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Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun

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Martin Ellerby

Martin Ellerby

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General Info

Year: 2022
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


1. Part One: Pennsylvania – a Rural Rhapsody
2. Part Two: Manhattan – a Crowded Chorus


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun was commissioned by David Diggs for the Wind Ensemble at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on the occasion of their final concert together. The piece follows the two-part structure of the poem of the same name by Walt Whitman (1819-1892), first published in 1865. I was particularly taken by this poem for this piece because the two parts reflected, albeit it in reverse order, the two residencies of David Diggs, New York City and the Pennsylvania countryside. Whitman presents his poem as a questioning of life in the pastoral country and life in the bustling city by a character who has appreciation of both styles but is unsure of his ultimate preference. I have not tried to represent literally this poem in musical terms, but rather to use it as a structural guideline for a two-part composition that yields two quite opposing contrasts of style and content. The Whitman is in effect a suggestive spur allowing for an unusual response in what is in audible terms a single span with two distinct component parts.

For both performers and listeners, I have derived my own subtitles for these two linked sections thus: Part One: Pennsylvania – a Rural Rhapsody and Part Two: Manhattan – a Crowded Chorus. There will be no difficulty in an audience separating the two parts and the overall musical motif of Part One makes a timely return near the close of Part Two. The musical language adopted is apt for the two sections and enables maximum contrast to occur in not only idiom but also density of line and texture.

Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun

Part One

Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling,
Give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard,
Give me a field where the unmow’d grass grows,
Give me an arbor, give me the trellis’d grape,
Give me fresh corn and wheat, give me serene-moving animals teaching content,
Give me nights perfectly quiet as on high plateaus west of the Mississippi, and
I looking up at the stars,

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk
Give me for marriage a sweet-breath’d woman of whom I should never tire,
Give me a perfect child, give me away aside from the noise of the world a rural
domestic life,
Give me to warble spontaneous songs recluse by myself, for my own ears only,
Give me solitude, give me Nature, give me again O Nature your primal sanities!
These demanding to have them, (tired with ceaseless excitement, and rack’d
by the war-strife,)
These to procure incessantly asking, rising in cries from my heart,
While yet incessantly asking still I adhere to my city,
Day upon day and year upon year O city, walking your streets,
Where you hold me enchain’d a certain time refusing to give me up,
Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich’d of soul, you give me forever faces;
(O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing my cries,
I see my own soul trampling down what it ask’d for).

Part Two

Keep your splendid silent sun,
Keep your woods O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods,
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-fields and orchards,
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields where the Ninth-month bees hum;
Give me faces and streets – give me these phantoms incessant and endless
along the trottoirs!
Give me interminable eyes – give me women – give me comrades and lovers by
the thousand!
Let me see new ones every day – let me hold new ones by the hand every day!
Give me such shows – give me the streets of Manhattan!
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching – give me the sound of the
trumpets and drums!
(The soldiers in companies or regiments – some starting away, flush’d and
Some, their time up, returning with thinn’d ranks, young, yet very old, worn,
marching, noticing nothing);
Give me the shores and wharves heavy-fringed with black ships!
O such for me! O an intense life, full to repletion and varied!
The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me!
The saloon of the steamer! The crowded excursion for me! the torchlight
The dense brigade bound for the war, with high piled military wagons
People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions, pageants,
Manhattan streets with their powerful throbs, with beating drums as now,
The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of muskets (even the sight of the wounded),
Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus!
Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.

Walt Whitman

- Program Note by composer


None discovered thus far.

State Ratings

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  • Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Penn.) Wind Ensemble (David Diggs, conductor) - 1 May 2022

Works for Winds by this Composer


None discovered thus far.