The Music of Elizabeth Alexander


A dramatic soundscape of jumping, falling, and flying

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Ray Bradbury

“Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off.  Build your wings on the way down.”  Ray Bradbury’s pithy and audacious advice creates the backdrop for this sonic experience of jumping, falling, and flying.  This unique piece gives Bradbury’s text to the narrator only, while the chorus parts are built entirely from the phonetic sounds of the word, “jump.”  An unforgettable depiction of one wild leap of faith!  “J……juh……uh……um……p!”

Jump may be performed with either string quartet or piano accompaniment. If performing this song with piano, conductor may simply conduct from the choral score (SEA-090-04).

A special note for the string players: Here’s a great YouTube video in which cellist Jeremy Harman demonstrates how to play “chop bows”!

Details and Ordering Information

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

The musical parameters given to me by Northfield Youth Chorus were few and open-ended, exactly the kind of commission which offers a composer both structure and freedom: a treble choir, a handful of auxiliary instruments, and the following theme: “To remember and renew.”

I’d been musing about the theme for several weeks before my imagination took off, and when it finally did so, it was on an airplane trip! “What comes between remembrance and renewal?” I was wondering. As I looked down at the clouds from my seat on the plane, I remembered Ray Bradbury’s pithy quote about taking risks: “Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.” Of course, I thought. Leaps of courage! Blind faith! Guts!

In the end, I surprised myself (and the choir!) by not setting Bradbury’s entire quote to music. In fact, the choir only sings the single word, “jump.” Within this tiny word lies a plethora of phonetic possibilities: “j,” “uh,” “um,” and of course, the final “p.” Using only these vocal building blocks, I created a sonic landscape tracing Bradbury’s journey from solid ground to thin air, as the chorus considers, hesitates, jumps, falls — and finally flies. Yee-haw!


Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.

Ray Bradbury
© 1995 by Ray Bradbury



Premiere: Northfield Youth Choirs / Elizabeth Shepley. Northfield Arts Guild Beaux Arts Ball (Northfield, MN)
ANIMA Young Singers of Greater Chicago / Emily Ellsworth (Elmhurst, IL)
Ballet Lubbock and West Texas Children’s Chorus. (Lubbock, TX)
Northfield Youth Choirs / Elizabeth Shepley (Northfield, MN)
Women’s Voices Chorus / Allan Friedman (Durham and Chapel Hill, NC)