Starfish at Pescadero

for soprano, viola, harp, percussion (2007)

Score and Parts

by Dennis Tobenski


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Lisa Williamson, soprano; Barbara Wiggins, viola; Megan Sesma, harp; David West, percussion


c. 16 min


November 10, 2007
Melissa Fogarty, soprano
Ingrid Gordon, percussion
Langston Hughes Library, Corona, NY


Commissioned by Percussia


soprano, viola, harp, percussion (vibraphone, snare, 3 toms, woodblocks, triangle, sm. splash cymbal)




1. I have not loved you
2. Cliffs and Coves
3. And the hills
4. I'm being silly
5. I reach into a tidal pool
6. Down Pescadero Beach

Program Notes

The texts for this six-movement piece use sections from the poem sequence Starfish at Pescadero by San Francisco-based poet Idris Anderson, who I met while in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 2007. The poem, on the surface, is a trip to the beach — little vignettes of a couple enjoying the day together. Underneath, it’s about the inexplicable sadness that can accompany even the happiest of times, and an inability to communicate our feeling to one another, particularly to those we love most. This is encapsulated best in the opening and closing lines: “I have not loved you in all seasons, / only this one…” and “When I turn to look at you, it [the lighthouse at Pescadero Beach] is coldly / measuring the distances / between us.” Which is not to say that the couple isn’t in love or that they’re irreconcilably distant, but that love changes and evolves, that time will shape and cause us to rediscover our love, and that no matter how close we are to someone else, there will always something that separates us.

–Dennis Tobenski