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Peter Lieberson

Publisher: AMP

The Coming of Light (for Baritone and piano) (2009)
Commissioned in honor of the 2009 centennial of the dedication of Unity Temple, Frank Lloyd Wright's modern masterpiece, by Unity Temple Restoration Foundation and The Chicago Chamber Musicians together with Winsor Music, Inc.
Text Writer
John Ashbery, William Shakespeare, Mark Strand
Publisher
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Category
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
2009
Duration
20 Minutes
Language
English
Soloist
Baritone
Orchestration
Availability
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Programme Note
Peter Lieberson The Coming of Light (for Baritone and piano) (2009)
Related works:
   The Coming of Light (for Baritone and ensemble)
   The Coming of Light (for Baritone and piano)

Premiere:
September 26, 27 2009
John Michael Moore, baritone
Chicago Chamber Musicians
Unity Temple
Chicago, IL

Movements:
I. Rain Moving In (John Ashbery)
II. Forgiveness (John Ashbery)
III. When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes (Shakespeare)
IV. O, never say that I was false of heart (Shakespeare)
V. The Coming of Light (Mark Strand)
VI. Poem After the Last Seven Words (Mark Strand)


Excerpted from an interview with Peter Lieberson

I didn’t think it would be very easy to write a piece that would specifically commemorate Frank Lloyd Wright or his work, so from a more general, evocative view, I took inspiration from two themes that most of us understand very easily: impermanence and love. We create structures all the time to shield ourselves from impermanence–not only for shelter and comfort but also as edifices built to celebrate our stay here on earth. Architecture by its very nature is constructed out of materials that are impermanent. We make structures that we think are beautiful and interiors that are inviting, and the very fact that these edifices may point to something noble expresses a kind of sacredness about what we as human beings do. That we do these things at all is itself an opportunity to reflect on their impermanent nature, to appreciate how fleeting and precious all of life really is. And love of course is love. It’s simple to understand and be touched by the impermanence of all of that we love. So from that perspective and from my own personal experience of having been ill over the last three years, I thought about how life provides many opportunities—love returns, one’s life changes… sometimes in positive ways, sometimes negative.

As I read about Frank Lloyd Wright a little bit and saw interviews with him he began to strike me as a dignified and thoughtful person. I don’t know if he was an easy person to get along with but he seemed to manifest a strong presence and he clearly took care not only with the environment around the buildings that he created but also with the interiors as well. He thought a lot about what it would be like to live within the structures that he built and even designed furniture that would be most suitable for them. This tending to all kinds of details struck me as a gift of love, if you like. Once that became clear, poems about these issues of home, impermanence, and love began to suggest themselves.

I chose two poems by John Ashbery, one of which is about home, the other about the value of human relationships and forgiveness. Then I set two sonnets of Shakespeare that are about the transformation of difficult emotions into positive ones based on love. And then the last two poems are by Mark Strand, one of which is called The Coming of Light. There are two lines in this poem that mean a lot to me: Even this late it happens, the coming of light, the coming of love. I thought that was a wonderful kind of motto or emblem for how human life really can be.

The last lines of the last poem in this cycle (Poem After the Last Seven Words) beautifully indicates how mysterious life is, and that perhaps it is our ability to dedicate ourselves to this wonderment that makes us human:

“And beyond, as always, the sea of endless transparence. Of utmost
Calm, a place of constant beginning that has within it
What no eye has ever seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched,
What has not arisen in the human heart.
To that place, to the keeper of that place, I commit myself.”

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