Oh why is heaven built so far,
Oh why is earth set so remote?
I cannot reach the nearest star
That hangs afloat.
I would not care to reach the moon,
One round monotonous of change;
Yet even she repeats her tune
Beyond my range.
I never watch the scatter’d fire
Of stars, or sun’s far-trailing train,
But all my heart is one desire,
And all in vain:
For I am bound with fleshly bands,
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope;
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
And catch at hope.
Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?
Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living.
God understandeth the place thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.
For he looketh at the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;
To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.
And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to depart from evil is understanding.
Job 28: 20-28
The Place of Understanding is, at its heart, an organ solo piece with tenor commentary. While the traditional structures of art songs occasionally apply, the piece attempts to feature the organ as an equal partner in treating and bridging the two wildly different texts. While the first part is episodic, romantic, and rushes from one tonal center to the next, the second part (with the words taken from the Book of Job) is stiller, and allows the organist to create a delicate texture on top of which the tenor slowly and deliberately articulates the biblical text.
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