Explanation of ‘series’ of works – In Beauty May I Walk
I have been setting this text for many years now, and keep coming back to it, to see if I can find another, and ‘better’ setting for it. New ideas come to mind, and these spark a need to write another composition based upon the words, as if I am a making a piece of jewellery with different settings for a single but unique and marvellous precious stone. The words have a certain universality about them, an innocence, and a majestic breadth, too. They convey a spirituality that most people would understand, and sympathise with, which is even more pertinent because of the origins of the text from a nature-loving ethnic North American Indian tribe, the Navaho. Somehow its message is strengthened by it being written by a non-industrial people, attune to nature and its limits and grandeur, and intuitive of the ways of nature and living within its boundaries. I can certainly understand the sentiments expressed here, and would like to think that one could walk through one’s life in the way described, with certain restrictions that are inevitable in our present society in the Western world.
I have written four settings of this poem, but the first I do not regard as being viable now, as it was composed a long while ago. This version I have discarded. The second and third versions are more in what I might call a secular style, in which I was conscious of the structure of the text, and tried to make the music dynamic as well as be expressive of the words. Both these versions require good choirs to perform them, but work well within the context of their styles. However, for the fourth version I have adopted a simpler method, and simpler musical style, which might well be called sacred, because it has that slow lyrical simplicity, and static nature that we have come to recognize in most examples of this music, and perhaps more so within the last few decades and the advent of ‘spiritual minimalism’. I do not regard this as an example of that, but rather see it as a search for a different means of expression that is apt for the voice, and suitable for the expression of the words. I hope that the musical sounds enhance the text.
All the settings use a mixed SATB choir with subdivisions, and often solo voices.