I had the lovely surprise this weekend of discovering that the UNL Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Therees Hibbard were performing an older work of mine on a concert. As always, they sang with beautiful expressive intent. Thanks for creating such a beautiful moment for me today. I have never heard the work in a concert before despite the fact that it’s been performed quite often.
This piece was written when I was emerging from a period of about 10 years when I wrote almost exclusively atonal music. I was beginning to explore some new things and set out to write a completely diatonic piece that I could still find interesting. My friend Robert Platte had introduced me to an ambient musician named Jeff Johnson in high school. He had a song with a text by Michelangelo, and I thought it would be perfect. I set about trying to find out if the translation was in the public domain. I was unsuccessful, so I got in touch with Jeff Johnson. I said, “Hey, where did you get that text? Is it in the public domain?” He said something like, “Funny you should ask. We never found the source of the translation when we did the album. I’m sure it’s public domain. I actually took it from a poster that used to hang in my room.” Said text is below the video.
Mine eyes which are enamored of things fair
And this my soul which for salvation cries
May never heavenward rise
Unless the sight of beauty lifts them there.
Down from the loftiest star
A splendor falls to the earth
And draws desire from afar
To that which gave it birth
So love, and heavenly fire, and counsel wise.
The noble heart finds most in star-like eyes.