• John Harbison
  • God Only Knows (2008)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • pf
  • Soprano
  • 5 min

Programme Note

Commissioned by Mary Sharp Cronson and Works and Process at the Guggenheim Museum.

Text by Dana Gioia, from Daily Horoscope 1986.


Here is the church,
Here is the steeple,
Open it up,
And see all the people.

God only knows
if Bach's greatest work
was just an improvised
between two verses of a hymn,
one that stopped the burghers
squirming in their pews
and made them not only
listen to the organ in the loft
but actually hear the roof
unbend itself
and leave the church wide
open to a terrifying sky
which he had filled with angels
holding ledgers
for a roll call of the damned,
whom they would have named,
had not the congregation
started up the final chorus
and sung
to save their souls.