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Decomposition (2023)

for solo soprano, 2 violins | 00:04:00

by Melissa Dunphy | text by Melissa Dunphy

Commissioned by Glass Clouds Ensemble for the Yellow Barn Residency.

Composer's Notes

"When I was a teenager, my dream was to become a forensic pathologist—I even enrolled in medical school for a short time straight out of high school. While that career never came to pass, I have retained a lifelong interest in forensic pathology, so when approached by Glass Clouds to write a work on the theme of biodegradation, in partnership with the environmental organization Earth Matter, I drew text from a famous dictum of decomposition used in forensic science. (The obvious pun about a composition related to decomposition does not escape me; I know all the words to Monty Python's song "Decomposing Composers!") Earth Matter's mission includes the words "There is one soil, one air, and one water, all commonly held and stewarded by one people," and the references to earth, air, and water in both Casper's Law and this mission is emphasized with music that potrays the elements."

By Melissa Dunphy

Casper's Law states
that if all other factors are equal,
a body with free access to air
will decompose twice as fast
than if immersed in water.
A body immersed in water
will decompose four times faster
than if laid in earth.

Cold temperatures
decrease decomposition.
Warm temperatures
increase decomposition.

We become earth,
We become water,
We become air.

Artwork by Melissa Dunphy.


  • 03 Jun, 2023: Glass Clouds Ensemble at Earth Matter NY, New York, NY
  • 06 Apr, 2023: Glass Clouds Ensemble at Tenri Cultural Institute, New York, NY