List of Works || Prisoner of Conscience

Prisoner of Conscience (1985)


Duration: 4 minutes 30 seconds

First Performance: 12 April 1987, Toronto; Opera in Concert Chorus, Robert Cooper

Though much of Weinzweig’s oeuvre demonstrates his humour and wit, many works turn their attention to social issues. In Prisoner of Conscience (which, along with six other works, marked a return to choral writing following a thirty-year break), Weinzweig depicts an imprisoned individual, one like the many around the world whose human rights Amnesty International aims to protect. Weinzweig explains that the work is “dedicated to Amnesty International which alerts the world to those citizens in many countries who have been taken away in the night and held incommunicado in solitary confinement without charge or trial.”

Prisoner of Conscience centres on a single ten-part cluster chord, presented in its totality, or at times built up by adding pitches gradually. The power of the text, which declares “there is no way out,” is emphasised with dramatic dynamic changes. The choir and audience are held captive by this single unbending chord, until a final octave unison breaks the dissonance.

Written by Alexa Woloshyn