet, New Mexico
  • Cal State Fullerton New Music Ensemble

Pamela Madsen is composer in residence in the Mojave Desert Preserve at CSU Desert Studies Center at ZZYZX working with the commissioning performers, ensembles and video artists to create, document and collect sounds and images for this work. As an Oratorio, this work is unique in that it focuses on the sound and setting of spoken text, combined with instruments, electronics, video and sung text. The work captures the sonic landscape of the wilderness of the desert southwest, juxtaposed with the mid-century utopian fascination for the future, weaving a narrative of concern for human rights, social justice, women, nature and threat of imminent world destruction.

Themes are manifested through texts concerning marginalization of indigenous cultures and desecration of women and nature correlated with concerns for the destruction of the environment. In these works, the sounds of water and fluidity of performance are juxtaposed against images of dry, rigid, inactive silence coupled with the scarcity of sound in the desert landscape.

  • WUPATKI: Houses of the Enemies (2013/2018) for Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, Eclipse String Quartet, Vicki Ray, pianist and Quintan Ana Wikswo Video-To be premiered February, 2018
  • The Land of Little Rain: Water Trails of the Ceriso, Scavengers-57 Buzzards-text by Southwest Desert conservationist Mary Hunter Austin (1903). For  Eclipse String Quartet,  c. 12 minutes To be premiered, February 21, 2018
  • For the year of the insane-Eclipse String Quartet, electronics and voices, to be premiered, February 21, 2018
  • Why women weep: based on  The Diary of Anais Nin, vol. 5, (1955)  for cellist Ashley Bathgate for cello, spoken voices, projected sounds and images.  premiered February 22, 2017
  • There will come soft rains, poem by Sarah Teasdale  (1920) for solo percussion and spoken voice, Cory Hills, percussionist, LAPQ, spoken voice, projected sounds and images.  premiered February 25, 2017
  • There will come soft rains-August 2026  based on the 1950 dystopian short story by science fiction author Ray Bradbury for percussion quartet. To be premiered February 21, 2018
  • Lost Horse Mine: for Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, Eclipse String Quartet, Vicki Ray pianist, voice, to be premiered February 21, 2018 
  • There will be stars  poem by Sara Teasdale (1920) in memory of Pauline Oliveros, for Cory Hills, Vanessa Tomlinson,  CSUF New Music Ensemble. Premiered  February 25, 2017 

Project Media

Riverly is the Moon from Luminous Etudes: Visions of the Black Madonna of Montserrat (2015)
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Riverly is the Moon for solo clarinet and video, Pamela Madsen commissioned, premiered, recorded by clarinetist Virginia Figueiredo. Video animation by Jimena Sarno, images and photos of the blood moon by Carolyn Yarnell. Based on materials from the 14th century Llibre Vermell, and my encounter with the icon of the Black Madonna as resident composer at Montserrat, Spain. The full concert length work: Luminous Etudes received a New Music USA project award with premiere by loadbang, Kathleen Supove, Eleonor Sandresky, pianist, voices, 2016.

Los Angeles Percussion Quartet (LAPQ) Shaun Naidoo – The Year Before Yesterday
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Los Angeles Percussion Quartet (LAPQ)

LAPQ Performs “The Year Before Yesterday” by Shaun Naidoo. This is the title track from their album on Sono Luminus. Similar in texture and instrumentation to the works I will be composing for LAPQ for this project.

The video also features Cory Hills, as part of LAPQ who I am working with to compose the solo work “There will come soft rains” and the ensemble work “There will be stars”

Ashley Bathgate, Cellist
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Features: Ashley Bathgate

Ashley Bathgate, Cellist
American cellist Ashley Bathgate has been described as an “eloquent new music interpreter”(New York Times) “a glorious cellist”(The Washington Post) who combines “bittersweet lyricism along with ferocious chops”(New York Magazine).Her “impish ferocity”, “rich tone” and “imaginative phrasing” (New York Times) have made her one of the most sought after performers of her time.
This video illustrates Ashley’s intense collaborative process with composers Julia Wolfe, Ted Hearne and others.

Start and End Dates



Los Angeles, California

1 update
Last update on January 28, 2018

Project Created By

Laguna Beach, California
Pamela Madsen is a composer, sound artist, performer, and curator of new music. From her intimate chamber music creations focusing on image-music-text to her  electroacoustic mutli-media collaborations, collected archives of works by women in electroacoustic and organization of new music events she has created a body of work with a profound breadth of vision.  Her…

In Collaboration With

Commissioning Percussionist/Spoken Voice
Los Angeles, California
Commissioning Cellist/Spoken Voice
New York City, New York
Commissioning Percussion Ensemble
Los Angeles, California
Collaborating Video Artist/Desert Photographer, Poet


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