In The Muse was going to celebrate a number of August birthdays today, but a little 5.8 magnitude bird impels us otherwise. Yesterday an earthquake was felt along the Eastern seaboard from Virginia to Maine, but today all Library buildings are open. If our readership should “begin to shake and shiver” today, we hope that it is on account of James Scott’s “Shimmie shake,” from our Ragtime presentation in the Performing Arts Encyclopedia, and not from any seismic occurences.
Frequent In the Muse contributor Sharon McKinley compiled a number of other shaking gems from the collection that we may enjoy during this time of stability.
Biblical images of earthquakes can be powerful. Abraham Ritter tells of Jesus’ resurrection in his Easter anthem And behold there was a great earthquake, c1848.
Composer Gwyneth Walker took a poem by Thomas Merton (1915-1968) and arranged it for SATB (Soprano/Alto/Tenor/Bass) chorus in Tell the earth to shake, c2008.
Historical earthquakes have been memorialized in music as well. The San Francisco earthquake is the subject of a piano piece with a long-winded title: The earthquake in San Francisco and the destruction of the city of the golden West on the 18th of April 1906, c1908, by by C.H. Stockman.
Out of the ruins, c1992, by Michael Nyman, commemorates an Armenian earthquake of 1988.
John Adams (Nixon in China and The death of Klinghoffer), who recently spoke at the Library, was inspired by a quote from a survivor of the 1994 Northridge CA earthquake to write I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky : earthquake/romance, c1995 . The transformations caused by the quake itself, which occurs in the second act, are the catalyst that drives the plot.
Whatever music stirs you, we hope everyone is on safe and steady land.