A Sound Like This


I. An Invocation
II. He Draws the Strings Tight
III. Interlude: Thinkers, Listen!
IV. Clay Jug
V. While You Are Alive
VI. A Sound Like This

Nine-part male voices

I created "A Sound Like This" for the superb male vocal ensemble Cantus. Former Artistic Director Erick Lichte and I had a vision for a piece that would beckon the audience to “listen.” I chose Robert Bly's translations of 15th-century Indian mystic/poet Kabir because they so eloquently and powerfully achieved this goal. They also resonated with me on a deep level, and spoke to my core life philosophy: that one must actively listen, seek, think, hope, and jump into experience. Composed for an ensemble of soloists, the piece features duos and trios to enhance the voices’ colors and textures.


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Commissioned By: 
Cantus by the Chamber Music America Commissioning Endowment Fund.
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Robert Bly's versions of Kabir

My inside, listen to me, the greatest spirit,
the Teacher, is near,
wake up, wake up!

Listen friend, this body is his dulcimer.
He draws the strings tight, and out of it comes
the music of the inner universe.
This tune has truth in it.
Where else have you heard a sound like this?

Thinkers, listen, tell me what you know of that is not
inside the soul?

Inside this clay jug there are canyons and pine
mountains, and the maker of canyons and pine
All seven oceans are inside, and hundreds of millions
of stars.
The acid that tests gold is there, and the one who
judges jewels.
And the music from the strings no one touches, and
the source of all water.

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think... and think... while you are alive.
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?

[P]lunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!

The flute of interior time is played whether we
hear it or not,
What we mean by “love” is its sound coming in.
This tune has truth in it.
Where else have you heard a sound like this?
---Kabir, translated by Robert Bly