A fluid, luminous setting of one of Kabir’s most intimate prayers, honoring the unity of all things sacred and secular.
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About the poet: Kabir (1440-1518) grew up amidst Hinduism and Islam, and was deeply influenced by both. He had little use for the rites and trappings of any religion, and despised the pious quoting of scriptures, be it from the Vedas or from the Quran. His poetry invoked the divine using both Hindu and Muslim names – “Allah” and “Brahma” – but in all cases Kabir engaged with the divine in a deep and intimate way. Today he is revered by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike, and his songs are loved by people of all faiths.
About this lyric: Rabindranath Tagore translated many of Kabir’s songs into English, introducing them to a worldwide audience. His 1915 rendering of this poem reflects the writing style of his culture and time:
“The creature is in Brahma, and Brahma is in the creature: they are ever distinct, yet ever united.
He Himself is the tree, the seed, and the germ.
He Himself is the flower, the fruit, and the shade...”
The lyric used in this musical setting is adapted from Tagore’s version, in a modern rendering which reflects the universality of Kabir’s God as well as the less florid language of our time.
“Song of Kabir is a new composition by Minnesota-based composer Elizabeth Alexander, drawing from a text by the Indian poet Kabir. Kabir eschewed the formality of organized religions, but sought to find “God" in his own personal truth. This philosophy is in step with people today who seek to find common ground in our various faiths, as opposed to concentrating on the details that build walls and divide us.
Alexander uses a modern translation of the text set in an a cappella, four part homophonic texture. The musical line is servant to the text at all times, allowing the message to be clearly delivered and understood. In order to emphasize the appropriate text stresses, Alexander frequently switches meters. However, this piece should not come across as overly rhythmic.” - Jonathan Kopplin, ACDA-MN Repertoire and Standards Chair for Ethnic and Multicultural Perspectives. From his “Pick Six” recommendations in “Star of the North,” Spring 2014.
Unity Singers - Ruth Palmer, conductor ~ Unity Church-Unitarian (Saint Paul, MN) * Premiere