Coming home gives us a chance to take another look at people and places we once saw through different eyes.
Poet Maya Angelou was molested as a child. After she told a relative what had happened, the perpetrator was beaten to death. Blaming herself for the man’s death, Angelou refused to speak for several years. Yet this woman, who chose a prolonged silence, become one of our greatest writers, reclaiming her voice and in a sense her soul. To date she has authored seven autobiographies.
- Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).
- Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name (1974).
- Maya Angelou, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas (1976).
- Maya Angelou, The Heart of a Woman (1981).
- Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986).
- Maya Angelou, A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002).
- Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom (Random House, 2013).
Works by other authors:
- Heather Andrea Williams, Help Me To Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery (The University of North Carolina Press, 2012): a “revelation of the bonds forged by the collective grief and resilient love of a people finding themselves.”
- Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Small Fry: A Memoir (Grove Press , 2018): Steve Jobs’ daughter forgives him for loutish behavior and mistreatment.
Documentary and Educational Films
- Norman Rockwell, Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes (1945)
- Giorgio de Chirico, Happiness of Returning (1915)
- Frédéric Bazille, Family Reunion (1867)
Music: songs and other short pieces
Film and Stage
- The Celebration, a deliberately ironic title for this family gathering
- The Secret of Roan Inish: on connecting with family through its folklore
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Dvořák, Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88 (performances conducted by Dohnányi, Karajan, Kubelik and Szell): the central idea, expressed as “bucolic euphoria”, seems to be that the composer has returned home spiritually.
You return home after a long absence. Your family and friends cannot fully understand what you have learned, and you can no longer see them in quite the same way as before. Try as you might, the details of your time away cannot be fully conveyed. Only you, who have known your experiences firsthand, can see them in all their depth. So it is with Arthur Schoonderwoerd’s recordings of Beethoven’s piano concerti. He plays on a fortepiano of Beethoven’s time, accompanied by a small orchestra that sounds much like a chamber ensemble. Since Beethoven composed these works, great performers and conductors have brought new techniques to their performance, adding richness and detail but surely changing the music from what Beethoven’s audiences heard. Perhaps Beethoven would not have liked this evolution, or perhaps he would have been ecstatic that his music could now more fully express what he had intended. I would not wish to be limited to Schoonderwoerd-like performances of these works, any more than I would wish to return to the little farmhouse where I grew up. Still, the return to roots Schoonderwoerd has provided to us adds a dimension to the understanding and appreciation of these works, and as in life the return to our evolved life is the more meaningful for it.
- Piano Concerto No. 1: 1. Allegro con brio; 2. Largo; 3. Rondo - Allegro.
- Piano Concerto No. 2: 1. Allegro con brio; 2. Adagio; 3. Rondo - Allegro molto.
- Piano Concerti 3 and “6”
- Piano Concerto No. 4: 1. Allegro moderato; 2. Andante con moto; 3. Rondo - Vivace.
- Piano Concerto No. 5: 1. Allegro; 2. Adagio un poco moto; 3. Rondo - Allegro, ma non troppo.
Gordon Jacob’s chamber music with recorder displays an instrument that has fallen out of favor returning in chamber ensemble in the 20th century; nothing fits as it did long ago.
- Suite for recorder and string quartet (1957)
- Sonatina for treble recorder and harpsichord (1985)
- Sonata for recorder and piano (1967)
- A Consort of Recorders (1972)
- Variations for treble recorder and piano (1962)
- Trifles, for treble recorder, violin, cello and harpsichord (1971)
- Górecki, Szeroka Woda (Broad Waters), Op. 39: the title piece is especially exquisite.
- Bax, Symphony No. 6 in C major
- James Willey, String Quartet No. 8: the quartet employs folk themes throughout. This work concludes with as resolved a conclusion as can be found in modern chamber music (1. Poland; 2. China).
- Of his Symphony No. 5, Africa: A Tone Poem, composer Hayden Wayne writes: “. . . Jazz subsequently begot Rhythm and Blues which begot Rock ‘n’ Roll. Theser folk idioms are so deeply entrenched in my psyche, that I was moved to write my symphonic trilogy: #2 REGGAE, #3 HEAVY METAL and #4 FUNK. This led me finally to my roots . . . AFRICA.”
- Delius, Brigg Fair (1907)
- Holmboe, Viola Concerto, M357, Op. 189 (1992): we hear the composer returning to his youthful home in the Balkans
- Guarnieri, Piano Concerto No. 6 (1987): the composer returns to previous styles of composition in this “personal summation, a tribute to his own creative life” (James Melo, from the notes to this album).
- Foss, Symphony No. 4, "Window to the Past" (1995)
- Frith, String Quartet No. 1, “Lelekovice” (Lelekovice is a Czechoslovakian municipality)
- Will Ackerman, “Returning”: a gorgeous compilation disc of music for solo guitar, broadly classified as New Age, though it avoids most of the formulaic conventions of that genre.
I won the prize essay at school
Here in the village,
And published a novel before I was twenty-five.
I went to the city for themes and to enrich my art;
There married the banker’s daughter,
And later became president of the bank—
Always looking forward to some leisure
To write an epic novel of the war.
Meanwhile friend of the great, and lover of letters,
And host to Matthew Arnold and to Emerson.
An after dinner speaker, writing essays
For local clubs. At last brought here—
My boyhood home, you know—
Not even a little tablet in Chicago
To keep my name alive.
How great it is to write the single line:
“Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll!”
[Edgar Lee Masters, “John Horace Burleson”]
Books of poetry:
From the dark side:
- Edgar Lee Masters, “Henry Layton”
- Kate Walbert, His Favorites: A Novel (Scribner, 2018): “. . . ‘His Favorites’ isn’t a simple narrative of trauma and survival, but something more challenging, and potentially more valuable — a reckoning not just with the reality of abuse, but with the pernicious ways it can shape and inform everything, even the stories you tell yourself.”
- Leif Enger, Virgil Wander: A Novel (Grove Atlantic, 2018) “What a wondrous miracle, to wake up, memory muddled, slightly unmoored, with just the task of relearning yourself, your friends, your hometown nestled along the ruggedly beautiful shores of Lake Superior.”
- Luis Alberto Urrea, The House of Broken Angels: A Novel (Little, Brown & Company, 2018): “ . . . there is much to appreciate in Urrea’s highly entertaining story of Big Angel, the de La Cruz family’s patriarch, who buries his mother even as he himself is dying and as his family gathers to celebrate his 70th, and last, birthday.”
- Beck Dorey-Stein, Rock the Boat: A Novel (The Dial Press, 2021): “A Humbled Millennial Goes Home to New Jersey to Find Herself”.
- Safia Elhillo, Home Is Not a Country (Make Me a World, 2021) “felt like a love letter to anyone who has ever been an outsider, or searched to understand their history, no matter where they come from.”