Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund

 

 

We all declare for liberty - (2009)    

Abraham Lincoln

for baritone and piano


 

We all declare for liberty;

    but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.

With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself,

    and the product of his labor;

    while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men,

    and the product of other men's labor.

Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things,

    called by the same name--liberty.

And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties,

    called by two different and incompatible names -- liberty and tyranny.

[ 4 pages, circa 3' 00" ]


Abraham Lincoln

 

In April 1864 Lincoln chose the occasion of a public speech in Baltimore, Maryland, to define the difference between two meanings of this word that is so central to America's understanding of itself. "The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one." To put this in context, slavery was legal in Maryland, though shortly to come to an end. After making this clear statement that people misuse the concept of freedom by which to enslave, Lincoln followed with a parable of sorts. [ 1 ]

 

 

Though written for baritone, the limited range can certainly allow for a tenor to sing this setting. It is intended as a ringing declaration of the words themselves, which placed in my imagination the upper register of the baritone voice. The falling harmonic progressions moving in halting half steps, first as upper and lower neighbors, but then as a whole region dropping chromatically in four measure long spans, symbolize the wearing away of liberty which occurs in every land in which hard-fought freedom is won only to be eroded. So many examples of this abound, it is left up to the reader to inform himself of them, especially as Lincoln himself observed and foretold. [ 2 ]

 

 

The score for We all declare for liberty is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.

 

We all declare for liberty

                            


NOTES

 

[ 1 ]    Lincoln's parable which follows his wise observation that liberty is ill-defined as its opposite, tyranny, was illustrated this way: "The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to—day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated."

           Given the insights into liberty as so many of the world's philosophers and poets have given to us, it amazes me how correct was Lincoln in observing what Orwell also observed in his fictional -- and yet so astute an observation -- of newspeak and double think. Whether in these techniques of the totalitarian or in the notion in other cultures in which the lie -- from modern misuse of taqiyya by radicals, even to the extent of the "big lie" of the National Socialists, or the "re-definition" and historical revisionism of the post-Marxist -- the word, liberty, has a meaning upheld and enhanced by individual freedom, and one in which it is used cynically to strip another of said individual freedom.

 

[ 2 ]    The notion of government "meddling" -- a verb which is used today on both sides of the political spectrum -- is not new. What will be new will be when government stops meddling, for it is through something as  seemingly soft as "meddling" that one arrives at various forms of tyranny. Consider this quote:

            "The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities or citizens is likely to cause endless trouble, through the rivalry of schools and creeds that are anxious to obtain official recognition, and there is great danger that our people will lose our independence of thought and action which is the cause of much of our greatness, and sink into the helplessness of the Frenchman or German who expects his government to feed him when hungry, clothe him when naked, to prescribe when his child may be born and when he may die, and, in fine, to regulate every act of humanity from the cradle to the tomb, including the manner in which he may seek future admission to paradise." In an article titled, "Official Physic" April 21, 1867 Text from Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays, 1852 - 1890, edited by Louis J. Budd.