Kyle Gann: Song of Acceptance

Song of Acceptance (1980)

Song of Acceptance was my Master's Thesis work at Northwestern. It is an aleatory work for three female singers and eight instruments (flute, French horn, trombone, tuba, celesta, two violins, cello). The parts, all written out, are to be repeated, and each is a different length in 5/4 measures: 11, 13, 19, 23, 29, 37, 43, 47, 53, 59, 67. The conductor beats 5/4, each player beginning in any measure of his or her part and repeating; after 12 minutes or a little more, the conductor gradually begins cueing the players to stop, one by one in any order. The entire piece is a single sonority stacked in thirds, so that within any register consonant triads will form randomly from the interaction of the parts, but there are always dissonances from other registers. The texts are from Ecclesiastes, Lao-Tzu, and Walt Whitman. For my Master's thesis I wrote out a full score of a realization of the piece so it would look more impressive, but the parts are sufficient. The piece is dedicated to my teacher Peter Gena.

MP3 recording
PDF score


Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow...
What people dread, do not fail to dread.
But, alas, how confused, and the end is not yet.
The multitude are merry, as though feasting on a day of sacrifice...
I alone and inert, showing no sign of desires,
Like an infant that has not yet smiled.
Wearied, indeed, I seem to be without a home.
The multitude all possess more than enough,
I alone seem to have lost all.
Mine is indeed the mind of an ignorant man,
Indiscriminate and dull.
Common folks are indeed brilliant;
I alone seem to be in the dark...
I seem drifting as the sea;
Like the wind blowing about, seemingly without destination.
The multitude all have a purpose;
I alone seem to be stubborn and rustic.
------- from Lao Tzu, Tao-te Ching, 20 (Wing-tsit Chan, trans.)

The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where it rose.
All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor.
For what hath man of all his labor, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath labored under the sun?
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
------ from Ecclesiastes 1, 2

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more geaven or hell than there is now.
Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.
Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age.
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity, while they discuss I am silent.
------ from Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 3

Duration: free, around 20 minutes

- Kyle Gann

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