We Two




Cantus, 2008

The Male Choir Commissioning Consortium (2007)

Erick Lichte, the director of Cantus, writes: "Founded in 2005, the mission of MC3 is to give male voice choirs the chance to commission works of the highest order by the world’s most influential composers through a yearly financial contribution that is within the reach of all singing organizations. The consortium seeks to increase audience interest in male choir repertoire by the creation of new, engaging and influential works and to increase fellowship between singers by providing a shared repertoire experience. Most importantly, the association desires to create beautiful works of music that will enrich the lives of singers, conductors, and audiences throughout the world.
The participating groups of the 2007 Male Commissioning Consortium include:
Cantus (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Amabile Boys Choirs (London, Ontario, Canada), Male Ensemble Northwest (MEN), Turtle Creek Chorale (Dallas, Texas), Chor Leoni Men’s Choir (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), The United States Army Chorus (Fort Myer, Virginia), Golden Gate Men’s Chorus (San Francisco, California), Bowling Green State University Men’s Chorus (Bowling Green, Ohio), Washington Men’s Camerata (Washington, D.C.), University of Virginia Glee Club (Charlottesville, Virginia), Miami University of Ohio Men’s Glee Club (Oxford, Ohio), and the Intercollegiate Men’s Choruses."

Cantus on "While You Are Alive" (2008)

We Two, ECS #6900, (TTBB soli & TTBB chorus)
No. 4 "Not Heat Flames Up and Consumes" (sold separately) , ECS #7407

Program Notes

1. Earth, my likeness
2. Stranger
3. Here the frailest leaves of me
4. Not heat flames up and consumes
5. We Two

I was extremely pleased when Erick Lichte of Cantus contacted me to compose a set of pieces commissioned by a consortium of men’s choirs.  Consortium commissioning is always a win-win proposition, since multiple groups can afford to commission larger works, and the composer may look forward to multiple performances of a new piece.   In this case, I was delighted by the many fine participating men’s choirs, ample evidence that the long and distinguished tradition of male choral singing is alive and well today.

I was even more delighted when Erick Lichte sent me his suggested texts for the work: poems and excerpted lines from the great American poet, Walt Whitman.  I assembled these texts into a kind of love story: first glances, first encounter, doubt, assurance and joy. Whitman is a complex poet, and no less complex an individual.  Whether one reads these poems as expressions of romantic or platonic love is open to interpretation.  Whitman, the rugged individualist, wrote in 1855, “one’s self I sing, a simple, separate person,” and by 1860 he announced to the world:

I will therefore let flame from me the burning fires that were threatening to consume me,
I will lift what has too long kept down those smouldering fires,
I will give them complete abandonment,
I will write the evangel-poem of comrades and of love.

One of the parameters of the commission was that the movements be extractable.  While it is preferable that the set be done as a whole, I have indicated in the score how part 2 may be extracted (or done with the prelude music of part 1).  There are similar notes for part 3 .  Parts 4 and 5 may easily be done separately. Part 4, “Not heat flames up and consumes” is published separately.

For a discussion of We Two, see
Hunn, Amy Stuart. “That Music Always Around Me.” DMA dissertation. University of Southern California, 2012


“We two”

Earth, my likeness,
Though you look so impassive, ample and spheric there,
I now suspect that is not all;
I now suspect there is something fierce in you eligible to burst forth,
For an athlete is enamour’d of me, and I of him,
But toward him there is something fierce and terrible in me eligible to burst forth,
I dare not tell it in words, not even in these songs.

(“Earth, my likeness”)

STRANGER, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why
should you not speak to me?

 (from “ToYou”)

I am he that aches with amorous love.

(from “I am he that aches with amorous love”)

As Adam early in the morning,
Walking forth from the bower refresh’d with sleep,
Behold me where I pass, hear my voice, approach,
Touch me, touch the palm of your hand to my body as I pass,
Be not afraid of my body.                   

(“As Adam early in the morning”)

Here the frailest leaves of me, and yet my strongest-lasting:
Here I shade and hide my thoughts—I myself do not expose them,
And yet they expose me more than all my other poems.

(“Here the Frailest Leaves of Me”)

NOT heat flames up and consumes,
Not sea-waves hurry in and out,
Not the air, delicious and dry, the air of the ripe summer, bears lightly along white down-balls of myriads of seeds,
Wafted, sailing gracefully, to drop where they may;
Not these—O none of these, more than the flames of me,consuming, burning for his love whom I love!
O none, more than I, hurrying in and out:
—Does the tide hurry, seeking something, and never give up? O I the same;
O nor down-balls, nor perfumes, nor the high, rain-emitting clouds, are borne through the open air,
Any more than my Soul is borne through the open air,
Wafted in all directions, O love, for friendship, for you.

(“Not Heat Flames up and Consumes”)

We two, how long we were fool’d,
Now transmuted, we swiftly escape as Nature escapes,
We are Nature, long have we been absent, but now we return,
We become plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark,
We are bedded in the ground, we are rocks,
We are oaks, we grow in the openings side by side,
We browse, we are two among the wild herds spontaneous as any,
We are two fishes swimming in the sea together,
We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent around lanes mornings and evenings,
We are also the coarse smut of beasts, vegetables, minerals,
We are two predatory hawks, we soar above and look down,
We are two resplendent suns, we it is who balance ourselves orbit and stellar, we are as two comets,
We prowl fang’d and four-footed in the woods, we spring on prey,
We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons driving overhead,
We are seas mingling, we are two of those cheerful waves rolling over each other and interwetting each other,
We are what the atmosphere is, transparent, receptive, pervious, impervious,
We are snow, rain, cold, darkness, we are each product and influence of the globe,
We have circled and circled till we have arrived home again, we two,
We have voided all but freedom and all but our own joy.

(We two, how long we were fool’d)

–Walt Whitman (1819-1892)