Making a Contribution

choral music Composer poetry wendell berry

My uncle once surprised me by telling me that farmers don't grow crops. "Farmers grow soil," he explained. "Soil grows crops." I'm three generations away from my own family's subsistence farming, and so the idea was news to me. But I began to see in my uncle's point of view the important theme of contributing.  By my uncle's standard—and by Wendell's—any farmer who thinks of growing crops as simply taking from the soil will have nothing but dust before long. Cultivating soil is an act of continual giving. As long as we want to eat, we have to give good care and material...

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A Belated Prequel

choral music Composer poetry wendell berry

  When I visited the Berrys at their farm in 2012, I thought I had come prepared for everything. I had duplicate copies of the poems that Wendell had agreed to read. I had two different audio recording devices in case one failed. But after reading “A gracious Sabbath stood here while they stood…,” Wendell caught me off guard. “How are they going to know who they are?” he asked, referring to the “they” mentioned in the first line and throughout the poem he had just read. I shrugged. I hadn’t ever paid attention to that detail; I just loved...

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Volume 2 -- Now Available for Pre-Orders!

CLICK HERE TO HEAR AND ORDER VOLUME 2!!  Friends, when Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music was released in 2013, I didn't expect to return quickly to Wendell's work for musical purposes. I was tired! I wanted to flex my musical muscles on other projects. (And I did ... ask me about a contemporary ballet score sometime.) But, as Wendell's readers can attest, his words have a way of working their way into one's imagination. Beginning earlier this year, I revisited some unreleased recordings from the original recording sessions. They caught my attention. Then I remembered some poems that I had intended to...

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Lessons Learned at Wendell Berry’s Kitchen Table

“These poems were written in silence, in solitude, mainly out of doors. A reader will like them best, I think, who reads them in similar circumstances—at least in a quiet room. They would be most favorably heard if read aloud into a kind of quietness that is not afforded by any public place. I hope that some readers will read them as they were written: slowly, and with more patience than effort.” —From Wendell Berry’s preface to A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979–1997 Composing the choral music settings of Wendell Berry’s poetry that you hear on the album required...

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Composer's Note: "The Seed is in the Ground" (Part Two)

See Part One here.     The seed is in the ground. Now may we rest in hope While darkness does its work. (Sabbath Poems, 1991, V) From Wendell Berry. New Collected Poems. 2013. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press.   At the time when I was considering how I would set these words to music, I had been reflecting on the artistic principle of economy: using just enough, but not too much. (Isn’t that a lesson for all of us? It reminds me of so many of Wendell Berry’s essays in the Home Economics collection as well as the fine introduction...

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