The Peace of Wild Things
SATB with divisi & piano
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Winner of the 2014 Nathan Davis Prize in Composition.
The words of poet, activist, community-builder, and farmer, Wendell Berry, serve as the inspiration for “The Peace of Wild Things.” Berry’s appreciation for the larger circle of existence is evident in this text that explores humanity’s relationship with the earth. When we are so caught up in our human-centered existence, Berry reminds us how the wild things around us “do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.” My attempt to illuminate Berry’s words begins with swells of anxious, clustered harmony that give way to the basses, the lowest and darkest voices of the choir, who chant the opening lines, “When despair for the world grows in me…” Throughout the work, the musical gestures and harmonies rise and lighten until the highest voice, the sopranos, close the piece on the word “free.” The piano provides an earthly palette throughout, underscoring the scene at the edge of a mountain lake.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Text copyright © 2012 by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems.
Used with permission of Counterpoint Press.