Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music (Volume 1)
Composer/Producer/Executive Producer. 2013.
In 2006, I hatched the idea of celebrating one of my literary heroes in my own language of appreciation: music. I contributed an album of choral music and folk-art songs (listed below) and invited my collaborator, Grammy-nominee Eric Bibb, to contribute an album as well. You can read more about it and purchase recordings and scores here. (All texts by Wendell Berry.)
- “The Clearing Rests”—unaccompanied SATB, 4′
- “And When We Speak Together, Love”—unaccompanied SATB, 6′
- “For the Future”—SATB, cello, fiddle, 3′
- “A Gracious Sabbath Stood Here”—SATB + optional string quartet (added 2016), 4′
- “Stay Home”—baritone, piano, violin, cello, 3′
- “Prayer After Eating”—unaccompanied SATB, 2′
- “The Little Stream Sings”—unaccompanied SATB, 5′
- “I Love the Passing Light”—baritone, piano, violin, cello, 4′
- “Whatever is Foreseen in Joy”—unaccompanied SATB, 3′
- “The Seed is in the Ground”—unaccompanied SATB, 5′
Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music (Volume 2)
Composer/Producer/Executive Producer. 2016.
After premiering music from Volume 1 with Voces Novae in Lexington, KY, I didn’t intend to return quickly to Berry’s work for musical purposes. But his words kept working in my imagination, and so I added a lighter-weight sequel to the project in 2016. Recording and scores here. Although I included a few selections from Volume 1 on the Volume 2 album, the new works included:
- “Not Again in This Flesh”—baritone & string quartet, 6′
- “To Sit and Look at Light-filled Leaves”—unaccompanied SATB, 4′
- “One Household, High and Low”—unaccompanied SATB in the Sacred Harp tradition, 2′
- “Here Where the World is Being Made”—unaccompanied SATB & soprano and alto soloists, 6′
- “I Think of Gloucester, Blind”—bass voice, BB choir, cello, 3′
- “The Necessity of Faith”—baritone & string quartet, 3′
With a terrific creative team, my brother Stuart Maxfield and I created a genre-bending stage adaptation of Ambrose Bierce’s short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” The narrative was relayed through contemporary dance, video projections, and scenic design, though there was no character dialogue. The score combine pre-recorded and live electronica with live singing (by Stuart) and performances by an extended jazz orchestra. I contributed a song called “Saffron” as well as lyrics for the show. 49′
NOTE: A substantially developed version of The Bridge will be produced by SALT Contemporary Dance in November 2017. The show will be about 60 minutes in duration, and I’m contributing orchestrations as well as additional lyrics and new music.
- “Honey, Sweetie”
- “Two Heartbeats”
- “And This Time, Use Soap”
SATB with piano. Approximately 9′
Frank A. Heller, III asked me to write a piece for Voces Novae, not long after he and they so beautifully premiered music from my project entitled Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music. He explained that the topic of the concert would be birth—not just the birth of Jesus, which is honored so often in choral music, but also the mundane yet miraculous idea of human birth.
The topic was timely because my wife Liz and I were expecting our second child, a handsome boy we named Simon, who was born in May 2014. As I pondered the assignment, what emerged in my mind was, surprisingly to me, not a celebration of the miraculous (though, believe me, birth is a miracle), but a celebration of the ridiculous.
Anyone who has little kids or grandkids knows that moments of wonder—watching them giggle and grin and coo and such—are accompanied, sometimes disproportionately, by moments of “what on earth!?” I’m thinking of my toddler, Eliot, filthy after a day of playing the garden, who announces to us that he is an airplane, as he zooms like a “caffeinated squirrel” (my friend’s description) around what’s left of our house. Or when he shouted “stop singing!” at the top of his lungs during a congregational hymn at church. These are the moments I think of now when I think of birth: the silly, the fun, the messy, the exasperating, the kind of moments that simultaneously make me happy to be a dad and eager to find a quiet bomb shelter.
Insider hint: Many of the lines in the texts are excerpted from real conversations, but I won’t tell you whether they were spoken by my wife and me about our sons or by my parents about a certain “caffeinated squirrel” of their own 30+ years ago. Okay, maybe a little of both.
British Brass Band, SATB Choir, SATB Octet. 4′
This was a commissioned recomposition/arrangement by Salt Lake Choral Artists (Dr. Brady R. Allred, conductor) and Utah Premiere Brass (Dr. Kirt Saville, conductor). Premiered at Libby Gardner Hall, University of Utah, December 2010.
Piano & Flute Pieces
- Menuet—solo piano
- Invention—solo piano
- Fugue—solo piano
- Wiltz—solo piano
- E Sempre Corsu—flute & piano
What to say about these? No idea.
- “Lock and Key” music video for Fictionist. Writer/Director.
- Pip the Parakeet (forthcoming children’s book). Author.