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I am black (2001)

I am black is a short song for female voice and piano written in London in November 2001. The piece was written as a gift for my friend, the pianist Robin Bowman, with whom I had given concerts in Japan the previous year. The text is drawn from the Jerusalem Bible translation of The Song of Songs and depicts a woman’s longing for her absent lover. It is unknown whether the woman is swarthy from outdoor work or black skinned racially. In the original text the sequence opens: “I am black but lovely.” The implied social inequality of the lovers adds strongly to the poignancy of their mutual absorption.

Tell me then, you whom my heart loves
Where will you lead your flock to graze?
When will you rest at noon?

Before the dawn wind rises,
Before the shadows flee,
That I no more may wander,
Return, return.

I am black.

 

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