Rorem: A Quaker Reader
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL396     Release Date: 2012-02-15
Leonard Raver, organ

Notes by Ned Rorem

“I was moved also to cry against all sorts of music which stirred up people's minds to vanity,” said George Fox. Two centuries later another famous Quaker, the poet Whittier, hoped that no “deeptoned organ” might disturb his thoughts. In our time Elizabeth Vining speaks of the “religious distractions of ritual music.” Yet Quakers as a group, unlike Puritans, never claimed music to be injurious, only superfluous, to meditation.

Myself, raised in Quaker silence, I craved Catholic sound. Is that why some invisible hand urged me as a child toward the arts? To this day, although Quaker tenets influence my reason, my fancy is more sparked by the fire of the Mass. Being unreligious so far as ordered belief is concerned, it is not the purpose but the pomp — not salvation but sensuality — which attracts me in worship.

To be a birthright member of the Society of Friends and to be a composer is to embody the paradox of reconciling implicit quiet with explicit sound. Yet, though I have set to music all manner of profane and sacred texts, from Sappho through Byron to Roethke, not to mention huge chunks from the Testaments and from Roman Liturgy both in Latin and English, never in any professional way have I linked Quakerism to music, partly because I take Quakerism so for granted, partly because there is no singable Quaker literature.

But if there exists no Quaker music, there can be music by a Quaker. And if my religion means silence while my craft means sound, that craft (that sound) has always very consciously been devoted to banishing the noise which forms an ever vaster cloud between humdrum and mystical realities.

With the present suite my intention has been to meld, finally and practically, my nominal religion with my craft. Since no Song is used — no actual musicalizing of words — each piece is headed with an epigraph from Friends' writings, many of which, in their urge toward pacifism as solution, extol absolute quiet and absolute light. The music represents a blaze of silence.




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Leonard Raver

Rorem: A Quaker Reader

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Track Listing

A Quaker Reader: I. First-Day Thoughts
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: II. Mary Dyer Did Hang as a Flag...
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: III. Evidence of Things Not Seen
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: IV. "There is a Spirit That Delights to Do No Evil..."
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: V. The World of Silence
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: VI. "Bewitching Attire of the Most Charming Simplicity..."
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: VII. A Secret Power
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: VIII. "...No Darkness at All..."
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: IX. One Sigh Rightly Begotten
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: X. Return Home to Within
Ned Rorem
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A Quaker Reader: XI. Ocean of Light
Ned Rorem
Buy