Listen to "Nearer to the Heart's Desire"
About the Music
Composer: Barbara Ulman
Performers: Composer's Choir - Daniel Shaw, Director
Nearer to the Heart’s Desire Verse 73 from Omar Khayyám’s Rubáiyát comes to my mind when things happen that I feel should never occur. For several years I wanted to set this verse to music. Finally, in January, 2011 I was so moved by the President’s speech about the terrible shootings in Tucson, Arizona, that I was inspired to write this composition, finishing in three days -- unusually fast for me.
The piano enters with an ascending passage in the bass, imitated by the treble, taken up next in the soprano line of the chorus, and then repeated faster in the low notes of the piano four times, on varying pitches. As the chorus sings an angular melody, the piano accompanies the singers with broken chords. The chorus sings the line “Would not we shatter it to bits” in unison while the piano plays off-beat notes, followed by loud ascending chords. The concluding line ends on an open fifth, keeping ambiguous the resulting “re-moulding.” After the chorus finishes, the two hands of the pianist echo both parts of the final choral melody.
NEARER TO THE HEART’S DESIRE
Verse 73, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (Persia, 1048 - 1131)
translated by Edward FitzGerald (England,19th C.)
Ah, love! could thou and I with fate conspire
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits -- and then
Re-mould it nearer to the heart’s desire!
Sheet music and audio file available at: