I’m thrilled to be back in Austin collaborating with my close friends, Craig Hella Johnson, David Farwig, Estelí Gomez, and Conspirare Company of Voices, all of whom have inspired the choral cantata cycle that is comprised of The Cloud of Unknowing and Songs of the Soul. As I created the cycle, the essence of their sound rang within me, and their artistry was always near, as close and present as the music itself.
The two-part cycle is an exploration of the relationship between human and divine love, as revealed through the writings of St. Teresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross, and an anonymous 14th-century monk, as well as various scriptural passages, and several psalms of lamentation and celebration. Some listeners might ask why a 21st-century composer and writer would choose to explore the theme of human and divine love at this time—just the right question—“Why such a spiritual theme and why now?”
This work is my deepest personal response to the horrific violence of our age, which has only continued to intensify with the massacre of innocents (and innocence) in Newtown, Connecticut, followed by the incomprehensible horror in Boston. Although we live in the 21st century, we are still compelled to plead “Why?” with the anguished cry of the psalmist.
My response to unspeakable violence is to direct my attention toward creation rather than destruction, toward unity rather than separation, and toward love rather than anything less inclusive. I believe that music has the unique power to directly connect us to the core of who we truly are. It reveals aspects of the inner life force that binds us together into one humanity.
Out of this spirit, I created The Cloud of Unknowing and Songs of the Soul—not only as an answer to the violence of our age, but as a celebration of the friendship and musical community that is embodied by Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare. So my answer is also: …to collaborate…to co-create…to celebrate life…