PHILIP RICE

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Even-song

countertenor and piano / 6 minutes

In fall 2012, my good friend (and roommate at the time) Patrick Bonczyk was doing research on musical metaphors in the poetry of 17th-century English metaphysical poet and clergyman, George Herbert. I decided to compose a song from one of his poems for Patrick to sing. In the text, Herbert uses paradoxical relationships between night and day, darkness and light, and waking and dreaming as metaphors for the mystery of God's existence and the flawed nature of the human experience. Throughout the poem, ideas seem to contradict themselves as the poet grapples with the impossibility of God as a being that occupies both positive and negative realities. Night, sleep, and the dreaming world represent earthly life, while "waking up" to eternal sleep metaphorically represents death and the arrival into the true presence of an incomprehensible God.
Musically, I chose to position the singer on different planes, sometimes between two distantly separated outer voices, sometimes above low, dark, chords, and sometimes below higher bell-like tones. The texture is thin and incomplete until the ending phrase "O let my Soul, whose keys I must deliver Into the hands of senseless Dreams" when the music finally arrives in a "key" and becomes more tonal, resembling a chorale.

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Poem by George Herbert.
Recording: Patrick Bonczyk, countertenor; Philip Rice, piano

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