I Enter the Earth
for a capella chamber choir
Duration: 15 minutes
Commissioned by Chorus America and the American Composers Forum via the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award for The Crossing.
It begins with the choir humming as though its sounds were coming from far beyond the universe, almost causing time to stand still ... With melodic slides producing harmonic glissandi, it offers an amazing variety of texture and nuance, all the while projecting the text with precise clarity. Eventually short repetitive modules of melody propel the music to a well-built climax that beautifully resolves, almost redefining what harmonic dissonance and consonance mean. —Michael Caruso, Chestnut Hill Local
... an astonishingly original compositional voice - Joel Puckett, who teaches at the Peabody Conservatory, and whose I enter the earth was a Crossing commission to a text from the shamanistic !Kung culture (its people live nomadically in Africa's Kalahari Desert) about retreating into the earth. The piece starts with a sharp focused "Oooh" sound (similar to the familiar mantra "Om"), throwing open the door to a rich harmonic world that included ticklish soprano-range triplets framing long-breathed musical undercurrents. Elsewhere, an "Oooh" would transform into a cloud of microtones with hallucinatory speed - handled with ease by the Crossing, like electronic effects achieved with the turn of a knob." —David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer
When people sing ... I enter the earth. I go in at a place like a place where people drink water. I travel a long way, very far. When I emerge, I am already climbing. I climb threads. I climb one and leave it.
When you arrive at God's place, you make yourself small. ...
You do what you have to do there.
Then you return to where everyone is, and you hide your face. You hide your face so you won't see. ... And then you come and come and come and finally you enter your body again. All ... who have stayed behind are waiting for you. They fear you.
You enter, enter the earth, and you return to enter the skin of your body ... Then you ... sing.
All text for I enter the earth was spoken by Kxao =Oah of northwestern Botswana in 1971, interpreted and translated by Marguerite Anne Biesele and then edited by Joel Puckett.
It is excerpted from "Folklore and ritual of !Kung hunter gatherers,” Ph.D. Dissertation Dept. of Anthropology, Harvard University©1975 Marguerite Anne Biesele (current pen name Megan Biesele) and used with permission.
Grateful acknowledgement is made to Dr. Biesele who has granted permission to set and reprint these words. She asks that anyone moved by them consider making a donation to:
The Kalahari Peoples Fund
PO Box 7855
Austin, TX 78713-7855