It’s never been easy for me to find poetry that I want to use for choral music. Most seems too intimate. Essays have been what grabs me. It seems that choral music with all those voices needs to be about something big. So after reading The Future of Life by Edward O. Wilson, entomologist and conservation writer extraordinaire, I was really taken with the idea of using its themes in a piece of music.
I read the whole book a second time, making notes on the passages that really moved me, or that sounded like rhythmic, settable verse. And there were plenty. I had to find what I wanted before I could as Dr. Wilson for his permission to use his words. So I was very glad when he did say yes.
The first choral movement came from his Prologue, a “letter” to Thoreau. He confesses to Thoreau that we have brought our world to a bottleneck of overpopulation and wasteful consumption, that so much has changed since Thoreau’s time. It was Thoreau’s writings that taught us to think of nature as a refuge and a place/concept worth protecting.
It was a challenging text to set. I worked to find pithy rhythms without taking out the multi-syllable science words. I could edit the text a bit, after all I had reorganized the prose into more verse-like structures, but I didn’t want to go far from Dr. Wilson’s phrases.
I could go on about each of the movements. They are very fresh in my mind, but biodiversity itself is more important. Read the book! I’ve got some web pages about the piece and a page that lists links for learning more.