Gazing on thee I feel, I know
Green stalks burst forth, and bright flowers grow,
And living shapes upon my bosom move:
Music is in the sea and air,
Winged clouds soar here and there,
Dark with the rain new buds are dreaming of:
‘Tis love, all love!
Percy Bysshe Shelley (from Prometheus Unbound)
Some years ago, some friends commissioned me to write a setting of this passage of Shelley as a wedding present. It’s a beautiful little passage from the epic “closet drama” where the moon is looking at the Earth. At the time, I was particularly annoyed with the way that so much contemporary choral music was focussed on really thick textures and tone clusters. Now these many years later, my perturbation about that trend has not been assuaged.
Since we only had a vocal quartet for the performance at the wedding, I wanted to take the opportunity to show that beautiful music can be written using just four parts. I really do find it to be a very different approach to the writing process. It’s a much more “horizontal” conception of things. Given that this was a wedding, I naturally went with a pretty conservative harmonic vocabulary.
I had honestly forgotten about this piece because it was just written for the event. Then, the amazing Barbara Lamont picked it up for her choir at Southeast Missouri State. Then I forgot about it again. But…at National ACDA in Cincinnati this year, a few undergrads came up to me at the MusicSpoke booth and said that they were singing it.
I’m filled with gratitude for finally getting decent recording of the piece. I think it’s lovely, simple in the best sense of the word, and direct. The score can be perused and purchased here: https://musicspoke.com/downloads/tis-love/.