Lieberson -- Unity Temple ::::: Schirmer News Fall 2009

Lieberson -- Unity Temple ::::: Schirmer News Fall 2009
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On September 26, the Chicago Chamber Musicians with baritone John Michael Moore premiere Peter Lieberson's new song cycle, The Coming of Light, for baritone, oboe, and string quartet. The work was commissioned in honor of the 2009 centennial of the dedication of the Unity Temple, Frank Lloyd Wright's modern masterpiece, by the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation and The Chicago Chamber Musicians together with Winsor Music, Inc.

The Unity Temple, a Unitarian Universalist church in Oak Park, Illinois, is considered by many to be the first example of modern architecture in the world and to be one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most important structures.

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Listen to Peter Lieberson
discuss The Coming of Light
When given the opportunity to compose a work in honor of the building, Lieberson took a more general view when approaching commemorating the landmark and its creator. "I didn’t think it would be very easy to commemorate Frank Lloyd Wright, his work, or the Unity Temple in a very specific way," he explains, "or even in an evocative way by pretending to write a piece about either, so instead I took a more general view about creation."

To Lieberson, the act of creation is an act of love, a gift of generosity, and by its nature, creation embodies the impermanence of life — whatever is subject to origination is subject to cessation. For him, the art of architecture, the creation of a physical structure, is a profound reflection of that concept — physical objects are, afterall, constructed out of things that are not permanent.

Unity Temple ©

The impermanence of physical structures and the restoration of the Unity Temple was not lost on Lieberson as he created this centennial dedication. "Even though physical structures remain as edifices of some kind that point to something sometimes very noble," he explains, "still they aren't permanent. If you look at them that way, they express a certain kind of sacredness about what we as human beings do: we make structures that we think are beautiful and interiors that are inviting and by the very nature of having done so, its an opportunity to reflect on how fleeting all of that really is. Not in a depressing way, but the fragility of it all really makes it more precious."

For the song cycle, Lieberson set two poems by John Ashbery (Rain Moving In and Forgiveness), one having to do with home, the other having to do with human relationships and forgiveness. He then set two sonnets of Shakespeare (When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes and O never say that I was false of heart) related to the transformation of difficult emotions into positive ones based on love. Finally, he set the last two movements to poems by Mark Strand (The Coming of Light and the seventh section of Poem After The Seven Last Words).

For Lieberson, the final lines of Strand's Poem After The Seven Last Words tie the entire song cycle together, returning to an important place for Lieberson, something that may not be able to be expressed precisely, but, as he states, "has to be manifested in our own creativity" — our own fleeting, generous gift of love:
A place of constant beginning that has within it what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, what has not arisen in the human heart. To that place, to the keeper of that place, I commit myself.
    — Mark Strand from Poem After The Seven Last Words

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