Osip Mandelstam's Constant Wish

by Bill Minor

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This piece is the two chorus version of another instrumental setting for a poem I translated:--"This Constant Wish," by Russian poet Osip Mandelstam. This version, featuring Heath Proskin on acoustic bass and me on piano, was recorded in my home by Heath Proskin (on his phone), and then "enhanced" by Bob Danziger in his studio. I will include the translation and original Russian of Mandelstam's poem (which I recite over the music at poetry readings)--this the last poem Mandelstam wrote (for his wife) before he died in a labor camp at age 47, during Stalin's "Terror": the price he paid for reading a poem he'd written unfavorable to Stalin before a group of close friends.


This Constant Wish

O, this constant wish that I [ О, как же я хочу,]
--out of sight of everyone-- [Не чуемый никем,]
could fly behind a ray [Лететь вослед лучу,]
of light, and cease to exist. [Где нет меня совсем.]

But you, embraced in brightness [А ты в кругу лучись —]
--there is no other happiness-- [Другого счастья нет —]
instructed by a host of stars [И у звезды учись]
shall learn the meaning of light. [Тому, что значит свет.]

It is only a fine bright ray, [Он только тем и луч,]
it is only the gift of light, [Он только тем и свет,]
but they have been kept warm and strong [Что шепотом могуч]
by the chatter and whispers of lovers. [И лепетом согрет.]

And now to you I want to say [И я тебе хочу]
that I am whispering. [Сказать, что я шепчу,]
and in a whisper, this ray of light, [Что шепотом лучу]
my little one, I give to you. [Тебя, дитя, вручу ... ]


released March 16, 2017
Bill Minor: translation of poem/piano
Heath Proskin: acoustic bass



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Bill Minor Monterey, California

Bill has published three books on music (most recently Jazz Journeys to Japan: The Heart Within).
Commissioned to write a spoken word suite (Love Letters of Lynchburg)--also set his own poems to original music for two other CDs: For Women Missing or Dead and Mortality Suite.
Available on YouTube: "Kindness: A Song for Betty” and "Mandelstam and Minor" (translation of a poem by Osip Mandelstam).
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