The Eye Beholds Itself

instrumentation: large chorus, split into Choruses A, B, and SATB solos

year: 2013
lyricist: Elisa Sutherland


program notes
The initial impetus for The Eye Beholds Itself was an exchange with choral conductor Michael Zaugg, in which he asked me to write a piece for a concert whose theme would be Mysticism. It just so happens that during the previous few months, I had been undergoing an intense investigation of spirituality and a connection to something bigger (call it God or Nature, or something else). I have always identified as a staunch atheist, generally critical of organized religions, and it was with skepticism, perplexity, but also longing that I explored the idea that believing in God, or in that greater force, is somehow anchored in our constitution, and that not believing in God per se results in our filling that void with something else; the bottom line being that this void exists, and somehow guides and orients the way we live our lives.
I began having frequent debates about this with many good friends, including singer and writer Elisa Sutherland. Opinions diverged, and naturally, no real conclusion ended this discussion, but the subject is deep and extremely fulfilling for everyone to contemplate for themselves. I eventually asked Elisa to write me a text for this piece, and she chose to use Encyclopedia Britannica’s “Mysticism” entry as the basic text on which she performed an erasure poem. The result, as well as five sentences expressing doubt (which she called aphorisms) became the basic material for this piece, along with some musical found objects, such as Scriabin’s Mystic Chord and a portion of a Hildegaard von Bingen chant.

performance history

Not performed (yet!).
download the score