Yin & Yang Cantata

 

text by Don Crerar

for SB soli, choir SATB, strings and chamber organ    11’    2015 

 

Performed and recorded live by Joanna Hodgson, Jeremy Hagan, The Music Troupe, Newbury Chamber Choir, Susan Holmes (chamber organ), conducted by Edward Lambert in St John’s Church, Newbury, April 2016

 

When I heard Don Crerar recite this beautiful love poem [in 2014], I was keen to attempt a musical setting. The text would have to be simply set, with little adornment, but the music might bring out the tensions between the ‘counterpoints’ in the text and even, perhaps, hint at the pain of love and loss. The piece is as much about the instruments as it is about the voices, a complementary relationship each fulfilling the other. The strings begin by weaving descending and ascending melodies between alternating major and minor chords, like a current across the poles of a battery. Another source of tension is that between two-time and three-time rhythms: the music flows back and forth, becoming more animated later in the piece. The soprano and bass share all the text and mostly sing together, so they’re equal partners. Ultimately, however, the piece is about harmony - that peculiar thing whereby the significance of a sound depends on the way it combines with others - and the constantly revolving chords aim to give the piece an appropriate ambiguity.  (EL)

This sign for us is fitly coined

For hearts divided and conjoined

You are soul and I am mind

I to look and you to find.

I the murmur, you the shout

You the reason, I the doubt.

You acceptance, I mistrust

You the dew and I the dust

I constraint and you release

I at arms and you at peace

I the dark and you the light

You at noon and I midnight

You are warm where I am cold

I the heath and you the fold

Thus head to tail, around we roll

Contending halves, a perfect whole

 

“In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describes how opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolised by yin and yang: complementary (rather than opposing) forces whose combination is greater than its constituent parts.” (Wikipedia)