Yin and Yang Cantata

When I heard this beautiful love poem by Don Crerar I was keen to attempt a musical setting. The text would have to be simply set, with little adornment, but the music might bring out the tensions between the ‘counterpoints’ in the text and even, perhaps, hint at the pain of love and loss. The piece is as much about the instruments as it is about the voices, a complementary relationship each fulfilling the other The strings begin by weaving descending and ascending melodies between alternating major and minor chords, like a current across the poles of a battery. Another source of tension is that between two-time and three-time rhythms: the music flows back and forth, becoming more animated later in the piece while the underlying tempo remains the same. The soprano and bass share all the text and mostly sing together, so there’s no distinction between them. Ultimately, however, the piece is about harmony - that peculiar thing whereby the significance of a sound depends on the way it combines with others.

Yin and Yang
This sign for us is fitly coined
For hearts divided and conjoined

You are soul and I am mind
I to look and you to find.

I the murmur, you the shout
You the reason, I the doubt.

You acceptance, I mistrust
You the dew and I the dust

I constraint and you release
I at arms and you at peace

I the dark and you the light
You at noon and I midnight

You are warm where I am cold
I the heath and you the fold

Thus head to tail, around we roll
Contending halves, a perfect whole