The Clef of the Universes (2017)
for SATB Chorus and Piano
Text: Walt Whitman
Duration: 5 min
Commission: Fairmont State University
Premiere: Fairmont State University Choirs, Dr. Sam Spears, conductor March 23, 2018, Fairmont, WV
As with much of Whitman’s writing, I was immediately inspired by his poem “On the Beach at Night Alone.” The vivid imagery of the opening stanza drew me into his solitude of being, the sounds of the ocean, the vastness and interconnectedness of all things. Whitman’s universal message that “a vast similitude” connects us all, seems especially important in today’s world, where so often we place our focus on our differences instead of our sameness.
“The Clef of the Universes” was commissioned by the Fairmont State University Department of Music to honor Dr. Robert Mild, Dean of the School of Fine Arts (2015-2018).
Walt Whitman from “Leaves of Grass”
ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the
universes and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different,
or in differentworlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.