Our World So Freely Given (2020) – Vanessa Cornett (United States)
Our World So Freely Given is based on the nineteenth-century English hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Although the original melody is preserved, the harmonies and voice leading feel not quite right: twisted, troubled, perhaps feverish at times, but with sonorities that are not altogether displeasing. As the harmony becomes even more dissonant, the bassline of the hymn gradually detaches itself from the melody, transforming into the ancient dies irae chant which originally referenced the day the world “dissolves into ashes.” Yet, the melody remains steadfast.
This paraphrase offers the opportunity to express gratitude for something that, despite being tarnished, is still beautiful in its own way as it struggles to survive against all odds.
Ann adds: There are a handful of pieces in the collection that use “For the Beauty of the Earth.” I love the harmonies Vanessa uses, how they progress, the dies irae subtly woven into the bass line.
Vanessa Cornett is the Director of Keyboard Studies and Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis–St. Paul. She is author of the book The Mindful Musician: Mental Skills for Peak Performance (Oxford University Press, 2019). A 2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Scholar, she is currently an artist-in-residence at the Ankara Music and Fine Arts University in Turkey. She completed an earlier faculty residency in 2019 through the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. She has presented additional workshops, performances, and masterclasses to musicians in 23 of the United States and in Canada, Ireland, Finland, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Spain, Argentina, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, and South Africa.
Cornett earned the DMA degree in piano performance and literature from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and MM and BM degrees from West Virginia University. Her current research focuses on contemplative practices in the arts, sport psychology, peak performance, and the mental health of musicians. Her other original works include Opening Doors (2007) for the University of St. Thomas capital campaign, Suite 2th (2011) for collaborative improvisation, and The Patriot (2018), composed with Salam Murtada as a sociopolitical statement for the #45miniatures project.
Okay, here is a little Easter egg. You may ask yourself, why is Ann including this here? This project is about a very serious topic, and many people have told me it’s really depressing (thanks, I hadn’t noticed?). So, for a little levity, and also because it’s relevant (read all the way to the end here!):