Meditating at Midnight (from Four Mystical Songs)

Composer / Arranger Notes:

I composed Four Mystical Songs for Women’s Voices in the summer of 1996 for the Elektra Women’s Choir in Vancouver. I chose four poems from a collection of spiritual poetry by women, called Women in Praise of the Sacred, edited by the American poet (and translator of three of the poems) Jane Hirshfield. The poets – Zhou Xuanjing, Kojiju, Sun Bu-er, and Cui Shaoxuan – lived in the 11th and 12th Century China and Japan.
The poems are observations about life and the poignancy of being human, and they seemed very private to me. I felt that I was almost “overhearing” the words. The four songs are a cappella and can be sung separately, or as a set. I would like to thank the translators Jane Hirshfield and Edwin Cranston for their kind permission to use these four poems.
The first performance of Four Mystical Songs for Women’s Voices took place in Vancouver in November 1997. The performers were the Elektra Women’s Choir under the direction of Diane Loomer and Morna Edmundson. The same artists have recorded the Four Mystical Songs on Centredisques CMC-CD 6800, entitled Legacy.

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Poetry by Zhou Xuanjing (12th century), 
Translated by Jane Hirshfield

Meditating at midnight, Meditating at noon,
A mind like autumn
Comes to the Way’s deep heart. Under motionless waves,

Fish and dragons freely leap. In a sky without limits,
Only the moonlight stays.