Wednesday, March 29, 2017

'Bush Chord', new choral work, by Canadian composer, Tobin Stokes, based on poem by Canadian artist, M.L.Holton

Excited to announce the official premiere of the new choral work based on one of my poems, 'Bush Chord', by Canadian composer, Tobin Stokes, commissioned by Vox Humana Chamber Choir, from British Columbia, Canada.

Happening June 2nd, 2017 (Ticket info below.)

What was the inspiration behind "the national anthems?" 

From the program notes, by Vox Humana Chamber Choir's musical director, David Lang: 

"Every country has a history – how it came to be, how its wars were won or lost, how strong its people are, or how proud, or how sad. We group ourselves into nations, but it has never really been clear to me what that means, or what we get out of it. Are we grouped together because we believe something together and are proud of associating with others who believe the same way? 

 Or are we grouped together because our ancestors found themselves pushed onto a piece of land by people who didn’t want them on theirs? It seems that all nations have some bright periods and some dark periods in their past. 

Building a national myth out of our bright memories probably creates a different character than if we build one out of the dark.
 
I had the idea that if I looked carefully at every national anthem I might be able to identify something that everyone in the world could agree on. If I could take just one hopeful sentence from the national anthem of every nation in the world I might be able to make a kind of meta-anthem of the things that we all share. I started combing through the anthems, pulling out from each the sentence that seemed to me the most committed. What I found, to my shock and surprise, was that within almost every anthem is a bloody, war-like, tragic core, in which we cover up our deep fears of losing our freedoms with waves of aggression and bravado.

At first I didn’t know what to do with this text. I didn’t want to make a piece that was aggressive, or angry, or ironic. Instead, I read and re-read the meta-anthem I had made until another thought became clear to me.

Hiding in every national anthem is the recognition that we are insecure about our freedoms, that freedom is fragile, and delicate, and easy to lose. Maybe an anthem is a memory informing a kind of prayer, a heartfelt plea: 'There was a time when we were forced to live in chains. Please don’t make us live in chains again.' " - David Lang.

Am super excited to see what Tobin Stokes will create with my poem - 

BUSH CHORD

pine poplar willow and punk wood
spit and spark
while bone hard elm birch apple and oak
hum harmonious
fine hard woods - good wood to burn
these wonder instruments pressure whistle
chattering, cheering, cackling
crackling within a hesitant cyclone of light
flickering flames
of sublime delight, warming slow, they give us life

parse this minor miracle of mega bio-physics
of holy fire drawn down
from primal sun
through leaves to rugged root shoots far flung
look here now
to this instant, brilliant burn
an intense unrehearsed liquid fire
a sound symphony of sun struck lyres
complete and sacred
a rare but common gift

the honey musk smell of jumbled bush wood
burns deep into primal memory
     (remember those crisp sun-filled fall days
     of cutting, gathering, splitting, stacking,
     carrying, piling, drying, and cursing
     those back breaking loads?)

to get to this
this calm clear moment
listen

listen
to these bush chords
please
Have seen the preliminary score, but cant wait to HEAR it!
If in British Columbia in June, please do drop in for a unique choral experience! 

**Read more MLH poetry on excellent Canpoetry website**
(hosted by University of Toronto.)



p.s. NICE to be included in such august company!  
...  Margaret Atwood opera, another project by Stokes from three years ago  ... :) 


UPDATE. APRIL 4th, 2017: Just received the first draft of the score for this work ... WOW. 
Samples below ... 




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