Robert Oppenheimer's Batter My Heart

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Batter My Heart focuses on the duality between the vocalist and the orchestra. The orchestra emphasizes the vocalist’s emotions, and the vocalist expresses his feelings through his vocal delivery and his lyrics. The aria is in a minimalist style, with each section of the orchestra playing a seemingly different part than the others. The parts are strictly metered, with a lot of staccato and swelling of dynamics and volume. These parts generally do not change throughout the section. It has a chaotic yet organized feel, with each part seemingly playing at its own pace, but also remaining connected with each other. It is a strange and frenetic sound that makes one feel stressed and on edge, like the protagonist of the aria. At 0:55, this minimalist swelling stops and the vocalist starts singing in a passionate and guilt-ridden fashion. The vocalist’s character is J. Robert Oppenheimer, who is slowly becoming aware that his work on the atomic bomb will be used negatively. In his delivery and lyrics, he is asking to be destroyed by God so that he can be made anew. It makes sense that Oppenheimer wants this phoenix-like self destruction. The sonnet the lyrics are based on is very puritanical in nature, with an emphasis on original and mortal sin and a desire for forgiveness. Oppenheimer feels that he has sinned and wants repentance for his sins. Throughout this first section of singing, quiet strings accompany the singer and retain a tense air. The…show more content…
In the first verse, he repeats “knock, breathe” (at 1:12) as well as “break, blow” (at 1:56). In the second verse (which starts at 2:46), he sings the entire first section again with the repeats to emphasize his guilt and desire for forgiveness. The repetition also introduces the rest of the text, which further explains why he feels this guilt and shame. He feels joined to God's enemy and is wishing for separation from God's

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