This piece was written for and commissioned by Jarring Sounds (Danielle Sampson + Adam Cockerham) for their June 2016 “Elegy” themed concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area. The text is adapted from a portion of the Latin inscription above the tomb of Henry Purcell.
Applaud so great a guest, Celestial powers. Who now resides with you, but once was ours. Dy’d! No, he lives while yonder organ sounds and sacred echoes to the choir rebound.
In the Fall of 2015 I wrote a solo piano piece for Sarah Cahill titled “track”. That work was inspired by this quote often credited to Henry David Thoreau: “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
When granted the opportunity to write a work for Adam Cockerham this text still lingered in my mind. I have since discovered that my book had misattributed the text to Thoreau when in fact it was written by Wilfred Arlan Peterson who was rehashing a concept he claims to have gotten from Thoreau’s “Walden”. While this new theorbo work shares some features of the piano piece written for Sarah Cahill, it may be more appropriate to do my own paraphrase of Luciano Berio. “The completed work is the ritual and commentary of other works preceding it, of more works that will follow. The question does not provoke a response but rather commentary and new questions”.
Susan Ann and Immortality
Her head hung down
Gazed at earth, finally keen,
As the rabbit at the stoat,
Till the earth was sky,
Sky that was green,
And brown clouds passed
Like chestnut leaves along the ground.
As a Fowl
As a fowl in the tall grass lies
Beneath the terror of the hawk,
The tressed white light crept
Whispering with hand on mouth mysterious
Hunting the leaping shadows in straight streets
By the white house of Flemish towns
LIGHTHEARTED I walked into the valley wood
In the time of hyacinths,
Till beauty like a scented cloth
Cast over, stifled me.
I was bound Motionless and faint of breath
By loveliness that is her own eunuch.
Now pass I the final river
Ignominiously, in a sack, without a sound,
As any peeping Turk to the Bosphorous.
THE MAN IN THE CROW’S NEST
Strange to me the sounds the wind that blows
By the masthead in the lonely night.
Maybe ’tis the sea whistling–feigning joy
To hide its fright
Like a village boy
That, shivering, past the churchyard goes.