The Month of moderns

a house

Saturday, June 9 at 8pm
The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill


Guillaume Combet, Alexandra Cutler-Fetkewicz, Rebecca Harris, and Carlos Rubio, violin
Amy Leonard and Petula Perdikis, viola
Mimi Morris-Kim and Nellie Smith, violoncello
Heather Miller Lardin, contrabass
Ted Babcock, percussion

Crossing Crane-3773-cropped (1 of 1) (1).jpg

a note from the conductor...
Like a mirrored reflection of last year’s Month of Moderns, which focused on The Other, this year we turn inward to a series of life journeys. In Month of Moderns 1: a house we visit a number of our ‘selves’ – the caring self and the needing self; the spiritual self and the political self. This special evening, focusing primarily on lesser-known works of David Lang along with a world premiere by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, is a study in what love – be it for another, a god, or for humanity – drives us to do and to be.



The Fruit of Silence (2013)                                                                                                                         Pēteris Vasks

a house (2016)                                                                                                                                                     David Lang—East Coast premiere—

Lincoln (2018)                                                                                                                                                      Alex Berko

brief pause

statement to the court (2010)                                                                                                                          David Lang


Who What When Where Why (and a few other questions) (2018)                                Ellis Ludwig-Leone—world premiere—

Commissioned by Tour Resource Consultants and Maury Schulte for The Crossing and Donald Nally with additional support from Anne and Dennis Wentz

just (after song of songs) (2014)                                                                                                                      David Lang


a house, statement to the court, and just (after song of songs) were recorded this week for release on Cantaloupe Records.

This concert is being recorded for broadcast by our partner WRTI, 90.1 FM, Philadelphia’s Classical and Jazz Public Radio Station.

P37_vaches 73x60cm.jpg


The fruit of silence is prayer. 
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love. 
The fruit of love is service. 
The fruit of service is peace. 

—based on a text by Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

The Fruit of Silence 
music by Pēteris Vasks (b. 1946)

a house
words and music by David Lang (b. 1957)

a note from the composer...

a house was commissioned by Northwestern University to honor the opening of their new music building, the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts. This is a big responsibility for a piece of music, and I started thinking about my piece as a kind of benediction, and as a wish for the future, for all the good work that could now happen within this new environment.

I remembered the proverb: Through wisdom is a house built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge are the chambers filled with all precious and pleasant riches. That seemed very appropriate for the opening of a new building at a university, since, ideally, the ‘precious and pleasant riches’ with which the chambers would be filled would be knowledge itself.

I wondered if I could mirror in my piece the building of a building, if I could lay out my bricks and my mortar, and then painstakingly assemble them into chambers filled with riches. I found nineteen different translations of the proverb, each slightly different. I separated out only the individual words necessary to be able to create all nineteen versions and I arranged them alphabetically – these are the bricks of my building. I then divided each of the nineteen versions into their smaller phrases, arranging them alphabetically as well. Of course, the goal of education is wisdom. Luckily for me, and thanks to the alphabet, it is the goal of my text, as well.

a house was commissioned by Northwestern University, Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, and was premiered by the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, Donald Nally, director, Sunday April 17, 2016, at Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall, Ryan Center for the Musical Arts.






a house is built
and becomes strong
and by knowledge
and by prudence
and by understanding
and it is established
and the inner chambers are filled
and through understanding
and with intelligence
are the chambers filled
by instruction
by knowledge
by understanding
by wisdom
is a house builded
is a house built
is an house builded
is an house built
it establisheth itself
it is entirely put in good order
it is established
it is made secure
it shall be established
it shall be strengthened
its rooms are filled
its rooms are furnished
shall the chambers be filled
the house shall be built
the inner parts are filled
the rooms are filled
the storerooms shall be filled

through good sense
through knowledge
through understanding
through wisdom

with all kinds of precious and pleasing treasures
with all precious and beautiful riches
with all precious and most beautiful wealth
with all precious and pleasant riches
with all precious and pleasant substance
with all precious and pleasant wealth
with all rare and beautiful treasure
with all sorts of expensive and beautiful goods
with all sorts of precious riches and valuables
with every kind of riches, both precious and pleasant
with every possession, honor and delight
with every precious and beautiful treasure
with knowledge
with rare and beautiful treasures
with understanding
with wisdom    


music by Alex Berko (b. 1995)

a note from the composer...

Lincoln is a reflection on the power of the individual. It explores the idea that change is not linear but gradual, and infused with an extreme amount of personal courage. This non-linear nature of change is embedded into the structure of the composition, for the setting of the text was crafted in a way that would reflect the overall affect of the poetry itself. Through the reiteration of each line of text, it is almost as though the repetition empowers the individual to continue on to the next line. It isn’t until the very end that the entire poem is recited in its purest form, ending the composition on a feeling of unity and togetherness.

Lincoln was commissioned by The Cathedral Choral Society and conducted in its premiere by Donald Nally on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Washington National Cathedral.


—The Very Rev. Francis Bowes Sayre Jr. (1915-2008) 
Dean, Washington National Cathedral (1953-1977)

statement to the court
words and music by David Lang

a note from the composer...

For various different reasons, when Donald Nally contacted me and asked if I would write a work for his choir, The Crossing, I got it into my head that I wanted to do something political. I remembered back in my lefty days reading a very passionate and intelligent speech by Eugene Debs, the pioneering 19th-century American Socialist and founder of the International Workers of the World, in which he addresses the court that has just found him guilty of sedition for speaking out against American participation in World War I. What I love about this speech is that it is both critical of the political world that Debs lives in and at the same time optimistic about it. He sees the problems around him and yet is confident that through dedication things can be improved. I wanted to try to capture this duality of feeling in my setting of the text – the clear-eyed recognition that things are not what they should be, and the hopefulness that, with hard work, things can be made a lot better.

statement to the court was commissioned by The Crossing, Donald Nally, conductor, with funding from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Music Project, and was premiered on June 27, 2010, at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill at The Month of Moderns.

statement to the court is dedicated to ASCAP's Fran Richard, with whom I have been talking politics for over 30 years.

Statement to the Court Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act
Delivered by Eugene Debs, September 18, 1918

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believe in a fundamental change-but if possible by peaceable and orderly means. Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison.

I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men.

In this country - the most favored beneath the bending skies - we have vast areas of the richest and most fertile soil, material resources in inexhaustible abundance, the most marvelous productive machinery on earth, and millions of eager workers ready to apply their labor to that machinery to produce in abundance for every man, woman, and child-and if there are still vast numbers of our people who are the victims of poverty and whose lives are an unceasing struggle all the way from youth to old age, until at last death comes to their rescue and lulls these hapless victims to dreamless sleep, it is not the fault of the Almighty: it cannot be charged to nature, but it is due entirely to the outgrown social system in which we live that ought to be abolished not only in the interest of the toiling masses but in the higher interest of all humanity.

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence. This order of things cannot always endure.

Your Honor, I ask no mercy and I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never so clearly comprehended as now the great struggle between the powers of greed and exploitation on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of industrial freedom and social justice.

I can see the dawn of the better day for humanity. When the mariner, sailing over tropic seas, looks for relief from his weary watch, he turns his eyes toward the Southern Cross, burning luridly above the tempest-vexed ocean. As the midnight approaches, the Southern Cross begins to bend, the whirling worlds change their places, and with starry finger-points the Almighty marks the passage of time upon the dial of the universe, and though no bell may beat the glad tidings, the lookout knows that the midnight is passing and that relief and rest are close at hand. Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning.

I am now prepared to receive your sentence.

—Eugene Debs (1855-1926)

Who What Where When Why (and a few other questions)
words and music by Ellis Ludwig-Leone (b. 1989)

a note from the composer...

The text for this piece is comprised entirely of questions submitted to me by friends and acquaintances in response to the prompt: “What are five questions you ask yourself on a given day?" I received about 150 questions from 30 sources, ranging from the profound to the very mundane.

The next task was to arrange them into a libretto. I was struck by the searching, almost spiritual quality of so many questions – little snapshots of peoples’ lives – all jumbled together. I sorted them into five categories: who, what, when, where, and why. I liked how this five-part organization echoed the familiar structure of an ordinary Catholic Mass, with its Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.

As I was writing, I was reminded of a quote from James Baldwin: “You must understand that your pain is trivial except insofar as you can use it to connect with other people’s pain.” As I arranged and set the anxieties and curiosities of my friends and family, I felt like I was allowed access to something sacred and personal. My hope in writing this piece is to celebrate and combine these little moments in order to find something shared and universal.




2. what

What should I do
what should I have for lunch
What is making me feel bad right now
what should I make with all this tofu
What am I supposed to be doing with my time
what is that in my Tupperware
What is the next step
what is that smell
What if I fail
what does it smell like
What do I do
what is causing the metallic taste in these beans
What am I doing
what will I eat for dinner
What was I thinking

What's wrong with me


1. who

Who cares
Who actually listens to this
Who knows
Who is this person calling from San Diego
Who ate my ice cream
Who wears high heeled rain boots
Who has time to care about that








3. when

When will it get warm again
When will I feel settled
When will I feel relaxed
When will I be out of debt
When will I get to leave the office







4. where

Where are my keys
Where is my phone
Where are my shoes
Where is everyone
Where is my bike
Where is my phone
Where are my nail clippers
Where should I go

Where will I live
Where should I raise children
Where am I going to end up
Where are my keys
Where is my phone
Where are my shoes
Where is everyone
Where should I get lunch    
Where’s the bus
Where am I going to go
Where is my phone
Where are my keys




When will it get warm again
When will I wake up
When should I do laundry
When am I ever going to start my dream project
When did I last shower
When will they fix the subway
When will we have a new president
When will he ever leave

When will I get into jazz

When will I meet someone
When did I call grandma
When will I go










5. why (and a few other questions)

Why can't I focus
Why does this have to seem so complicated
Why won't this goddamn piece of software do what I want
Who cares
How do I make this work
How can I do this better
What is the point of all this
Should I shave today
Am I being a smart-ass
Have I saved enough money
Am I wasting too much time
Will I meet someone
Will we run out of water

What should I do now
Am I doing this right

just (after song of songs)
words and music by David Lang

a note from the composer...

just (after song of songs) is a setting of a text I made by finding certain things in the Song of Songs. The original text is of course the most passionate and erotic of the ancient Jewish books, and it is always strange to encounter it in the Bible. In 2008 I wrote a choral piece called for love is strong, in which I made a similar text from the Song of Songs, trying to use the words to see through the relationship between the man and the woman in the story to the relationship between Man and God. According to Jewish tradition the Song of Songs is a metaphor for our passion for the Eternal, so the words themselves become very important.

One thing that has always interested me about the text is that the man and the woman in the Song of Songs have attributes, they notice things about each other, they own things, they have features that are desirable. In a love between people this would be no surprise. In a love between Man and God, however, that might mean that in this text are clues to the nature of God’s own attributes, and a record of how they might attract us.

For my text I listed everything personal or owned that is attributed to the man and to the woman. To clarify who is speaking I started every phrase of his with ‘just your’ and every phrase of hers with ‘and my.’ It is interesting that in a text about a love that is shared there are only seven instances of ‘our.’

just (after song of songs) is dedicated to my friends Amy Podmore and Frank Jackson.

just your mouth
just your love
just your anointing oils
just your name
just your chambers
just your love

and my mother’s sons
and my own vineyard
and my soul

just your flock
just your companions
just your kids
just your cheeks
just your neck
just your couch

and my perfume
and my beloved
and my breasts
and my beloved
and my love

just your eyes

and my beloved

our couch
our house
our rafters

and my love
and my beloved

just your shadow
just your fruit
just your banner over me
just your left hand
just your right hand

and my beloved
and my beloved

our wall

and my beloved
and my love
and my fair one
and my love
and my fair one
and my dove

just your face
just your voice
just your voice
just your face

our vineyards

and my beloved

just your flock

and my beloved
and my bed
and my soul
and my soul
and my soul
and my soul
any my mother’s house

just your sword
just your mother
just your wedding
just your heart

and my love

just your eyes
just your veil
just your hair


just your teeth
just your lips
just your mouth
just your cheeks
just your veil
just your neck
just your two breasts

and my love
and my bride
and my heart
and my sister
and my bride
and my heart

just your eyes
just your necklace
just your love

and my sister
and my bride

just your love
just your oils
just your lips

and my bride

just your tongue
just your garments

and my sister
and my bride

just your shoots

and my garden
and by beloved
and my garden
and my sister
and my bride


and my myrrh
and my spice
and my honeycomb
and my honey
and my wine
and my milk
and my heart
and my beloved
and my sister
and my love
and my dove
and my perfect one
and my head
and my locks
and my garment
and my feet
and my beloved
and my hand
and my heart
and my beloved
and my hands
and my fingers
and my beloved
and my beloved
and my soul
and my beloved

just your beloved
just your beloved

and my beloved

just your head
just your locks
just your eyes
just your cheeks
just your lips
just your arms
just your body
just you legs
just your appearance
just your speech

and my beloved
and my friend

just your beloved

and my beloved

just your garden
just your flock

and my beloved
and my beloved

just your flock


and my love


just your eyes
just your hair
just your teeth
just your cheeks

and my dove
and my perfect one
and my mother
and my fancy
and my prince

just your feet
just your rounded thighs
just your navel
just your belly
just your two breasts
just your neck
just your eyes
just your nose
just your head
just your flowing locks
just your breasts
just your breasts
just your breath
just your kisses

and my beloved

just your desire

and my beloved
and my love

our doors

and my beloved
and my mother’s breast
and my mother

and my pomegranates

just your left hand
just your right hand

and my beloved

just your mother
just your heart
just your arm

our sister


and my breasts

just your eyes

and my vineyard
and my very own
and my self

just your voice

and my beloved 


The Crossing

Katy Avery
Nathaniel Barnett
Jessica Beebe
Julie Bishop
Kelly Ann Bixby
Karen Blanchard
Steven Bradshaw
Colin Dill
Micah Dingler
Robert Eisentrout
Ryan Fleming
Joanna Gates
Dimitri German
Steven Hyder
Michael Jones
Heather Kayan
Maren Montalbano
Rebecca Myers
Rebecca Oehlers
Daniel Schwartz
Rebecca Siler
Daniel Spratlan
Elisa Sutherland
Jason Weisinger 

Donald Nally, conductor
John Grecia, keyboards