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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

Emerson (1995)
Text Writer
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
14 Minutes
SATB (double choir) a cappella
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Programme Note
John Harbison Emerson (1995)

Part One

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say
"I think," "I am," but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the
blade of grass or the blowing rose.

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or
better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no
time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its

Before the leaf bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full,blown
flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is
satisfied and it satisfies nature in all moments alike.

But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but
with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround
him, stands on tip toe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong
until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

Part Two

The world globes itself in a drop of dew. The microscope cannot find
the animalcule which is less perfect for being little. Eyes, ears, taste, smell,
motion, resistance, appetite, and organs of reproduction that take hold on
eternity - all find room to consist in the small creature. So do we put our
life into every act.

If the good is there, so is the evil; if the affinity, so the repulsion; if the
force, so the limitation. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit,
cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists
in the means, the fruit in the seed. Thus is the universe alive.

  • Ensemble
    Cantata Singers
    Beth Pearson (Cello), Deborah Dunham (Double Bass)
    David Hoose
    New World Records:
  • Ensemble
    UW-Madison Concert Choir
    Beverly Taylor
    University of Wisconsin Madison:
  • 04 OCT 2008
    St. Giles Cripplegate, London
    BBC Singers
    Odaline de la Martinez, conductor
  • 06 MAY 2006
    Emerson New York Premiere
    More Modern Gems
    Park Avenue United Methodist Church, New York, NY
    New York Virtuoso Singers
    Harold Rosembaum, conductor

...EMERSON [is] a setting of two prose passages from the great Transcendentalist's writings. Harbison doubles the bass of these dense choral settings with cello and bass. This piece is another good example of musical settings of Transcendentalist prose...Essential repertoire.
Allen Gimbel, American Record Guide,1/1/0001
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