All things counter, original, spare and strange in Khujand, Tajikistan

A Musical Detour

So here’s something that has little to do with Tajikistan: some time ago my friend Justin Johns, who is now working on his Master’s in Composition at the University of Florida, asked me and several others to contribute texts which he would put to music. I offered up a few sonnets, then subsequently forgot about the project. But Justin recently sent me the results, and I was very impressed. He’s a talented guy, with a flair for vocal composition heavily influenced by sacred music. He even wrote his own mass. He posts the work he is doing now here.

As with anything like this, I cringe a little looking back on poems I wrote a few years ago, but I quite liked the work Justin did with the pieces. It’s a flattering thing to see one’s work used this way. So here they are, with the text following each composition. (note: In Praise of Forgetfulness underwent some editing, so the text here may not match word-for-word with the sung text)

In Praise of Forgetfulness

This patterned absence: shadow leaves on snow,

a strain of music on the wind, a wisp

of scent you lose in passing. Subtle gifts

are given in his place, and somehow known

as traces, tracks left by some animal,

who, great as men are great, would naturally

impress himself on his surroundings, I

reason, not willing to admit that all

the tears aside a door will be a door

without his heavy knock, a book will be

a book without his voice.  The way I see

him missed in his apartment’s dusty floor

persists, as dust persists, but then again

did not the dust itself once pass—to man?

After the Ascension

Angel: Why stand you staring after him?

He’s gone but he will soon return again,

And you will drown in floods of glory when

He rends the earth’s thin veil, but do not swim,

Inhale. Yet while you breathe stale air, I say:

Do not forget what wonder round about

Enshrines your dry dust path. Soon you will doubt,

It will be long, you will not know the way

But do not be so foolish as to think

That dust is dust, and not the stuff God’s hands

Made into you, that man is only man,

And not the image of the great unseen.

So now go forth, shake temples, shudder kings.

Go forth! This world must shatter ere it sings.

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3 responses

  1. Hey Seth, did he write the music for Covenant’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle?” That was good stuff….

    May 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    • Seth Morgan

      Yep. He did that too. Definitely good work.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:31 pm

  2. Justin Johns

    Thanks for posting these, Seth! And thank you, Larissa. I’m glad you enjoyed Chalk Circle.

    In case you were wondering about After the Ascension, there is some Latin text in there too. It comes from Acts 1, and it translates:

    “Why stand you looking into heaven? This Jesus shall come as you have seen him going into heaven.”
    and
    “But you shall receive power.”

    May 26, 2011 at 9:37 am

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