I Have Heard…
“Persuasive as well was Dorothy Hindman’s I Have Heard…, a creative and sure-handed treatment of excerpts from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.”
~Nancy Raabe, “BAMA produces contemporary fun,” The Birmingham News, October 8, 1997
“Hindman’s I Have Heard… , is a sonorous and affirmative setting of passages from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.”
~Nancy Raabe, Smith Singers open window to American choral tradition,” The Birmingham News, February 25, 1997
The text for I Have Heard… is an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Songs of Myself from his Leaves of Grass, first published under this title in 1881-1882. I chose this text because of its emphasis on an “I” which is often meant to be universal. The theme of celebration of the self greatly appealed to me at the time I wrote the piece, and the form and rhythm of Whitman’s poetry has powerful musical implications. The direct repetition of the poetry, and the contrasting imagery of universal and personal themes merge well with my ideas of textural independence and focus in creating musical forms. This work is an a capella arrangement of the second of four movements of Whitman’s poetry that I have set for choir and orchestra. The excerpts of Song of Myself from which this text is drawn is below.
Premiere: February, 1997
The Gregg Smith Singers
St. Stephens Church
New York City, NY
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and increase, always sex,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so.
Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well entretied, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse… haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.
Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.
Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen,
Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age,
… while they discuss I am silent, and go
bathe and admire myself…
…I am satisfied —