Pentecost

(2003)

"Pentecost" is the second song of Laitman's cycle Becoming a Redwood, which sets four poems of Dana Gioia. Gioia wrote "Pentecost" after the death of his infant son, and Laitman states that "Pentecost" is "the emotional centerpiece of the cycle."
 

Composer's Note:

"The emotional centerpiece of my cycle Becoming a Redwood is the song 'Pentecost.' This poem was written after the death of the poet’s infant son. The opening weaving melodic line (derived from the first song’s main theme) hovers over an ostinato bass figure, representing haunting memories. Another significant vocal cell, first appearing with 'when memory/Repeats its prosecution' is constructed of repeats, echoing itself and suggestive of keening as well as the rocking motion that accompanies grief. This motif reappears in a new guise ('nor any prayers/Improvised to an unknowable god') depicting improvisation. The use of these melodic and harmonic repetitions creates great tension, leading to the climax 'comfort me with stones.' Here dramatic octave leaps portray grief in its full force. The song returns to the repetitive melodic motif (“mix our ashes”), now suggestive of the image of stirring. The music culminates in a wordless vocalize, which hints at a diminished but prevailing sadness."

--Lori Laitman


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The composer's note and the second audio clip for "Pentecost" (provided in the media player to the right) are made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest. The performers are Faylotte Crayton, soprano, and Jessica Rucinski, piano, and this performance took place at Pepperdine University at SongFest 2010. To listen, please click on the track name itself.

Pentecost
by Dana Gioia


after the death of our son


Neither the sorrows of afternoon, waiting in the silent house,
Nor the night no sleep relieves, when memory
Repeats its prosecution.


Nor the morning's ache for dream's illusion, nor any prayers
Improvised to an unknowable god
Can extinguish the flame.


We are not as we were. Death has been our pentecost,
And our innocence consumed by these implacable
Tongues of fire.


Comfort me with stones. Quench my thirst with sand.
I offer you this scarred and guilty hand
Until others mix our ashes.


(Source: Interrogations at Noon, Graywolf Press, 2001)

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