for 16 voices, 2 pianos and 4 percussion players

BUY score & parts
I. Dreams :7' 55

II. The Doubter and the Doubt : 7' 40

III. Pachamama : 8'

Total duration: approx. 23' 35"

Poems & Prayers was commissioned by Robert Van Sice




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premiere: 13th of October, 2023 at the Sprague Memorial Hall, New Haven, USA, performed by The Yale Choral Artist and The Percussion Collective, conducted by Jeffrey Douma

Programme notes

The texts of the three movements of this work are concerned with our relationship to each other, to ourselves and to the environment, in this order.
The 1st movement 'Dreams' is based on selected lines from Walt Whitman's 'Song of Myself' and from the tile of his poem “I Dreamed in a Dream”. Whitman's text describes the kind of relationship he envisages between human beings both at the social and personal level. But he states that if his view is not “yours as much as mine, then "it is nothing or next to nothing”.
In a world as divided as ours is today, this perspective seems to me specially relevant.

The text of the 2nd movement 'The Doubter and the Doubt' consists of stanzas I selected from the poem “Brahma” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. His view in this poem is that human beings can perfect themselves morally and spiritually by going beyond the permanent binary oppositions that plague the human mind, that is, the idea that everything must be reduced to thinking in terms of either 'this' or 'that'.

The 3rd movement deals with our dysfunctional relationship with the environment (Mother Earth) which currently poses an existential threat to our species. The indigenous people of the Americas, have traditionally considered Mother Earth an entity which makes possible and sustains life. A widely given name to Mother Earth is Pachamama. The text of this movement is written by myself. I have structured it in the form of a prayer to Pachamama. I chose the prayer format taking into account the following: when we pray, the only person we can be sure is listening is ourselves. If we are asking for change, we are the ones best placed to effect such change. This is specially apparent if we ask Pachamama to protect us and the environment. Since we are the ones damaging the environment, we are the ones who can stop doing so. Praying to Pachamama to save us and the environmental is no different than asking ourselves to protect us from ourselves. Form this perspective, I see praying primarily as a commitment to change. The text of this movement seeks to express the emotions that come with this realization.

A.V. London June 2023

the texts:

I. Dreams

"dreams, dreams…
I dreamed in a dream
that my thoughts were the thoughts
of all men in all ages and lands.
I am of old and young,
of the foolish as much as the wise,
regardless of others,
ever regardful of others,
maternal as well as paternal,
a child as well as a man,
stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse
and stuff'd with the stuff that is fine,
one of the nation of many nations,
the smallest the same and the largest the same,
I resist any thing better than my own diversity,
breathe the air but leave plenty after me,
and am not stuck up,
and am in my place.
These are the thoughts
of all men in all ages and lands,
If they are not yours as much as mine
they are nothing, or next to nothing,
if they are not the riddle
and the untying of the riddle
they are nothing,
or next to nothing
if they are not just as close
as they are distant
they are nothing,
or next to nothing”

III. “Pachamama” (a prayer to mother earth)

Sálvanos, (“save us” in Spanish)
save us,
Pacha, Pacha, Pacha,
Pacha - ma - ma
Pacha, Pacha, Pacha,
Pachamama save us,
heal that which we destroy,
Pachamama wake me up,
wake them up,
wake us up
from our slumber.
Pachamama save us
from ourselves,
So far, so wide
may this prayer travel.
Far and beyond
may this prayer be heard
so bright and loud.
Heal that which we destroy,
may we hear your voice
your call telling us to stop.
Shake us Pachamama.
Protect us and give us the strength to change
prayers are only words
arranged to say what we must,
Pachamama save us from ourselves
libérame (“fee me” both in Spanish & Latin)
protect us
from them
de mi ( “from myself” in Spanish)
from you
from all of us
from me, from him, from you, from them
from ourselves.
Pacha Pacha Pacha Pa !
sálvanos, save us
Pachamama !

I. The Doubter and The Doubt

Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
And one to me are shame and fame.
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
I am the hymn (song) the Brahmin sings.