Death Speaks draws its initial inspiration from the work of Schubert -- specifically the song "Death and the Maiden."
As Lang describes it, "I went alphabetically in the German through every single Schubert song text (thank you, internet!) and compiled every instance of when the dead sent a message to the living. All told, I used excerpts from 32 songs, translating them very roughly and trimming them."
As a companion to the five-part "death speaks," Lang also composed "depart," the second piece on the CD. Featuring four solo vocalists with Maya Beiser on multi-tracked cellos, the music offers a life-affirming meditative ambience intended to help family members deal with the death of a loved one. The piece currently plays as part of a permanent installation at a hospital morgue just outside of Paris. For more about the making of "depart," listen to this fascinating Radiolab podcast, with excerpts from an interview with David Lang.