I. Little Drop of Wickedness - score preview
II. Three-quarter Moon & Moment of Grace - score preview
Text: Selected poems from Waltzing Through the Endtime by David Bottoms
Commissioned by the Atlanta Chamber Players
Audio streaming of the entire second movement available on SoundCloud.
When I first journeyed into David Bottoms’ collection of poetry entitled, Waltzing through the Endtime, I opened the door unto a familiar world. As a native Southerner, the places and characters so vividly captured by Bottoms were accurate reflections of my own experiences growing up in Georgia. Beneath the comfortable Southern accent of his prose, however, is a heartfelt search for truth and spiritual meaning. It was this aspect of his work that inspired me to set the poetry to music. After reading all the pieces in the collection, I settled on two poems that present what I consider to be the essence of spiritual struggle: forgetfulness and remembrance.
The first poem, Little Drop of Wickedness centers, for me, on the forgetfulness of Man. Forgetful of his own conscience and of the Will of God, he is easy prey for the deceiver. The poem weaves different stories all concerning various forms of the evil one, from the familiar serpent to human incarnations. The music is edgy and restless, punctuated sometimes with dissonance and at other times utilizing jazz idioms. The movement is reflective of the trepidation faced in our encounter with a copperhead, a hustler, or our own common sense warning of us of danger.
As a polar opposite, the poem Three-quarter Moon and Moment of Grace reminds me of the power of memory. In the Orthodox Christian Church, the concept of memory is consistently emphasized. We are called to remember God and to remember each other at all times. In this particular movement, the music moves from a plaintive “Old-Time” fiddle melody to Bluegrass and ultimately to a hymn-like setting.
Throughout the song cycle, I have sought to reflect both the lyrical and narrative qualities of Bottoms poetry. Therefore, both a narrator and singer are employed as two sides of the same voice: one detailed and descriptive and the other lofty and spiritual. For me, the singer is the Truth hiding behind the details of our daily lives as depicted by the narrator. It is therefore no accident that after listening, “…out of the crank and rut of history” to “ this millennial stillness,” the narrator transcends this world and joins in song, rising with the singer “…on the same gust of wind…”