music inspired by 2 poems against war

Year: 2022

Instrumentation: solo cello

Duration: 7 minutes

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Program Notes

This music was composed for cellist Christina Gullans. The poems, both taken from Sam Hamill’s anthology Poets Against the War, are intended to be read prior to playing each movement. An addition to my Music for Peace Project. Prospects for peace always seem dim, but I keep trying.

The Permanent Fragility of Meaning (Elizabeth Austen)

Why persist scratching across the white field,
row after row? Why repeat the ritual
every morning, emptying my hands,
asking for a new prayer to fold
and unfold?

Nothing changes, no one is saved.

I walk into the day, hands still
empty, and beg
to be of use to someone. I lie down
in the dark and beg to believe
when the voice comes again with its commands,
with its promises—
and unfold your hands. Revelation
is not a fruit you pluck from trees. This is the work,
cultivating the smallest shoot, readying your tongue
to shape the sacred names, your mouth already filling—

I lie down in the dark.

I rise up and begin again.

swarming (Allison Hedge Coke)

swarming upward
hosts thicken air as hornets
with whirling winds
their weapons wielded wildly

back home blackbirds whirl
in skies greyed
from icy winter chill, frost,
a single sparrow cowers against
bush base huddling

wind bristles with his war
skies hustle
fields, valleys, meadows moan
mountains reel
all creatures
cater to whims of man
in chaotic frenzy for battle
when peace is ever present
in just one thoughtful breath

breath, breathe deep

Recording by cellist Christina Gullans

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