Salut au Monde

Triple SATB choir (divisi) a cappella

(Double-choir version is in preparation and will be posted when available)  

Recording credit: Conspirare and the Massed Choirs of the 2007 American Masterpieces Choral Festival in Austin, TX, conducted by Craig Hella Johnson; January 2007

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O take my hand!
Such gliding wonders! such sights and sounds!
Such join’d unended links, each hook’d to the next,
Each answering all, each sharing the earth with all.

I see a great round wonder rolling through space,
I see the shaded part on one side where the sleepers are sleeping,
and the sunlit part on the other side,
I see the curious rapid change of the light and shade,
I see distant lands…
I see the filaments of the news of the wars, deaths, losses, gains,
passions, of my race. …
I see the battlefields of the earth, grass grows upon them and
blossoms and corn,
I see farms, hamlets, ruins, graveyards, jails, factories,
palaces, hovels, huts [of barbarians], tents of nomads upon
the surface,

I see all the menials of the earth, laboring,
I see all the prisoners in the prisons,
I see the defective human bodies of the earth,
The blind, the deaf and dumb, idiots, hunchbacks, lunatics,
The pirates, thieves, betrayers, murderers, slave-makers of the earth,
The helpless infants, and the helpless old men and women.

I see male and female everywhere,
I see the serene brotherhood of philosophs,
I see the constructiveness of my race,
I see the results of the perseverance of my race,
And I salute all the inhabitants of the earth.

You whoever you are!
Health to you! good will to you all!, from me and America sent!

Each of us inevitable,
Each of us limitless—each of us with his or her right upon the earth,
Each of us allow’d the eternal purports of the earth,
Each of us here as divinely as any is here…on equal terms with me.

My spirit has pass’d in compassion around the whole earth,

You vapors, I think I have risen with you, moved away to distant
Continents, and fallen down there,
I think I have blown with you you winds;
You waters I have finger’d every shore with you,
I have run through what any river or strait of the globe has run
I have taken my stand on the bases of peninsulas and on the high
embedded rocks, thence to cry:

Salut au monde!

Toward you all, in America’s name,
I raise high the perpendicular hand, I make the signal,
To remain after me in sight forever,
For all the haunts and homes of men.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892) from Leaves of Grass



Salut au Monde was commissioned by Conspirare—Craig Hella Johnson, Artistic Director—for a massed triple choir of 600 voices and was premiered in January 2007 on the final concert of Crossing the Divide – An American Masterpieces Choral Festival in Austin, Texas. The work was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ American Masterpieces Choral Initiative. The musical setting captures the epic sweep of Whitman’s poem, which I reduced to a page-and-a-half from its original seven-and-a-half pages. The text is permeated by Whitman’s concept of the Kosmos: the interconnectedness of all people and all things in the universe and is a sort of litany, a brilliant web of connectivity, a poetic ambassador that reaches out toward all persons and peoples throughout the world, “in America’s name.”