Premiere: Interlochen Academy Band. Conductor, Dr. Matthew Schlomer.
Difficulty: Grade 3
Instrumentation: concert band and narrator/spoken word
A couple clips from the premiere. (Full audio above)
This piece was inspired by the life of Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD). While the specifics of his life were unique, his journey is one that is familiar to many of us. The piece is delineated into three attaca movements, each representing a major portion of his life.
At the encouragement of Matt Schlomer (my colleague and director of Interlochen Academy Band), I decided to pursue a collaboration with an acquaintance, the hip-hop artist Sareem Poems. I asked him to compose a spoken-word element for each of the three sections, with a focus on the main qualities defining each portion of Augustine’s life. These are meant to be performed amplified over the vamp sections the band plays.
He began life in a small town in northern Africa, a Roman outpost town. His early life is marked by rebellion; from home, from his parents, from the familiar and traditional. He rejected his mother’s Christian faith and became enmeshed in a sect called Manichaeism while studying at Carthage. He became lovers with a woman outside his social class (forbidden in Roman society). He struggled greatly with philosophical ideas and the search for truth.
This period of Augustine’s life is one of learning, seeking, and finding truth. Eventually Augustine, now a professor of rhetoric, took a post in Milan. While there he met Ambrose, an early Christian church father, and studied under his tutelage. He spent much time in thought in a small community of friends who challenged his previous conceptions and assumptions.
The final period of Augustine’s life represented here is a return to home, this time filled with peace that his questing and questioning had been answered fully. He took the post as a bishop, leading a small church in Hippo, in northern Africa. From here, he became one of the most prolific writers of the early church and the first to combine previous philosophical writers with then-contemporary Christian thought. He is considered one of the most influential thinkers of his era.
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
~Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Tagaste, in the African Roman Community
He and his family a respectable class of Roman Society
High society just above poverty, the illusion of equality
Modest Valley On the cost, Miles short of Civilization
A boy and his family lived in meager accommodations
Lower class occupation, upper class education
Afforded through hard work and saving
The student has become the teacher
World traveler mind reacher and public speaker
Full believer of knowledge halfhearted with religion
He’d rebel against everything his mother instilled in him
Dismiss Christian scripture for the ways of men
They’d sway him, on their polemics he would way in
For a decade, he played their game of debate
Used their political influence to give his name more weight
The name Augustine is now spoken amongst the greats
Ambrose arose a champion of orthodoxy
Augustine saw this for gentlemen as satisfactory
Baptized he found mother and fathers Christianity
He’d mold it to rival and replace ancient philosophy
This faith could only be if he journeyed beyond
That of any Christian man said they had ever gone
Choosing a life of celibacy with no requirement
His world of many lovers abruptly ended
The cost of religion, retirement from temptations of the city
Life ended upon entering the Christian clergy
Only the worthy would put the word in thee and speak freely
Living a life not for seen and faithfully believing
Passionate Preaching, versed in the art of rhetoric
Be he a sinner and unashamed a teacher of definite’s
Just look to the writings and the journals that he kept
Look to the writings and the journals that he kept
It was pride that changed angels into devils;
it is humility that makes men as angels.
He that is kind is free, though he is a slave;
he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.
This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.
God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
Love is the beauty of the soul.
Score & Parts are available. Purchase here.