William Kraft: Songs of Flowers, Bells & Death















Requiem for Victims of
All Wars; Contextures IV


Shepherd School Percussion Ensemble


Alastair Willis, conductor




Silent Boughs (1963) “To Jackie”


Marilyn Horne, messo soprano


Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra


Henry Lewis, conductor




Contextures II: the final Beast


Sarah Eyden, soprano


Andrew Busher, tenor


New London Children's Choir




Odaline de la Martinez, conductor








William Kraft


William Kraft was appointed to the Dorothy and Sherrill C.Corwin Chair in Music Composition at the University of California at Santa Barbara in September, 1991, in recognition of his long and distinguished career as a composer, conductor and teacher. He served as percussionist (1955-1962) and timpanist (1962-1981) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1955 to 1981 and was the orchestra's first composer-in-residence (1981-1985) during which time he founded and directed the Philharmonic New Music Group. He also served as regular guest conductor and was assistant conductor for three seasons.


A musician of international acclaim, Professor Kraft has received dozens of awards, commissions, and nominations including two Guggenheim Fellowships, two Ford Foundation commissions, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation, two Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards, the Norlin/MacDowell Fellowship, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters Award. His works have been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Library of Congress, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic, Kronos Quartet, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players/Contemporary Music Forum (Washington, DC)/Speculum Musicae (New York), San Francisco Symphony, and many others. In 1991 Professor Kraft's composition, Settings from Pierrot Lunaire, a piece for soprano and chamber ensemble, was premiered in its entirety in Boston. In addition to composing several film and television scores, he conducted the orchestra for the recent films Dead Again, Carlito's Way, and Indo-Chine. Professor Kraft has served on the Board of the Monday Evening Concerts, the Music Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, as musical director and chief advisor for the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra of Los Angeles, the board of the American Music Center, and was Chairman of the ASCAP Board of Review.




Politicians should be Poets. Perhaps they would then realize that serving all of humanity rather than their localized power would eventually be more efficacious, a situation that would redound to the benefit of all mankind. Perhaps they would then be sensitive to the suffering and diabolical waste in wars that result from the entrenchment of conflicting powers, not to mention the idiocy of excessive xenophobia and jingoism.


Two of the three pieces on this CD, Contextures II and Songs of Flowers, Bells, and Death, reflect this concern about the hypocrisy and the unforgiving tragedy of war. Hypocrisy in Contextures II: (Palesteinlied) “the whole world is at war here; we have the just claim. It is right that He should acknowledge us.” Unforgiving tragedy concluding Wilfred Owens' Insensibility: “the eternal reciprocity of tears.”


The third piece, Silent Boughs, is about unrequited love. Another kind of pain, but not as deadly.


Songs of Flowers, Bells and Death: Contextures IV


Songs of Flowers, Bells and Death: Contextures IV, was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University. The premiere took place at Brigham Young on March 8, 1994, with Ron Brough conducting the Brigham Young Concert Choir and Percussion Ensemble.


The subtitle, Contextures IV, refers to this being the last in a similarly titled or subtitled series of pieces: Contextures: Riots Decade '60 (referring to the Watts riots in Los Angeles); Contextures II: The Final Beast (A collection of anti-war poetry); A Kennedy Portrait: Contextures III.


Each work deals with social issues, two (II and IV) dealing with war. IV is the last, not just the most recent, work dealing with these subjects, because of the frustration and helplessness that eventually sap the creative energy in the face of ongoing events.


Whatever else there is to say about Songs of Flowers, Bells and Death is best expressed in the poetry, which embraces approximately 2600 years of sadness and anger.




Suffering of this world


Even when the flowers flower,


And in spite of the flowers.


Issa (Japanese, 1763-1827)


What passing bells for these who die as cattle?


Only the monstrous anger of the guns.


Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle


Can patter out their hasty orisons.


No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,


Nor any voice of morning save the choirs,


The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells;


And bugles calling for them from sad shires.


What candles may be held to speed them all


Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes


Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.


The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;


Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,


And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.


Wilfred Owen (English, 1893-1918)


Old Battlefield, fresh Spring flowers again,


All that is left of the dream


Of twice ten thousand warriors slain.


Do not quarrel.


You were made to help one another.


Birds of passage.


Basho (Japanese, 1644-94)


Oh Great Spirit who dwells in the sky,


Lead us to the path of peace and understanding.


Let all of us live as brothers and sisters.


Our lives are so short here walking upon Mother Earth's Surface.


Let our eyes be opened to all the blessings you have given us.


Please hear our prayers.


Oh, Great Spirit.


South Dakota Sioux Indians


Afraitor athemistos anestias




Hos polemu eratai epidaimiou


Okru o entos


Atai Phonos Eris Polemus


He that creates war among


His people is without


Brotherhood, is loveless,


Is without hearth,


Utter destruction, slaughter, strife, war!


Homer: the Illiad — Book IX (c. 700 B.C.)


This and this alone is true religion:


To serve thy brethren;


This is sin above all other sin:


To harm thy brethren.


True Religion, Tulsedas (c. 1532-1623)


(Translated by Mahatma Gandhi, 1930,


during imprisonment, Yerauda Jail,




Silent Boughs


Silent Boughs “To Jackie” was written in 1963. This song cycle for mezzo soprano and string orchestra on poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay was commissioned by Marilyn Horne and Henry Lewis. It received its first performance on November 15, 1963 in Stockholm, Sweden with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.




The Betrothal


Oh, come, my lad, or go, my lad,


And love me if you like.


I shall not hear the door shut


Nor the knocker strike.


Oh, bring me gifts or beg me gifts,


And wed me if you will.


I'd make a man a good wife,


Sensible and still.


And why should I be cold my lad,


And why should you repine,


Because I love a dark head


That never will be mine?


I might as well be easing you


As lie alone in bed


And waste the night in wanting


A cruel dark head.


You might as well be calling yours


What never will be his,


And one of us be happy.


There's few enough as is.




What lips my lips have kissed…


What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,


I have forgotten, and what arms have lain


Under my head till morning; but the rain


Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh


Upon the glass and listen for reply,


And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain


For unremembered lads that not again


Will turn to me at midnight with a cry?


Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,


Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,


Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:


I cannot say what loves have come and gone,


I only know that summer sang in me


A little while, that in me sings no more.




That love at length should find me out…


That love at length should find me out and bring


This fierce and trivial brow unto the dust,


Is, after all, I must confess, but just;


There is a subtle beauty in this thing,


A wry perfection; wherefore now let sing


All voices how into my throat is thrust,


Unwelcome as Death's own, Love's bitter crust,


All criers proclaim it, and all steeples ring.


This being done, there let the matter rest.


What more remains is neither here nor there,


That you requite me not is plain to see;


Myself your slave herein have I confessed:


Thus far, indeed, the world may mock at me;


But if I suffer, it is my own affair.


Edna St. Vincent Millay




Contextures II: The Final Beast


Contextures II is based on nearly three thousand years of anti-war poetry, from Homer, c. ninth century B.C., to Fanta Bass (1930-44).


A line of oscillating major seconds hovering over a static harmony and funereal bell sounds conclude Contextures: Riots Decade '60, and overlap into the opening of Contextures II. The major seconds refer to the opening of the African-American spiritual We Shall Overcome, so closely associated with Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. The funereal bell sounds were added to the original ending of Contextures: Riots Decade '60, to commemorate the assassination of Dr. King which occurred just a few hours before the world premiere, April 4, 1968. Thus, Contextures II begins with the final 11 measures of Contextures: Riots Decade '60, and melds into the entrance of the children's choir singing a setting of The Garden, taken from the collection of children's drawings and poems from Terezin concentration camp, 1942-44, titled …I never saw another butterfly. Frantisek Bass, the author (who signed the poem “Franta Bass”), was born in Brno (Czechoslovakia) on September 4, 1930, sent to Terezin December 2, 1942, and died in Auschwitz October 28, 1944.


Two sharp attacks from the ensemble break the quiet setting with the tenor declaiming lines from The Illiad denouncing the man who would lead his countrymen into war. This in turn sets off the ensemble into a very fast and very loud section. The already large percussion is amplified by many hand bells played by the boys' choir — first as sheer sound effect, but then as a transition to Psalm 146 sung by an alto soloist from the choir accompanied by a chamber ensemble including a hurdy-gurdy and a viola da gamba. This section ends when the entire choir sings an excerpt from Matthew 5:9: “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”


The tenor takes up the prophetic The End of the World, from Jeremiah 4:19-26. This is climaxed by a brief episode reminiscent of the earlier Greek section only to be abruptly cut off by the old music group introducing the soprano singing the Palestein Song by the lyric poet, minnesinger and composer Walther von der Vogelweide (c. 1165-c. 1230). While Jeremiah has been saying “and the whole land is laid waste,” Vogelweide says that while each of the three adversaries, “Christians, Jews and heathen,” invoke their particular concept of God, “we have the just claim: It is right the he should acknowledge us.”


Longfellow (1807-82) voices his concern on viewing The Arsenal at Springfield: “Ah, what a sound will rise, how wild and dreary, when the death-angel touches those swift keys” — the opening lines sung by the choir, the following lines taken by the soprano who carries through into John Scott's (1730-83) I Hate That Drum's Discordant Sound.


A collage is created by the layering of the old music group which persists independently with the galliard Can She Excuse by John Dowland (1563-1626). The purpose of this dance music thrust against the contrasting music of the ensemble as with the jazz group in Contexture: Riots Decade '60 is to exemplify how the bulk of society tends to go on with its fun and entertainment seemingly oblivious to the dangers that threaten its very existence.


The final poem, Insensibility, is by the British poet Wilfred Owen, who, as a soldier in the British army during World War I, was tragically killed one week before the Armistice was declared. This is sung by the tenor, who is joined by the soprano. Later, as a backdrop, the choir layers in an ostinato with the constant repetition of the three words, “A little boy.” The old music group drifts away, the horn has a brief expressive solo and then the ensemble drifts away.


The bulk of the text can be found in Scott Bates' excellent collection Poems of War Resistance (Grossman Publishers, New York, 1969). Contextures II: The Final Beast is dedicated to the victims of all wars.


The texts are derived from the following sources: Franta Bass (1930-44) — “The Garden;” Homer (c. 9th cent. B.C.) — The Illiad (Nestor's speech from Box IX); Psalm 146 — “Blessed are the peacemakers…;” Jeremiah 4:19-26 (Revised Standard Version of the Bible) — The End of the World; Walther von der Vogelweide (c. 1165-1230) — Palesteinlied; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82) — The Arsenal at Springfield; John Scott (1730-83) — I Hate that Drum's Discordant Sound; John Dowland (1563-1626) — Can She Excuse (music only); Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) — Insensibility.




The Garden


A little garden,


Fragrant and full of roses.


The path is narrow


And a little boy walks along it.


A little boy, a sweet boy,


Like that growing blossom,


When the blossom comes to bloom,


The little boy will be no more.


Franta Bass




The Illiad


Afraitor athemistos anestias estineekainos


Los polemu eratai epidaimiou okru o entos


The man who loves horrible war


with his own countryman


is a man without brothers,


without law, without hearth.


Homer (translation by Priscilla Heim)




Psalm 146


Laudabo, laudabo.


Lauda anima mea Dominum


Laudabo Dominum in vita mea:


Psallum Domino quam diu tuero




Lauda custodit advenus


Confidere Imprincipibus


Infilis hominum inquibus non est salus.


Praise ye the Lord.


Praise the Lord, O my soul.


While I live will I praise the Lord:


I will sing praises unto my God while


I have any being.


Put not your trust in princes,


Nor in the son of man,


in whom there is no help.




Matthew 5:9


Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.




The End of the World


My heart is beating wildly;


I cannot be silent;


I cannot keep silent;


For I hear the sound of the trumpet.


The alarm of war.


Disaster follows hard on disaster,


the whole land is laid waste.


I looked on the earth, and lo,


it was waste and void;


and to the heavens,


and they had no light.


I looked on the mountains,


and lo, they were quaking,


and all the hills moved to and fro.


I looked, and lo, there was no man,


and all the birds of the air had fled.


I looked, and lo, the fruited land


was desert, and all its cities were laid


In ruins.


Jeremiah 4:19-26






Aller erst lebe ichmir werde


Sit min sündic ouge sint


Daz reine lant und ouch die erde


Der man so wil eren giht.


Mirst geschehen des ich ie bat.


Ich bin komen an die stat


Da Gott mennischlichen


Kristen, Juden und die heiden


Jehent daz diz erbe si;


Gott muez ez ze rehte scheiden


Durch di sine namen dri.


Al diu welt diu stritet her;


Wir sin an der rehten zer:


Reht is er uns gewer.


I live supremely content


Since my sinful eyes have seen


The land and the soil


Which has been worshipped so.


My prayers have been granted.


I have come to the place


Where God as man has walked.


Christians, Jews, and heathen


All claim this land as their own;


May God give us justice


In His three names.


The whole world is at war here;


We have the just claim:


It is right that he should acknowledge us.


Walther von der Vogelweide


*Based on an arrangement by


Thomas Binkley




The Arsenal at Springfield


Ah! What a sound will rise,


how wild and dreary,


When the death-angel touches


those swift keys!


What loud lament and dismal Miserere


Will mingle with their awful symphonies!


I hear even now the infinite fierce chorus,


The cries of agony, the endless groan,


How wild and dreary,


Is it, O man, with such discordant noises,


With such accursed instruments as these,


The infinite fierce chorus.


The cries of agony, the endless groan.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




I Hate That Drum's Discordant Sound


I hate that drum's discordant sound,


Parading round, and round, and round.


To me it talks of ravag'd plains,


And burning towns, and ruin'd swains,


And mangled limbs, and dying groans,


And widow's tears, and orphans' moans;


And all that Misery's hand bestows,


To fill the catalogue of human woes.


John Scott






But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,


That they should be as stones;


Wretched are they, and mean


With paucity that never was simplicity.


By choice they made themselves immune


To pity and whatever mourns in man


Before the last sea and the hapless stars;


Whatever mourns when they


leave these shores;


Whatever shares


The eternal reciprocity of tears.


Wilfred Owen




Alastair Willis, conductor


Alastair Willis was born in Acton, Massachusetts and lived with his family in Moscow for five years before settling in Surrey, England. He first began conducting at Bristol University where he received his bachelor of arts degree in music with honors. In 1996 he won a scholarship to study with Larry Rachleff at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University where he received his master of music degree. He was awarded a conducting fellowship to attend Tanglewood in 1999 and was appointed assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the same year. In 2000, Willis became assistant conductor of the Seattle Symphony.




Marilyn Horne, mezzo


Marilyn Horne has been called the “Star Spangled Singer” and “the Heifetz of singers.” One of America's most beloved artists also continues to be one of the busiest with a full schedule of concerts and recitals. As one of the world's most popular performers, Marilyn Horne has received numerous accolades and honors in the arts as well as academia. She was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995 by President Clinton. In 1992, she received the National Medal of the Arts from President Bush and the Endowment for the Arts. Among Marilyn Horne's many worldwide prizes are the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters from France's Ministry of Culture, the Commendatore al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, the Fidelio Gold Medal from the International Association of Opera Directors, and the Covent Garden Silver Medal for Outstanding Service. Ms. Horne's international success in the most difficult of coloratura mezzo-soprano roles, led to the revival of many of Rossini's and Handel's greatest operas. She celebrated 26 years as a leading lady at the Metropolitan Opera and 39 seasons at the San Francisco Opera.




Henry Lewis, conductor (b. October 16, 1932; d. January 26, 1996)


During a music career that spanned nearly five decades, Henry Lewis gained wide respect as a conductor, instrumentalist, and pioneer in the classical music world. At the age of 16 he joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic, becoming the first black instrumentalist in a major orchestra. In 1968 he became the first black to head a major American orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony, and in 1972 he debuted at the New York Metropolitan Opera, conducting Puccini's La Boheme. Lewis began studying piano at the age of five and later learned to play the clarinet as well as several string instruments. After six years as a double-bassist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, he played and conducted the Seventh Army Symphony while serving in the United States Armed Forces (1955-56). He gained national recognition in 1961 when he was appointed assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, a post he held until 1965.


After serving as a guest conductor of major symphony orchestras in the United States and abroad, Lewis moved to Newark, New Jersey, where in 1968 he became conductor and music director of the new Jersey Symphony, a small community ensemble. He transformed the ensemble into a nationally recognized orchestra that annually performed more than a hundred concerts, including outreach programs for local communities. From 1960 to 1979 he was married to famed opera singer Marilyn Horne, who considered him her “teacher and right hand.” After retiring from the New Jersey Symphony in 1976, Lewis continued to tour as a guest conductor until his death from a heart attack at the age of 63.






Since its foundation in 1976, Lontano has established itself as one of Britain's most exciting and versatile exponents of twentieth century music. Lontano's work includes thematic seasons in London, opera and music theater productions, workshop and educational projects, concerts and tours throughout the UK and abroad, and regular recordings on its own LORELT record label. Lontano has toured throughout Europe and North and South America.




Sarah Eyden, soprano


Sara Eyden is a high soprano with the capacity to adapt to many different styles of music. Eyden studeid voice and piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After leaving college in 1993 she joined The Swingle Singers and toured extensively with them for the next five years. Since leaving The Swingle Singers in 1998. Sarah Eyden has worked with the vocal group Synergy performing contemporary vocal music . She works as a freelance soprano in London and has performed on various film soundtracks and television programs as well as more popular music for artists like Sarah Brightman and Elton John.




Andrew Busher, tenor


Andrew Busher studied at Trinity College of Music where he won the Orina Madrigal Prize and the Blanche Cregin Exhibition. On leaving Trinity he joined The Swingle Singers with whom he toured extensively, performing on radio and television all over the world. Since leaving The Swingle Singers Andrew has sung as a soloist with many leading ensembles such as The Monteverdi Choir, The Sixteen, London Voices, electric Phoenix and The BBC Singers.




Odaline de la Martinez, conductor


Odaline de la Martinez was born in Cuba and educated in the United States, finally settling in London where she studied at the Royal Academy of Music. She founded Lontano in 1976 and is also responsible for the founding of the London Chamber Symphony and the European Women's Orchestra, and in 1992, LORELT (Lontano Records) which concentrates on areas neglected by many other recording companies. One of the liveliest and most enterprising musical personalities on the contemporary scene, Martinez became the first woman to conduct an entire program at the Proms in 1984 and she continues to champion the cause of women musicians, Latin-American music and contemporary music. She has worked with all the BBC orchestras, many other leading orchestras in Great Britain, and abroad in North and South America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Also a composer, her first opera, Sister Aimée, was premiered in the United States in 1984. She was awarded the Villa-Lobos medal by the Brazilian government in 1988 in recognition of her outstanding work in promoting and conducting his music. She has been co-Director of VIVA, a festival of Latin-American music at the South Bank and Artistic Director of the 1994 Cardiff Festival. In addition to her work with LORELT, Martinez has recorded for Conifer and Chandos Records. In May 1998 she was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Mexico City based Camerata of the Americas.






Cover Art:Hans Burkhardt (1904-1994): Lang Vei (1968); Oil and Assemblage on Canvas — Courtesy of Jack Rutberg Fine Arts Inc., 357 North La brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036-2517




Cover Design: Bates Miyamoto Design Service








William Kraft (b. 1923)


1 Songs of Flowers, Bells and Death


Requiem for Victims of All Wars; Contextures IV


(for Chorus and Percussion Orchestra) (1991,


rev. 1999) [15:32]


Shepherd Singers


Shepherd School Percussion Ensemble


Alastair Willis, conductor




2 Silent Boughs (1963) “To Jackie”


(for Mezzo Soprano and String Orchestra) [17:38]


Marilyn Horne, mezzo soprano


Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra


Henry Lewis, conductor




3 Contextures II: the Final Beast


(for Soprano, Tenor, Boys' (or Childrens')


Choir, Early Music Ensemble and


Contemporary Music Ensemble) [31:40]


Sarah Eyden, soprano


Andrew Busher, tenor


New London Children's Choir




Odaline de la Martinez, conductor




Total Time = 64:51