Sunday, April 17, 2011


I'm a complete goner for Eric Whitacre. If you're not, you should be. His latest project is so spectacular on so many levels that I can hardly stand it, and I feel compelled to drag you into my own personal obsession and make you love this too. (Whether you like it or not!) You'll see what I mean when you watch the following video:
Many, many thanks to my awesome and beautiful niece, Lindsay, for sniffing out this video!

Hey you! Yeah, you! Now, don't leave me yet! I've got lots more to say and another video to show and much, much more swooning to do. So, onward we go!

Mr. Whitacre originally composed "Sleep" to mesh perfectly with the words of Robert Frost's famous poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (words below). Unfortunately the heirs of Robert Frost's estate would not consent to the use of the poem, and the copyright of the poem will not expire until 2038, leaving Mr. Whitacre with beautiful music and no rights to use Frost's lyrics. What's an extraordinarily talented composer to do? Mr. Whitacre called upon his friend, Charles Anthony Sylvestri to compose a poem of the exact same rhythm and syllables and whatnot (whatnot? whatev) as Frost's poem, and the collaboration of Whitacre and Sylvestri resulted in the unearthly piece of gorgeousness, "Sleep." Here it is in its entirety:

Oh my goodness gracious.

Oh, how can you not love this? I think I have died and gone to straight to heaven. And many argue that is exactly what is implied in both Mr. Frost's and Mr. Sylvestri's poems. The beauty of it all is that you get to be the judge of that.

I stumbled upon a video on YouTube which contains a recording of Mr. Whitacre's music sung to the actual words of Robert Frost's poem--the words for which the music was originally written. So cool! I must assume this recording has to be some sort of a copyright infringement-throw-them-in-the-pokey-a-lawsuit-just-waiting-to-happen-and-somebody's-going-to-be-in-big-trouble situation, and since I try my doggone hardest (although often failing) to live a life of integrity, I will not post it here. But it is out there (ahem), and it's oh so very, very lovely.

I find the study of the two poems to be absolutely fascinating. I wonder what was going through Mr. Frost's head as he put pen to paper! I wonder what was going through Mr. Sylvestri's head as he did the same! Perhaps Mr. Sylvestri had the more difficult of the two challenges in writing his poem since he was intentionally mimicking a very beloved original piece; perhaps Mr. Frost had the harder portion of the labor because of the supreme effort that is required when attempting to create a work of art by drawing solely upon one's own inspiration. Whichever may be the case, all I know is that I certainly couldn't do either but I have an almost uncontainable appreciation for both. I could get lost in every bit of this.


The evening hangs beneath the moon
A silver thread on darkened dune
With closing eyes and resting head
I know that sleep is coming soon

Upon my pillow, safe in bed
A thousand pictures fill my head
I cannot sleep my minds a flight
And yet my limbs seem made of lead

If there are noises in the night
A frightening shadow, flickering light
Then I surrender unto sleep
Where clouds of dreams give second sight

What dreams may come both dark and deep
Of flying wings and soaring leap
As I surrender unto sleep
As I surrender unto sleep

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.



Lindsay said...

the virtual choir video is finished and available for viewing here:

Morris Family said...

I had to go home and google everything I could about this last night. BEAUTIFUL!!! AMAZING!!! EXTRAORDINARY!!! I could keep going but in the intrest of time, I won't.

Lisa said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS!!! I have never heard of this man and I am in love! That someone could walk into a college choir class not reading music and then end up at Julliard and then THIS! What a fabulous story and so so beautiful.

ckm said...

Oh how I LOVE this. Sleep. Imagine the MoTab doing this. I get the chills when I hear Julia's choir sing this. Julia's voice teacher knows him personally and sang many of his works - him conducting too - at BYU before he hit it big.