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Always the soft silver of black-and-white. The pupils and the camera’s click. The bride’s hands wrung nervously, rough—in the light at least— from work. Always the tilted tiara. The bouquet of lilies and white-flowers behind her, which here means happiness. The cord of lace across her collarbone, which here means honor the ancestors. Her bridegroom waiting outside, telling someone ‘Ek wil opgaan,’ I wish to rise. Always the southern window. The garden planted in memory of those who came before us. Always the stones: the wall around the farmyard built by slaves two centuries ago. The other stones that mark the graves of the ancestors. Always the names. Always the orchard where we grew and dried fruit. The ostrich, flightless, who walks among thorn trees. Always the weddings. The years of drought. The gash in the land where we took of earth: shale, mudstone, uranium, gold. And the land also. Dry wind. Dry grass. The southern window. The cord of lace.
The dead know only the smell of trees found near their own towns, hazel and ash. Or the smell of wood, which rises in smoke, dry as the earth, where they must stay, resolved, like hazel, like ash. A goat with black eyes bending to drink from a bucket beside the well. The water in the bucket. When did the grass grow thick with mint? When did we think to build this fence? Why was this soil no good for us?
Elsewhere, our train pulses through a yellow landscape at full-speed. A plume billows behind it. From a window, the sky ripples like a burnt map over this continent or that one—the towns, the countryside, the fields of wheat and goatgrass— broken up by roads and tan hills stacked like bread. Back there, in a village, women are sealing the backs of paintings with brown paper. They fold it over the edges of the frames the way they tucked their hair into gingham when they were young. They are scurrying. They are clothed. No one watches them. Now the candles are waiting on the windowsills. Now the wooden ladders lean into the attics.


Old World Elegy (2013, rev. 2015)
I originally discovered Richie Hofmann’s Old World Elegy when I selected it as the winner of the 2012 Memorious Art Song Contest facilitated collaboratively by Eric Malmquist, director of Singers On New Ground and Rebecca Morgan Frank, Editor-in-Chief of Memorious: A Journal of New Verse and Fiction. My setting of Old World Elegy is dedicated to Angela Tomasino and Chicago Q Ensemble who dedicated incredible time and energy to bringing this piece to life.

Music Box Counterpoint (2015)
Music Box Counterpoint is dedicated to my caring and loving wife Emily Wren.

Roots Run Deep (2011, rev. 2015)
In a conversation with my maternal grandfather (Pépère), he made an obvious and yet striking comment about his reality. “My roots run deep here.” He is referring to the Houle family farm, located in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom on which he has lived his entire life. All 90+ years of it. For much of this time things really have not changed. For the bulk of its years it has been a dairy farm. It has always produced maple syrup. The scenery has always been gorgeous and the barn cats are numerous. His existence is so intertwined with the place that acknowledging his deep roots in the farm is a trivialization; they are at once tranquil and grounded while simultaneously aggressive and unyielding.

On a visit to the farm in July 2011, my grandmother (Mémère) gave to me two old gifts: a family book of French hymns and a violin that had been owned by my great-grandfather. As the most avid musician in the family these were precious and inspirational gifts to me. The violin was an instrument my great-grandfather chose not to teach to his son as his existence on the land was being secured. Thus it has been largely unused for many years revealing the aggressive and unyielding nature of his roots. Upon my return to Chicago, I played through the old hymnbook and was drawn to the tranquil beauty of Gounod’s Le ciel visité la terre and Riga’s Christ adoré. In a humble effort to awaken the ‘spirit’ of the old violin through the inspiring roots of my grandfather, I have employed these two hymns as the melodic foundation for Roots Run Deep. Dually tranquil and aggressive; the music’s gravity persistently pulls the listener upward. The piece has also been arranged for full orchestra.


released February 29, 2016

Old World Elegy performed by Angela Tomasino, voice & Chicago Q Ensemble
Music Box Counterpoint performed by Chicago Q Ensemble
Roots Run Deep performed by Chicago Q Ensemble

Chicago Q Ensemble is Ellen McSweeney, violin; Aimee Biasiello, viola; & Sara Sitzer, cello; & special guest Eric Pidluski, violin on Old World Elegy & Roots Run Deep | chicagoqensemble.com

Music by Brian Baxter | brianbaxtermusic.com
Poetry by Richie Hofmann | richiehofmann.com
Artwork by Alex Mitchell | alex-mitchell-studio.com

Produced by Brian Baxter and Alex Inglizian

Recorded, mixed, & mastered by Alex Inglizian at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago | experimentalsoundstudio.org

©2015 by Brian Baxter, ATIHADSO MUSIC (ASCAP), All Rights Reserved.


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Brian Baxter Davenport, Iowa

Brian Baxter is a musician and orchestra manager who composes music inspired by family, place, and poetry.

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