About the Piece

Instrumentation: String Orchestra
Duration: 11 min

Program Note:
Two years prior to composing the piece, I saw “Death of the Poet Walter Rheiner” by Conrad Felixmüller at the Art Institute of Chicago. The painting was enormous, with a contorted figure suspended in the air, but the colors were what struck me the most. The artist used vibrant and deep blues, purples, reds and greens to portray this night scene. I’ve always connected strongly to colors, so my reaction to the painting was an emotional one.
The figure in the painting, Walter Rheiner, was a poet and close friend of Felixmüller. The painting shows Rheiner’s last moments before his death, which inspired me to compose Death of the Poet in the style of an Elegy.

Conductor’s Perspective

This work is tryly amazing. Reminiscent of Barber’s heartbreaking Adagio for Strings, the climax is unbelievably painful and beautiful. Could be a challenge for younger musicians for its multiple divisi and high-register intonation, but a great piece to work on longer phrasing, sustained string sounds, and ensemble techniques.

About the Composer

TJ Cole (she/her, they/them), originally from the suburbs of Atlanta, began her musical studies at a young age when she started taking piano lessons. Soon after, when she was six, she wrote her first composition, a piano lullaby for her new baby brother. In her early teens, she studied cello for fun by playing with local youth orchestras. When she was 16, she realized that she did not want to pursue a life of performance, but a life dedicated to creation. So she began to focus her pursuits on her passion for composing.

TJ has been commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, Time for Three and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, among others, and served as a composer-in-residence at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in 2014. She received her Bachelor’s degree in composition from the Curtis Institute of Music.

Besides taking commissions, TJ is also interested in artistic community service projects. She collaborated with bassist Ranaan Meyer as an orchestrator on his project, The World We All Deserve Through Music, and with First Person Arts by co-curating and performing in a musical story slam. During a year-long ArtistYear Fellowship, TJ was able to co-run and collaborate in musical performances and songwriting workshops with residents of Project HOME, a Philadelphia based organization fighting to end chronic homelessness.
Other than music, TJ also enjoys drawing, baking, and taking care of the various cats in her life: Xena, Zelda, Simmie, and Bruce.


Performance Materials

Perusal Score (PDF open in a new tab)

Score and Parts available for rental from the composer. Leave a message on the composer’s website, or email her here: tj.terry.cole@gmail.com


Audio Recording on Soundcloud