My new (and first) choral piece “On and On and” was premiered by Sacra/Profana at the Carlsbad Music Festival on September 20. It got a really nice review by Ken Hermann in San Diego Story:
“A recently completed choral work by Festival Director Matt McBane repeated an utterly simple text, “On and On and,” with unexpected rests and closely structured hockets that created a hypnotic, almost mystical spell. It was the piece on a rich program I would most eagerly hear again.”
I’ll post a recording here soon, but for now, here’s my program note on the piece:
This summer I took a road trip that started with surfing in Baja California and continued with camping in the Sierras near Mt. Whitney and on into Yosemite. This trip came at the end of an extended period in Brooklyn (where I live), during which I was starting to feel particularly disconnected from the rhythms and cycles of nature. As I settled into the rhythm of camping every day, I thought about the text for the piece I was going to write for the choral group Sacra/Profana upon my return. I wanted to use something that dealt with the cycles of nature and fit into the musical ideas I was thinking about with interlocking patterns for the singers.
After a few dead ends (reading tide charts?), while in Yosemite I encountered quotes by John Muir on signs throughout the park. Prior to this, I was familiar with Muir as a naturalist, but had not paid attention to his writings. When reading them I was taken aback by how poetic they were.
At a particularly stunning viewpoint to at the entrance of Yosemite Valley, there was a sign with the following Muir text:
“This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere;
the dew is never all dried at once;
a shower is forever falling;
vapor ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset,
eternal dawn and gloaming,
on seas and continents and islands,
each in its turns, as the round earth rolls.”
Reading this, I knew Muir’s writings were what I was looking for. So, I searched his books for the right text, and saw that more than once when referring to the eternal cycles of nature, he used the phrase “on and on.” In that, I found my text (and my title), just the two words “on” and “and.”
In “On and On and” the singers build up patterns first using only the word “on,” then completing the patterns with the gradual addition of the word “and.” As the piece ends the patterns break down removing the word “on,” leaving only the word “and.”