Living the Life is a song cycle for baritone, flute and piano and was written in 2016 for the Nw’O ensemble. Its duration is approximately 10 minutes 15 seconds.
It is a setting of four poems by Duane L. Herrmann: ‘The Secret of Living’, ‘The Prison of Self’, ‘The Sea of Deeds’ and ‘Flowering/Growing’. I was particularly drawn to these poems as they are positive reflections of how best to live our lives (hence the title), taking inspiration from the many Writings of the Bahá’í Faith.
‘The Secret of Living’ explains how giving to others is the ‘secret’ of how we can truly live our lives. At first, piano accompanies the voice and then, with the words ‘Alone, he or she stands’, only the flute is used. This pattern alternates until the end, when flute and piano draw the song to the close.
The flute is absent in ‘The Prison of Self’, where the poet describes how we limit our growth by using phrases such as ‘I want’, ‘I need’ and ‘I can’t’. We can free ourselves by looking beyond our limitations. The piano provides a strong rhythmic accompaniment.
Initially, the piano is absent in ‘The Sea of Deeds’, although it joins the ensemble towards the end with a very simple decoration in the high register. The main lesson the poet gives us is taken directly from Bahá’í Writings: ‘Let deeds, not words be thine adorning’. Our deeds, he says, ‘transforms us from who we are to the soul we can become’.
‘Flowering/Growing’ combines both instruments with voice in 5/4 time, where words and music reflect on the passage of our lives. The poet says that our lesson of life is ‘of increasing spiritual to our journey’s end and goal of Glory’. With these words, the music becomes slower and simpler, ending quietly and calmly.