Silvestri’s poem Sleep is, in effect, a parody text created for the unusual reason of legal necessity (parody in the sense of applying new words to pre-existing music). Whitacre set Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ in 2000, as a commission from a Texan lawyer/soprano in memory of her parents. He subsequently discovered, to his dismay, that the Robert Frost Estate forbade the poem’s setting to music (although twenty other settings apparently already existed). Forced with the prospect of denying publication of this work until the poem came out of copyright in 2038, Whitacre asked Silvestri to write an alternative text; the structure needed to be maintained, and certain words from the Frost poem, such as the recurring ‘sleep’, needed to be incorporated. It was an elegant solution to a problem that Whitacre evidently and understandably found exasperating (he freely admits culpability for not securing permission to set the text in advance; but it is another case of the law’s potential to obstruct Art’s true path …).
from notes by Meurig Bowen © 2006