Bourland choral music: Letters to the Future (1993)

July 7, 2009

Letters to the Future program cover

LETTERS TO THE FUTURE (1993)
1. Song of God B (Merrill)
2. Symmetrical Companion (Swenson)
3. Distressed (Gunn)
4. Spring Spell (Alarcon)
5. the last song (hooks)
6. Years from Now (McClatchy)
7. Now and forever (Ginsberg)
8. Something in mind (Rich)
Music: Roger Bourland
Poetry: James Merrill, May Swenson, Thom Gunn, Francisco X Alarcon, JD McClatchy, bell hooks, Allen Ginsburg, Adrienne Rich
Richard Garrin conducts the Windy City Gay Chorus (June 1994)
Published by Yelton Rhodes Music, Los Angeles

After the success of HIDDEN LEGACIES I received a commission from Richard Garrin and the Windy City Gay Chorus for a similar orchestration addressing the possible futures of gays and lesbians. I chose eight poets (seven living), each who either contributed a new poem or selected an old one for the set.

The piece got a warm reception at the premiere but has never been performed since. All the original synthesizers are no longer in production, so the work would have to be re-orchestrated to get it back on its feet. The recording you will hear here is problematic because of the enormous auditorium (Medinah Temple) we played in and what I assume was the air conditioning on a very hot day. Nonetheless, you’ll get an idea of how the piece goes.

LETTERS TO THE FUTURE (the poems)

(1) Song of God Biology

IVE BROTHERS HEAR ME
BROTHERS SIGNAL ME
ALONE IN MY NIGHT
BROTHERS DO YOU WELL
I AND MINE
HOLD IT BACK
BROTHERS I AND MINE
SURVIVE
SISTERS HEAR ME
SIGNAL ME
DO YOU WELL
I AND MINE
HOLD IT BACK
I ALONE IN MY NIGHT
SISTERS I AND MINE
SURVIVE
SISTERS DO YOU WELL
I ALONE IN MY NIGHT
I HOLD IT BACK
I AND MINE
SURVIVE
BROTHERS SIGNAL ME
IN MY NIGHT
I AND MINE
HOLD IT BACK
AND WE SURVIVE

O O O O O O O O O O

© 1980 by James Merrill


(2) SYMMETRICAL COMPANION

It must be
there walks somewhere in the world
another
another namely like me

Not twin
but opposite
as my two hands are opposite

Where are you
my symmetrical companion?

Do you inhabit
the featureless fog
of the future?
Are you sprinting
from the shadows
of the past
to overtake me?
Or are you camouflaged
in the colored present?
Do I graze you every day
as yet immune to your touch
unaware of your scent
inert under your clance?

Come to me
Whisper your name
I will know you instantly
by a passport
decipherable to ourselves alone

We shall walk uniformed
in our secret
We shall be a single reversible cloak
lined with light within
furred with dark without

Nothing shall be forbidden us
All bars shall fall before us
Even the past shall be lit behind us
and seen to have led
like two predestined corridors
to the vestibule of our meeting

We shall be two daring acrobats
above the staring faces
framed in wheels of light
visible to millions
yet revealed only to each other
in the tiny circular mirrors
of our pupils

We shall climb together
up the frail ladders
balancing on slender
but steel-strong thongs of faith
When you leap
my hands will be surely there
at the arc’s limit
We shall synchronize
each step of the dance upon the wire
We shall not fall
as long as our gaze is not severed

Where are you
my symmetrical companion?

Until I find you
my mouth is locked
my heart is numb
my mind unlit
my limbs unjointed

I am a marionette
doubled up in a dark trunk
a dancer frozen
in catatonic sleep
a statue locked
in the stone
a Lazarus wrapped
in the swaddling strips
not of death
but of unborn life

a melody bound
in the strings of the viol
a torrent imprisoned
in ice
a flame buried
in the coal
a jewel hidden
in a block of lava

Come release me
Without you I do not exist

© 1991 The Literary Estate of May Swenson

(3) DISTRESSED

San Francisco winter weather:
kid distressed much like his leather
sitting back from people’s feet
on his long bag in a doorway
— I across the rainy street
thinking “that boy’s in a poor way
he’s
got no take on the future.”

Trying still to take it easy
isn’t easy, grubby, greasy
when the going gets too rough,
not quite cute unless to someone
for whom this not cute enough
down-and-out and damp and dumb one
would
be one take on the future.

Yet he glances up alertly
neither servilely nor pertly
mutely and with interest
at each heedless man who passes
— smiling up although distressed
at the feet and knees and asses
of
those fast takes on the future.

What’s he up to? what’s he doing?
I can’t guess what thoughts are brewing
in that lowered mind of his,
see him fumble in his jacket
looking for whatever it is
urgently — as if to track it
would
be some take on the future.

Now his hand is hovering, see it,
round his mouth. Why?… That must be it:
in the margin underneath
this low life he has been brought to,
I can see him brush his teeth
up and down as he was taught to
just
like a take on the future.

© 1993 by Thom Gunn

(4) Spring Spell

Tahui! Tahui! Tahui! Tahui!

Jaguar! Jaguar! Burning bright
In the forest of the night;
Break my heart, smash my hopes,
I still will sprout as the grass on the slopes.

Ay mi hermano, ay mi hermana,
Hoy, ayer viene después de mañana.
O my sister, O my brother,
Today, yesterday comes after tomorrow.

No more closets! No more lies!
No more hatred! No more shame!
Mo more purges! No more raids!
No more deaths! No more silence!

From the snakes to the stars
Let the rain drops from the sky
Be our tears not of sorrow but of joy
Laughing with the branches of the trees.

We are the flying fish of the sea,
The exuberant birds of the flock.
We are now as numerous as the stars:
Rich and poor, Black, Brown, Yellow and White

We speak in all the tongues of the world
Our flag waves the colors of the rainbow.
¡Viv el amor! ¡Viva la vida!
¡Muera el dolor! ¡Muera la muerte!

Vive la diffèrence! Vive la diffèrence!
May each bed turn into a true nest,
May each cloud reflect our best smile,
May each flower remind us of our love.

I cam touch, kiss this dream,
Afer a long Winter always comes Spring.
Jaguar! Jaguar! Burning bright.
In the forest of the night…

© 1993 By Francisco X. Alarcón

(5) the last song

within my hands
i hold the magic seed
let us eat and drink together
our time will not be long

within my voice i carry
the magic sound
our song of sorrow
our dance of praise

within my heart
i house the hidden flower
fragrance of morning
dew of nightfall

that we may sleep sound
remembering always
this time together

Copyright © 1993 by bell hooks

(6) YEARS FROM NOW
ears from now, when you look back
On nights in tears, on days well-spent,
On what you thought before you dreamt,
On where it was the passion went,
On everything it was you meant
To buy or say or do,
On what it was you meant
Them all to think was you —
What will you think of yourself, my friend?
What will you think of yourself,
Years from now, when you look back?

With a little more luck,
A little more love,
A little more time
To make something more of
Yourself – –
Who knows how
You would look,
Years from now,
When you look back?

Years from now, when you look back
On deadly serious escapades,
On years of discos and crusades,
On years of funerals and parades,
On why it is you’re still afraid
Of lies that pass as true,
On why you’re still afraid
Of what they’ll think of you–
What will you think of yourself, my friend?
What will you think of yourself,
Years from now, when you look back?

With a little more luck,
A little more love,
A little more time
To make something more of
Yourself – –
Who knows how
You would look,
Years from now,
When you look back?

Years from now, when you look back
On what you have
And what you don’t
On what you’ve missed
And whom you won’t,
On how you’ve lied
And how you’ve tried,
On what you’ve lost
And what it’s cost–
Remember

The one who didn’t get away was you.
The one who’s here,
and here to stay is you.

No one told you how
But here you are, here right now.
No one explained why
It’s true, but look at you–my oh my,

The one who didn’t get away was you.
The one who’s here,
and here to stay is you.

It took all those years,
The closet-door fears,
Smiling through the tears,
And seven different careers,
But finally it came clear

The one who didn’t get away was you.
The one who’s here,
and here to stay is you.

So sing it out,
And sing it loud,
You’re one in a million,
Not one of the crowd,
And now your here and proud
That’s how
To look back,
When you look back,
Years from now.

© BY J.D. MCCLATCHY

(7) Now and Forever

I’ll settle for Immortality––
Not thru the body
Not thru the eyes
Star Spangled high mountains
waning moon over Aspen peaks;
But thru words, thru the breath
of long sentences
loves I have, heart beating
still,
inspiration continuous, exhalation of
cadenced affection
These immortal survive America,
survive the fall of States
Departure of my body,
mouth dumb dust
This verse broadcasts desire,
accomplishment of Desire
Now and forever boys can read
girls dream, old men cry
Old women sigh
youth still come.

© 1992 by Allen Ginsberg.
June 19, 1992

(8) Something in Mind

Dear Adrienne:

I’m calling you up tonight
as I might call up a friend
as I might call up a ghost
to ask
what you intend to do with the rest of your life.

Sometimes you act as if you have all the time there is.
I worry about you when I see this.
The prime of life, old age aren’t what they used to be;
making a good death isn’t either,
now you can walk around the corner of a wall and see a light
that already has blown your past away.

I’m calling you up tonight
as I might call up a friend
as I might call up a ghost
to ask what you intend to do
with the rest of your life.
What would it mean to live
in a city whose people were changing
each other’s despair into hope? –
You yourself must change it. –
what would it feel like to know
your country was changing?–
You yourself must change it. –
Though your life felt arduous
new and unmapped and strange
what would it mean to stand on the first
page of the end of despair?

I hope you’ve got something in mind.
I hope you have some idea
about the rest of your life.

In sister hood,
Adrienne

© 1991 by Adrienne Rich. Adapted from “Contradictions: Tracking Poems”

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