Kyle Gann: Baptism (1983)
for two flutes, two drums, glockenspiel, and electric organ
Baptism was written as a companion piece for Mountain Spirit, back when I was first living on my own in Chicago and thought I might try to put together my own Steve Reich-style chamber ensemble. I was much involved in American Indian music at the time, and Baptism is an ecumenical attempt to progressively intertwine two hymns: the Apache hymn "Daxiasee Bizra'a" (Son of Our Father) of the Native American church, and the Protestant hymn "Jesus Paid It All." You can hear the Apache hymn here, from a 1969 recording on the old ASCH Mankind Series. Towards the end of the piece the two hymns get separated and quoted in their entirety. The piece proceeds through seven stages (I had in mind at the time Swedenborg's account of the seven days of creation or something), marked by an accelerating and decelerating arch form of tempo shifts. As a kind of cornerstone of my "naive pictorialism" aesthetic, the piece is one I still feel affectionate towards. It is dedicated to the conductor James MacDonald, a good friend who conducted the premiere.
World premiere: May 13, 1983, at ARC Gallery in Chicago
- Kyle Gann
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