About this work:
Sung by unaccompanied mixed voices, Joelle Wallach’s Mere Dark evokes a host of hidden forces which include the unconscious, the mysterious and the muse. Often experienced as dark and threatening, things to be fled or suppressed, these forces are “not as night -like as they seem;” but rather, once familiar, may imbue an inner life with meaning and depth,
The canonic Mere Dark, based on a poem by Peter Viereck, is one of Wallach’s Spiritual Speculations, a series of brief works for a capella choir or vocal quartet addressing the conundrum of living with conscience in a flawed world.
“So many dark things are not night at all.” Because although “The night is … farnesses that reel” and “its angles [may even] gash you with a wound,” trusted, that silken inner dark has “softnesses that heal.” As each voice moves in small, sometimes timorous steps, humming through the dark in Mere Dark, its harmonies and words entwine to weave a web of inner consolation, the private darkness safe and enriching.
Exploring that dark becomes an appealing alternative to the fate of those dying men whose unexplored dreams have become their evil inner dwarfs imprisoning and isolating them from their own souls,
The Day’s No Rounder Than Its Angles Are
Mere dark is not so night-like as it seems.
The night’s more silken than the dark by far.
So many dark things are not night at all:
The cupboard where the cakes and poisons are;
The coffin where old men get locked in dreams
Alive, and no one hears their knocks and screams;
Shadows; and lightlessness of curtain’s fall.
The night is further than the dark is far.
The night is farness, farnesses that reel.
The day is nearnesses, nearnesses that jar.
The day’s no rounder than its angles are.
But though its angles gash you with a wound
Invisible, each night is soft and round.
The night is softer than the dark is satin.
The night is softness, softnesses that heal
The many, many gashes where you bled.
The day is loudness, loudnesses that threaten;
An evil sexton-dwarf hides in your head.
Oh, where escape his bells that peal and peal?
The night is stiller than the dark is dead.