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.

Ah...

 

 

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

now invisible

 

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

turn

 

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

 

WAITIN

Text: Arnold Weinstein

 

Waitin waitin

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:

Black Max

 

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

Black Max

 

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

Black Max

 

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?

Black Max!

 

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?

Black Max!

 

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:

Black Max

Black Max

Black Max

 

AMOR

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)

 

Furuike ya

Kawazu tobikomu

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)

Text: Basho

 

Hebi kuu to

Kikeba osoroshi

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)

 

Uguisu no

Koe ni oki-yuku

Suzume kana

 

Hearing a nightingale’s sweet songs,

The sparrows woke and flew away.

 

The Woodpecker (Kitsutsuki)

Text: Joso (1662–1704)

 

Kitsutsuki no

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)

 

Harusame ya

Yama yori izuru

Kumo no mon

 

Spring rain falling, a gate of clouds

Has emerged from the mountain

 

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