You Must Feel with Certainty



Program Notes:

You Must Feel with Certainty was commissioned in 2018 by the Guggenheim Museum for George Steel’s Vox Vocal Ensemble, to celebrate Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future, the Guggenheim’s retrospective of Hilma af Klint, the pioneering and long under-recognized Swedish female abstract artist. The Guggenheim gave me access to some of her recently-translated journals, in which I found the text for this piece. Af Klint practiced automatic writing and drawing, creating work at the behest of spirits she channeled in seances with a group of four other women called ‘The Five.’ With this text, titled simply “September 16, 1903,” it’s unclear whether Hilma channeled these words or wrote them to herself. Regardless, they seem to speak not only to the faith and tenacity required by the creative process, but presciently, to the recognition of Hilma’s artwork, which over a century later now finds itself in bloom.

Deeply inspired by Hilma’s art, openness, and story, while writing this piece I strove to open myself to voices I don’t always hear. Here is Hilma’s text as I set it:

You Must Feel with Certainty
(September 16, 1903)

Beloved: you must dare.

You are bewildered
by what we have told you;
what we are trying to explain
is bewildering.

How often we’ve heard
you say everything’s futile,
that nothing comes
from all of your labors.

Yet gradually
the steadily growing roots
feed an ever stronger plant.

This is the secret growing.
Your endeavors sprout
in all directions.
(the secret growing)
This is a sign of life.
Like amorphous buds
your endeavors sprout
in all directions;
gradually the growing roots
feed an ever stronger plant.

You know this is so:
You have to feel
that even the smallest effort
leaves a trace inside you.
Gradually the growing roots
feed an ever stronger plant
which will one day explode
into leaves and flowers.

You must dare to build
on this knowledge.
You must feel with certainty.
You must not tire in your efforts.
You must perceive this with vividness.
You must dare to build on this knowledge.

Invisible hands tend this green Earth;
goodness is shaped, protected.
Every budding sprout of goodness
is tended, shaped, protected
by invisible power.

Beloved: you must feel.

When the time comes,
your eyes will open,
you’ll see the plant
that grew in secrecy.

Your pure intentions,
noble endeavors grown
in secrecy.

Accept our account
as a greeting from us
so that you shall never tire
when all seems lost.

Beloved: you mustn’t tire
when all seems lost.
(even the smallest effort…)

December 19, 2018

Seen and Heard International

"With her ability to paint music and convey ideas in sound, Snider creates music ['You Must Feel With Certainty'] that is not only beautiful but intriguing, capturing the spirit of the Swedish mystic [Hilma af Klint] whose paintings could be glimpsed in the adjoining galleries."

Rick Perdian