The Second Coming (2018)
TTBB & Horn
Text by William Butler Yeats
Total duration ca. 6'
Single movement work
Premiered in February 2020
in Baltimore, MD by Vince Sandroni, Ben Hawker,
Jason Buckwalter, John Scherch, and Shona Goldberg-Leopold
Purchase this score from
Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15
Nearly a century after The Second Coming was written, it seems as relevant as ever. Written in the context of the aftermath of the First World War and beginning of the Irish War of Independence, Yeats depicts a world in chaos, out of balance, where “things fall apart; the center cannot hold,” and where indifference overtakes the good and the evil among us are “filled with passionate intensity.” His apocalyptic vision, (“a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi”) draws on his lifelong relationship to mysticism, astrology, and the occult, to create a hybrid Sphinx and whore of Babylon creature, a symbol of the end-times Yeats seems to be preparing himself to witness. Yeats was a deeply political poet, invested in the future of his country, struggling for independence; it seemed appropriate therefore to interpolate quotations of my own national anthem into this modern setting. As America grapples with a President more concerned about his TV ratings than the safety of our elections or the plight of Puerto Rico, and with a congress that rushes through legislation to line the pockets of the rich, while dithering on any move to protect citizens from the epidemics of opioids or gun-slaughter that plagues our country alone among those of the developed world, we are testing the truth of Yeats’s condemnation that “The best lack all conviction,” and can only hope that, through the voices of the American people, we can prove him, and our corrupt body politic wrong. This setting is dedicated to Peter Campbell, a friend who requested the work – a challenge to set such a well-known poem that has been set so many times before. Additional thanks go to Justin Stanley, who advised me on the horn part.
"The Second Coming," by William Butler Yeats, from The Dial magazine, November 1920. This poem is in the Public Domain.