Out of Darkness into Light William Neil (b. 1954)
Out of Darkness into Light is a unique collaboration that began on a cold New Year’s Day in 2013, when I witnessed some of the most remarkable restoration work in the St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Chicago by Malgosia Sawczuk of the Art Objects Conservation Lab. The restoration of artwork requires a patient, skillful hand and an open mind, allowing the vision of the original artist to occupy the conservator’s imagination. Indeed, the faith of renewal is the theme of this composition. Out of Darkness into Light is really a mystery play interpreting, through composed and improvisational music, the beautiful prayer-like text that Malgosia Sawczuk created reflecting on her struggle to complete the magnificent restoration work in the church while nurturing her yet unborn child. Despite risk during gestation, Malgosia’s son was born healthy and so her life has been renewed, as is this composition with the commission of this arrangement by Duo Sureño. I want to acknowledge the artistry of Tom Gullion and Josefien Stoppelenburg, whose inspired solos I transcribed in my arrangement, and to honor the new interpreters of this music and their contribution to the spirit of renewal. – William Neil
Open the River Andrew York (b. 1958)
Open the River employs funky groove-based phrases with an expanded tonal language. The poem that constitutes the text is realized twice. The first time, the vocal line is intertwined with the guitar and violin, each having very equal roles. In the second voicing of the poem, the guitar and violin unfold a spatial bed that slowly rises in pitch and intensity as the vocalist speaks the poem, the words carefully aligned with specific harmonic changes within the harmonic landscape.
The text comes from the poem “To The Hand” by W. S. Merwin. The transcendental and archetypal imagery in this poem are a challenging but profoundly rich underpinning for the piece. – Andrew York
A Song of Unending Sorrow Jing Jing Luo (b. 1952)
A Song of Unending Sorrow is a three movement setting for soprano and guitar of a poem by the Tang Dynasty poet Ba Juyi (772–846 AD), translated in Witter Bynner’s The Jade Mountain (Vintage Books, 1972). The poem recounts the story of the Tang Emperor’s love for one extraordinarily beautiful concubine. Due to the Emperor’s utter neglect of the affairs of state and his total preoccupation with his love, the Tang army killed the concubine. Life went on for the Emperor, but he struggled to get over the loss of his beloved. Shortly after the concubine’s murder, the Emperor died of a broken heart. – Jing Jing Luo
Three Cabaret Songs
William Bolcom (b. 1938) - ARR. MICHAEL LORIMER (b. 1946)
National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize, and GRAMMY Award winner William Bolcom is an American composer of chamber, operatic, vocal, choral, cabaret, ragtime, and symphonic music. As a pianist, Bolcom has performed and recorded his own work frequently in collaboration with his wife and musical partner, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris. Cabaret songs, show tunes, and American popular songs of the 20th century have been their primary specialties in both concerts and recordings. “Waitin,” “Song of Black Max,” and “Amor” are some of his most beloved songs, chosen from the four-volume series of Cabaret Songs, a collaboration with the poet Arnold Weinstein (1927–2005). These memorable texts have been arranged for the first time for soprano and guitar by the American guitarist and scholar Michael Lorimer.
Waking the Sparrows: Five Haiku Songs David Kechley (b. 1947)
Waking the Sparrows, written in 2013 for Duo Sureño, is virtuosic, lyrical, and dramatic in its exploration of the timbral possibilities of the two instruments.
I love haiku for its immediate and intense natural imagery, its simplicity, and the way every syllable counts. Most, if not all, poems refer to a season and express a sense of time as well as place.
I used a number of haiku in my previous work The Skylark Sings (1995), in which seasonal references made for a narrative that flowed from birth to death. Selection of the poems for this work was much less intentional, although more optimistic. These poems include only one fall reference and the only winter reference is the sparrows themselves. Images of spring, including spring rain in the final poem, are much more numerous.
In another break from the previous work, in which the text consisted entirely of English translations, I chose the original Japanese this time. “The Ancient Pond” and “Spring Rain” use exclusively Japanese words, while the others start in Japanese and then mix in some English.
Although there is no attempt to imitate bird calls in the vocal lines, the soprano plays a number of small percussion instruments to evoke these sounds. In “Sparrows and a Nightingale,” the Japanese word “uguisu” may seem like a bird call, but the aggressive guitar rhythms more directly imitate the nightingale.
A pheasant devouring a snake is the most dramatic image here set to music—and both animals are spring references.
The only fall reference is a woodpecker in search of dead trees—yet, in its quest, the woodpecker flies among cherry blossoms (a symbol of spring).
The final song, “Spring Rain,” refers to no animals at all, but to a spectacular and calm mountain scene. Translations are by Asatarō Miyamori in An Anthology of Haiku, Ancient and Modern (Maruzen, 1932). – David Kechley
Out of Darkness into Light
Text: Malgosia Sawczuk
Mother, Mother, can you hear me when at lonely nights I touch an unending silence of emptiness?
My thoughts like rough waves embrace you. Mother, can you see my suffering?
Mother, can you see my suffering, suffering older than the first sin
when my dreams darken over me?
My thoughts, violent in their hunger,
yet, trembling in anticipation of your first look.
Mother, Mother, don’t cry for me.
Protect me in my blackness of complete despair.
My thoughts like rough waves embrace you,
my thoughts violent in their hunger,
my thoughts swollen with desire, desire, desire, desire.
When love suppresses dreams and raffles blood. When love raffles blood...
Ev’ry moment of silence is death to the one who loves.
Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother,
give me the quiet music of your love,
the quiet music of your love, of your love.
Give me a patient mouth.
Childish astonishment of your being, of your being. Ah...
I fall asleep. I wake up.
I pass the time. I pass the silence.
Your light fills the space of a broken world. The world is filled with your light.
Mother, open up your eyes.
I AM ALIVE.
I am alive, I am alive. You are alive. I feel your presence in the darkness. I hear your voice.
I HEAR YOUR VOICE.
Open the River
Text: W. S. Merwin
What the eye sees is a dream of sight
what it wakes to
is a dream of sight
and in the dream
for every real lock
there is only one real key
and it’s in some other dream
it’s the key to the one real door
it opens the water and the sky both at once
it’s already in the downward river
with my hand on it
my real hand
and I am saying to the hand
open the river
“To The Hand” by W.S. Merwin, collected in “Writings to an Unfinished Accompaniment”.
Copyright © 1973 W.S. Merwin, used by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC.
A Song of Unending Sorrow
Text: Ba Juyi (772–846 AD)
Act 1 opens with an announcement: “Chang hwen guh” (a song of unending sorrow).
Later, the word “shung” (birth) is repeated.
Act 2 begins and ends with “shung.” It includes “hwan guh” (dragging song), “man uw” (slow song), “ning suh ju” (staring at bamboo trees), “jin jihr” (today), “jwin wong” (Emperor), and “kan bu tzu” (can’t get enough of her, even by staring at her all the time).
In Act 3, the two Chinese words are “suh” (death) and “shung” (birth).
Three Cabaret Songs
Text: Arnold Weinstein
I’ve been waitin
Waitin waitin all my life.
That light keeps on hiding from me,
But it someday just might bless my sight.
Waitin waitin waitin
SONG OF BLACK MAX
(As Told by the de Kooning Boys)
Text: Arnold Weinstein
He was always dressed in black
Long black jacket, broad black hat
Sometimes a cape
And as thin, and as thin as rubber tape:
He would raise that big black hat
To the big shots of the town
Who raised their hats right back
Never knew they were bowing to
I’m talking about night in Rotterdam
When the right night people of all the town
Would find what they could
In the night neighborhood of
There were women in the windows
With bodies for sale
Dressed in curls like little girls
In little dollhouse jails
When the women walked the street
With the beds upon their backs
Who was lifting up his brim to them?
And there were looks for sale
The art of the smile --
(Only certain people walked that mystery mile:
Artists, charlatans, vaudevillians
Men of mathematics, acrobatics and civilians)
There was knitting-needle music
From a lady organ-grinder
With all her sons behind her
Marco, Vito, Benno
(Was he strong! Though he walked like a woman)
And Carlo, who was five
He must be still alive!
Ah, poor Marco had the syph, and if
You didn’t take the terrible cure those days
You went crazy and died and he did
And at the coffin
Before they closed the lid
Who raised his lid?
I was climbing on the train
One day going far away
To the good old U.S.A
When I heard some music
Underneath the tracks
Standing there beneath the bridge
Long black jacket, broad black hat
Playing the harmonica, one hand free
To lift that hat to me:
Text: Arnold Weinstein
It wasn’t the policeman’s fault
in all the traffic roar
Instead of shouting halt when he saw me
he shouted Amor.
Even the ice-cream man
(free ice-creams by the score)
Instead of shouting Butter Pecan one look at me
he shouted Amor.
All over town it went that way
Ev’rybody took off the day
Even philosophers understood
How good was the good ‘cuz I looked so good!
The poor stopped taking less
The rich stopped needing more.
Instead of shouting no and yes
Both looking at me shouted Amor.
My stay in town was cut short
I was dragged to court.
The judge said I disturbed the peace
And the jury gave him what for!
The judge raised his hand
And instead of Desist and Cease
Judgie came to the stand, took my hand
And whispered Amor.
Night was turning into day
I walked alone away.
Never see that town again.
But as I passed the church house door
Instead of singing Amen
The choir was singing Amor.
Waking the Sparrows:
Five Haiku Songs
The Ancient Pond (Furuike)
Text: Basho (1644–1694)
Mizu no oto
The ancient pond!
A frog plunged—splash!
The ancient pond! A frog plunged—
The sound of the water!
The Pheasant’s Voice (Kiji no Koe)
Hebi kuu to
Kiji no koe
Having heard it devours the snake,
How horrid sounds the pheasant’s voice!
Sparrows and a Nightingale
(Suzume to Uguisu)
Text: Torin (1649–1719)
Koe ni oki-yuku
Hearing a nightingale’s sweet songs,
The sparrows woke and flew away.
The Woodpecker (Kitsutsuki)
Text: Joso (1662–1704)
Kareki sagasu ya
Hana no naka
The woodpecker looks for dead trees
Among the cherry trees in bloom
Spring Rain (Kozan ni Fushite)
Text: Ensui (1639–1704)
Yama yori izuru
Kumo no mon
Spring rain falling, a gate of clouds
Has emerged from the mountain
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