Ritual on a Poem by Whitman

Score Sample

Recorded November 14, 2013 by Justin Gingrich, percussion; Tyler Kundinger, tenor; Thomas Malm, conductor; Daniel Miller, electronics; Daniel Reifsteck, percussion; Luke Rivard, percussion; Elena Stabile, soprano; Leo Sussman, flutes.

Orchestration: alto flute (doubling on flute), percussion*, soprano, tenor, live electronics.

* (3 percussionists) mixing bowl (contact miced), low steel drum (contact miced), caxixi.

Duration: approx. 6 minutes


In Ritual On a Poem By Whitman, I sought to dramatize the little-known poem’s surging ascent to a moment of ecstatic catharsis. The work progresses through waves of sound that are caught and sustained in the electronics. This accumulation crests and begins to dissipate in the poems last stanza which illustrates the widest possible view of a pantheistic divinity.


“Gods” from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. (1918)

Lover divine and perfect Comrade,
Waiting content, invisible yet, but certain,
Be thou my God.

Thou, thou, the Ideal Man,
Fair, able, beautiful, content, and loving,
Complete in body and dilate in spirit,
Be thou my God.

O Death, (for Life has served its turn,)
Opener and usher to the heavenly mansion,
Be thou my God.

Aught, aught of mightiest, best I see, conceive, or know,
(To break the stagnant tie—thee, thee to free, O soul,)
Be thou my God.

[All great ideas, the races’ aspirations,]**
All heroisms, deeds of rapt enthusiasts,
Be ye my Gods.

Or Time and Space,
Or shape of Earth divine and wondrous,
Or some fair shape I viewing, worship,
Or lustrous orb of sun or star by night,
Be ye my Gods.

** line not set in Ritual On a Poem By Whitman.