Lluvia en el desierto (Rain in the Desert)

Lluvia en el desierto (Rain in the Desert)

Lluvia en el desierto (Rain in the Desert)

Four songs for baritone and piano
on poems by Marjorie Agosín

Program Notes

At the start of my career I lived and worked for six years in Latin America, and that experience has been an important part of life, both personally and professionally.  I have returned frequently, especially to Mexico, where I lived the longest, during the ensuing years.  While not claiming to be any sort of expert, I often take my inspiration for musical works from Latin American subjects—poetry, visual art, politics, and more.

Some years ago I discovered the poetry of Marjorie Agosín, a Chilean writer living and working in the USA.  She is a poet, essayist and memoirist who writes frequently about Chile and other parts of Latin America, often, but not exclusively, in political terms.  She writes from the interesting perspective of a Jewish feminist looking at a Catholic, patriarchal society.

One of her poems was the inspiration for my instrumental piece, Las viudas de Calama (The Widows of Calama), and this is the third time I set some of her poems to music.

These songs were written for my friend and University of Louisville colleague, baritone Chad Sloan.  When we first started talking about my writing a piece for him, we spent a lot of time thinking about texts, sending each other ideas, and reading poems the other had suggested.  I had been thinking of another set using Agosín’s poems, so I sent him her book, Lluvia en el desierto (Rain in the Desert) and he picked the four poems eventually included in the cycle.

I have set the poems in the original Spanish, but the translations by Celeste Kostopolus-Cooperman are also provided.  They are used by kind permission of the author.

I.               El agua sobre la noche


El agua sobre la noche,

la noche sobre el agua.

Llueve en el desierto;

un vestido

de amor


El agua sobre las llanuras

horizontes dorados.

Llueve y florece el desierto.


El agua sobre la noche,

la noche sobre el agua.


II.            Tan sólo la noche era lienzo


Tan sólo la noche era lienzo que la cubría,

la arena un cama de plumas.

Ella se sintió sagrada y


Su cuerpo era un país,

las dunas el regreso a todas las viviendas



III.         Más allá de esa noche


Más allá de esa noche,

estaban todas las noches del amor

sediento, el deseo sobre tu piel,

amarillo el viento sobre tu rostro.

Todo era campo vasto de arenas movedizas

a tu alrededor.


Las plantas de la noche,

extranjeras ante el alba,

amatorias despidiento el elixir sagrado

de las cosas quietas.


Más allá de esa noche,

la gran noche del desierto

de Sonora,

los enamorados

hacen señales

a las piedras,

a las llamas.

En Sonora la noche es

como una inquieta y

tráslucida passion.


IV.          Amanecidas


Por las noches frotábamos nuestro

cuerpo en la inmensidad del sonido santo.

Tú silbabas y yo confundía tu ritmo

con las brisas que eran

un abanico de arenas.


Buscamos amornos en el ritmo del amor.

más allá de la noche vimos el fulgor rojo

del amanecer.



Tú y yo vivimos en el desierto efímero

y presente

con sus ritmos,

sus lentitudes.

En la oscuridad husmeamos la luz de

la memoria

hacienda de la arena un altar de flores.

 Night RainWater on the night,night on the water.

It rains in the desert;

a garment

of love.


Water on the prairies,

golden horizons.

It rains and the desert flowers.


Water on the night,

night on the water.

II.            Only the night was a canvas


Only the night was a canvas that covered her,

the sand a bed of feathers.

She felt sacred and


Her body was a country,

the dunes a return to every dwelling.



III.         Beyond that night


Beyond that night,

All the nights of love thirsted,

the desere on your flesh,

the yellow wind on your face.

Everything was a vast field of moving sand

surrounding you.


The plants of the night,

strangers before dawn,

amorously exhaled the sacred elixir

of quiet things.


Beyond the night

the great night of the Sonora



make signals

to the rocks,

to the flames.

In Sonora, the night is

like a restless

translucent passion.


IV.          Daybreaks


In the evenings we rubbed our

bodies against the immensity of holy sound.

You whistled and I confused your rhythm

with breezes that were

a fan of sands.


We sought to love one another in

love’s rhythm.

Beyond the night we saw the brilliant

red glow of dawn


You and I lived in the ephemeral and

present desert

With its rhythms,

its sluggish pace.

We sniffed the light of memories

making an altar of flowers from sand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

A message is required.
Name is required.
E-mail address is required.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.