American Songs–
Sacred and Profane

Scoring

1.   A Way of Talking to A Dog You Don’t Know
2.  Blood Love
3.  At Being Buried, My Surprise

Baritone solo, chorus  (in no.3 only) and piano. All three are orchestrated.
2 fls. (2d doubles picc), 2 Obs. (second doubles Eng. Hn.), 2 Cls. (2d doubles Bb bass); 2 Bssn, (2d doubles Ctrbssn.), 2 hns., 2 tpts., tbn., tuba, harp, perc., strings

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Details

30:00
2002

Lehigh University Choral Arts
Steven Sametz, director
Nathaniel Watson, baritone

Lehigh University Choral Arts
Steven Sametz, director
Nathaniel Watson, baritone

ECS piano vocal scores (orchestral accompaniment on rental)
ECS No. 7154-01 No. 1 A Way of Talking to A Dog That You Don't Know
ECS No. 7154-02 No. 2 Blood Love
ECS No. 7154-03 No. 3 At Being Buried, My Surprise
ECS No. 7155 Choral Score for No. 3

Program Notes

1.   A Way of Talking to A Dog You Don’t Know
2.  Blood Love
3.  At Being Buried, My Surprise

The American Songs – Sacred and Profane were written to show a very “American” side of my writing.  There is a Coplandesque harmonic vocabulary used throughout.  The opening song is a depiction of a someone in dialogue with a dog he hears howling across the prairie late at night.  The loneliness in the dog’s baying sparks a conversation where the narrator, exploring his own solitude, comforts the dog, saying,  “easy, Booby-pup … it’s not so bad to spend the night alone.”

The second piece is a bit of Grand Guignol: the tale of a vampire finding his prey.  Small details of the text color the characters: the vampires teeth are not overly long; the “victim” wistfully wonders over coffee the next morning  if he’ll ever see that odd stranger again….

With the last of the set, On Being Buried, My Surprise, we enter the realm of the sacred.   Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, a member of the Benedictine order and author of the first poem as well, paints a picture of saints and martyrs in glory attending the newly departed soul.  A chorus of angels sings “Sanctus” as the soul, in rest, joins the host of saints.

Text

American Songs – Sacred and Profane

1. A Way of Talking to a Dog That You Don’t Know

The desperate dog is baying long,
for his farm is empty of folk tonight.
It’s Saturday [night], and everyone’s gone to town
dancing.

But I hear you, Booby-Pup,
(two fields away and across the road)
and I understand how you feel.
I’m alone tonight too.

Your voice feels good, doesn’t it?
You hear yourself, you say yourself,
you throw yourself way up high in the wind
and you don’t think about it too real directly,
but you kind of wonder, don’t you,
if something out there might not hear you
and come.

Well, I’m coming in my own way.
Oh, I’ll stay here where I am alright,
but I’m extending the human mind to you.
It comes over there right beside you where you’re howling
and it wraps this good intention
around your cocked back throat
and its trajectory of sound:

Easy. Easy Easy.
It’s not so bad to spend a night alone.
You’ve got your health. You’ve got your bones.
You’re strong. You’ll be running free again tomorrow.
Easy, Booby-Pup.
I love you. You’re not alone

Some time passes, and
Now it’s grown quiet again.
Is the dance over so early?
Or maybe the desperate dog felt me come.
Anyway, something through the silence is now reaching me
and saying:

Easy. It’s not so bad to spend a night alone.

—Jeremy Driscoll

2. Blood Love

I wonder have you found
the two red points of red,
remembrance of our night together?

As I fly across the continent’s edge
I curl my tongue around each incisor
(you’d been nice enough to say
what nice teeth I had…).
The sound of your blood
racing fills my ears again.
Your beauty,
the swell of your chest,
the hard, unyielding pressure
of your arms around me,
taking me up,
slamming me back,
harder, harder
stripping me away
to where I recognized
my self.

How could I resist
such an invitation to feed?
You, belly down,
I slowly kiss your feet,
rising along your outer thigh
and spine upwards
to graze your neck.

Never overly endowed,
you scarcely noticed
my gentle intrusion,
a lesser moan
in a night of ecstasy’s cries.

I lay on you in stillness,
drinking, drinking you in
‘til dawn’s light drove me away.

So now you’re having coffee,
talking on the phone to friends;
“Did you get his number… no?”
“But he’ll be back,”
you’re pretty sure.

Be sure,
stay healthy,
my love.
Your siren song
sings in my veins.
Now, you’re in my blood.

–Peter Elliot

3. At Being Buried, My Surprise

When they put me down here
—I knew they had to; I was not angry—
I expected only the dark and the damp cold
and long boring years of hoping for the resurrection.

Imagine my surprise, then, when
not ten minutes after they’d cried their last and gone
I sensed some…
some breathing coming toward me
through the ground.

It was distant, very distant,
but it was growing stronger,
and it was definitely coming my way.
What was it?

As the breathing drew closer,
I slowly discerned that it was
the breathing of a song
and growing closer still, I could say
the song of a throng,
and closer still, at last the words:

“Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,”
they cried,

and I perceived this the song of those who had died
and now praised the Lamb
as Lord of heavenly armies.

This song was coming to stir and roll me over
in my grave….

Then famous people came my way
and other saints from epoches and struggles
I never knew. Wraiths all,
they came round my grave
and breathed their song through my lowly corpse.

Bright light saw I then
and struggled upward in my spirit
to see clear again. I saw:

A soft green mixed with faint rose
in the robes of a tenors’ [choir],
and as their song passed through my being
a kind of recognition quivered
in both them and me:
Lovers of Christ. Brothers of Christ.
Robed in colorly glory.

Blue was there too on many whom I saw,
Blue and every color of … autumn.
Not one there was
unmagnificent
undazzling,
Not one unshining.

All, in fact, was now a shining and a sound
moving through my plot of ground.
And I was being blended with their Light
and so sang with them,

“O Might. Might. Might-y Lord!
How vast, how glad this savéd hoard!
How breathe we twice,
unsnared from vice?
O Might. Might. Might-y Lord!”

Straining further these new senses mine,
I tried to gaze where these veterans stared.
What cared I more that I was dead?
I turned with these toward Christ our Head
and sang with them the gladsome song:

Sanctus. Sanctus. Sanctus.
Dominus Deus Sabbaoth.

O gentle friends among the living still,
you yet but half alive,
pass by this plot with care.
“A graveyard is a spooky spot,” you’ll say;
but the ground a different story would to you now tell.

Destined to be on the Last Day
the place of a most amazed upstanding,
it is already stirring.
It is already moved.
It is already singing.

— Jeremy Driscoll