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Nico Muhly

Publisher: Chester Music

The Place of Understanding (2006)
Commissioned by the Hanson Institute for American Music of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester
Work Notes
For Christian Lane
Publisher
St. Rose Music Publishing
Category
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
2006
Duration
13 Minutes
Soloist
Tenor
Orchestration
Availability


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Programme Note
Nico Muhly The Place of Understanding (2006)
TEXTS

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.

Christina Rossetti


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


COMPOSER’S NOTE

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.

Nico Muhly


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