Matthew Aucoin: Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter III for Baritone and piano

Bar, pf

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Additional Info

  • Composer
    Matthew Aucoin
  • Publisher
    Associated Music Publishers Inc
  • Format
    Vocal Score
  • Language


For Baritone and piano. Commissioned for New York Festival of Song and Theo Hoffman with support from the Julian Autrey Song Foundations, Theo Hoffman, and Steven Blier.

Composer note
The medieval mystic Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love is one of the strangest and most searingly potent visionary texts ever written. When she was thirty years old, Julian fell gravely ill and believed her death was imminent. As she lay sick, she had a series of visions (“shewings”) of Jesus, which she described in writing after her unexpected recovery.

I’m drawn to texts that tell of experiences that are right on the border between the religious and the erotic: I’ve explored this ambiguity in pieces like This Earth, which sets a tantalizing passage from Dante’s Purgatorio.

Julian’s Revelations goes to both extremes: it is intensely spiritual (Julian lived much of her life as an anchoress, confined to a small cell within a church so that she could devote herself entirely to worship) and also intensely physical. Her visions are sometimes gruesome: she witnesses blood trickling from Jesus’s wounds, and the decay of her Savior’s body. Her longing for Jesus and identification with him (“I would that His pains were my pains…I desired to suffer with Him”) is so intense that any theoretical boundary between the religious and the erotic is surely obliterated.

My musical setting takes a section from early in the Revelations, the section that recounts Julian’s illness, her belief that she is sure to die, and then her mysterious recovery. I happened to be exactly Julian’s age (“thirty years old and a half”) when I wrote the piece, and her account of her sickness felt disturbingly relevant, given that it was written during some of the bleakest months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wrote this piece for my friends Theo Hoffman and Adam Nielsen, with the generous support of the New York Festival of Song.

— Matthew Aucoin

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