Any Place But Here

by Amie Cota

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about

A Song Cycle in 13 Poems

This project was over a year in the making – a true labor of love and a tribute to my African American ancestors who have lived, died, struggled for freedom and dignity in this country. This isn’t just a music project: It is a history lesson, a prayer, an opportunity to mourn and to celebrate our resiliency. I believe that the only way to heal is to lean into our past, face it with honesty and compassion, absorb all that is painful and all that is beautiful, and then leave it behind in honor of something stronger, in honor of the freedom long promised and long denied us. Because despite it all, we ARE still here. Are we not? Brother’s and Sisters, this is for you.

credits

released December 25, 2016

All songs composed by Amy LaCour, copyright 2016
Lyrics as credited

Amie Cota, vocals & production

with Amaranth String Quartet:
Emily Botel, First Violin
Abigail Shiman, Second Violin
Erica Zappia, Viola
Helen Newby, Cello

Jacob Winik, recording and mixing, Tiny Telephone, SF
Bob Weston, mastering for Chicago Mastering

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Track Name: Dream Variations
To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me -
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

-1926

“Dream Variations,”by Langston Hughes, by permission of Harold Ober Associates,Inc.
Track Name: Green Valley
I stood in a meadow
And all I could see
Was the green valley
Surrounding me.

Then the setting sun
Burned a ghastly red:
Blood of young men
Too soon dead.

A tawny lizard
Crawled near my feet:
I visioned women
Alone, deplete

And now and then
A fledgling cried,
Like destitute folk
On the wayside.

When I beheld
The tallest tree,
My soul expanded
Inside of me.

I wished, as I viewed
The greenest pit,
To bury ugliness
In it.

The hills were rich
With buds impearled.
The valley seemed
To engulf the world.

I stood in the meadow,
And all I could see
Was the green valley
Surrounding me.
Track Name: Close Your Eyes!
Go through the gates with closed eyes.
Stand erect and let your black face front the west.
Drop the axe and leave the timber where it lies;
A woodman on the hill must have his rest.

Go where leaves are lying brown and wet.
Forget her warm arms and her breast who mothered you,
And every face you ever loved forget.
Close your eyes; walk bravely through.
Track Name: Letter From A Wife
I retrace your path in my bare feet
Press my lips against your empty cup
Touch your clothes for now-gone warmth
View each object which your eyes beheld
Write your name and speak the same
I bless each day you elude the pack
Rehearse each word of love we spoke
Recall the vows your eyes declared
Your last touch lingers with me still
I face each day with dragging feat – weary heart
Apart-from-you takes half my strength
The rest I need for waiting.
Track Name: Pastourelle
Walk this mile in silence-
Let no sound intrude
Upon the vibrant stillness
Of this solitude!

Let no thought be spoken
Nor syllable be heard
Lest the spell be broken
By the thunder of a word!

Here such matchless wonder is
As might tear apart-
Should the lip give tone
To the fullness of the heart…!
Track Name: the blue note
I've Got a Home in that Rock

I had an uncle once who kept a rock in his pocket
Always did, up to the day he died.
And as far as I know, that rock is still with him,
Holding down some dust of his thighbone.

From Mississippi he’d got that rock, he’d say-
Or sometimes, from Tennessee: a different place each time
He told it, how he’d picked it up when he first left home-
Running, he’d say- to remind him when times got hard
Enough to make him homesick, what home was really like.

-1969
Track Name: Solace
My window opens out into the trees
And in that small space
Of branches and sky
I see the seasons pass
Behold the tender green
Give way to darker heavier leaves.
The glory of the autumn comes
When steeped in mellow sunlight
The fragile, golden leaves
Against a clear blue sky
Linger in the magic of the afternoon
And then reluctantly break off
And filter down to pave
A street with gold
Then bare, gray branches
Lift themselves against the
Cold December sky
Sometimes weaving a web
Across the rose and dusk of late sunset
Sometimes against a frail new moon
And one bright start riding
A sky of that dark, living blue
Which come before the heaviness
Of night descends, or the stars
Have powdered the heavens.
Winds beat against these trees;
The cold, but gentle rain of spring
Touches them lightly
The summer torrents strive
To lash them into a fury
And seek to break them-
But they stand.
My life is fevered
And a restlessness at times
An agony-again a vague
And baffling discontent
Possesses me.
I am thankful for my bit of sky
And trees, and for the shifting
Pageant of the seasons.
Such beauty lays upon the heart
A quiet.
Such eternal change and permanence
Take meaning from all turmoil
And leaves serenity
Which knows no pain.
Track Name: Just Making It (Blood for Sale)
I stood among the wanting many
In the line threading the factory door’s
Wrought-iron fence
Disgusted I spit
To the blood joint
Coming out five higher
And a pint of myself poorer
Enough to make it
Enough to hush the screams within
Track Name: Mortality
This is the surest death
Of all the deaths I know.
The one that halts the breath,
The one that falls with snow
Are nothing but a peace
Before the second zone,
For Aprils never cease
To resurrect their own,
And in my very veins
Flows blood as old as Eve.
The smallest cell contains
Its privileged reprieve.
But vultures recognize
This single mortal thing
And watch with hungry eyes
When hope starts staggering.

-1965

“Mortality,”by Naomi Long Madgett, used by permission of the poet.
Track Name: Kitchenette Building
We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray. “Dream” makes a giddy sound, not strong
Like “rent,” “feeding a wife,” “satisfying a man.”

But could a dream send up through onion fumes
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday’s garbage ripening in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms.

Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?

We wonder. But not well! Not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.

- 1945

“Kitchenette Building,”by Gwendolyn Brooks, used by permission of Brooks Permissions.
Track Name: Song of the Moon
The moonlight breaks upon the city’s domes,
And falls along cemented steel and stone,
Upon the grayness of a million homes,
Lugubrious in unchanging monotone.

Upon the clothes behind the tenement,
That hang like ghosts suspended form the lines,
Linking each flat to each indifferent,
Incongruous and strange the moonlight shines.

There is no magic from your presence here,
Ho, moon, sad moon, tuck up your trailing robe,
Whose silver seems antique and so severe
Against the glow of one electric globe.

Go spill your beauty on the laughing faces
Of happy flowers that bloom a thousand hues,
Waiting on tiptoe in the wilding spaces,
To drink your wine mixed with sweet drafts of dews.
Track Name: In the Inner City
Lucille Clifton, Lyric
Amy LaCour, Composer
Track Name: The Human Fold
Alfred A. Duckett

Where are we to go when this is done?
Will we slip into old, accustomed ways,
finding remembered notches, one by one?
Thrashing a hapless way through quickening haze?

Who is to know us when the end has come?
Old friends and families, but could we be
strange to the sight and stricken dumb
at visions of some pulsing memory?

Who will love us for what we used to be
who now are what we are, bitter and cold?
Who is to nurse us with swift subtlety
back to the warm and feeling human fold?

Where are we to go when this is through?
We are the war-born. What are we to do?