Movement 14: Anne’s Meditation
Theme: Peace, Hope, Resolution
I see the world being slowly
turned into wilderness.
I hear the approaching thunder,
that one day will destroy us too.
And yet, when I look at the sky,
I feel that everything will change for the better.
Whenever you feel lonely or sad,
try going to the loft
on a beautiful day and looking
at the sky.
As long as you can look
fearlessly at the sky,
you’ll know you’re pure within.
In what ways do the above lyrics relate to our lives? What makes you hopeful for a brighter future?
Theme in other Musical Examples:
Traditional Spirtual – Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water:
Sharon Van Etten – Afraid of Nothing:
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Over The Rainbow/What a Wonderful World:
Michael Franti – Bomb the World:
Curtis Mayfield – We Got To Have Peace:
Look at the first four lines of the text. Even though Anne expresses how the situation is devastating and tragic, why might she still be hopeful? What do you feel when you see or hear nature (wilderness, thunder, the sky)? How does it make you feel? Do belief and/or spirituality have anything to do with these feelings?
Examining the Theme and Historical Context through the Text/Music:
This text reveals a resolution. Anne held onto hope and in a way her feelings are a “triumph” of her spirit against Hitler. However she expresses her thoughts humbly. Her thoughts and feelings are peaceful and reflective; Anne feels that despite the turmoil and devastation of the situation, she can still hope for a better day. This thought is in the first half of the text, and especially when she says “And yet, when I look at the sky, I feel that everything will change for the better.” Anne meditates on the sky because the sky gives her hope, peace, and a resolution.
In Anne’s Meditation, the key of g minor happens throughout the entire movement. This minor tonality yields many different feelings and thoughts, from sad, to bittersweet, to emotional. Although this minor key pervades the movement, Whitbourn is very expressive in how he uses music to reflect the meaning in the lyrics. For example, when the SATB choir + solo sing “And yet, when I look at the sky, I feel everything will change,” the score ascends to emphasize meaning in change. In this sense, change moves upward; the music reflects how change means hope for a better day.
What is so significant about the sky and why does it give Anne so much hope? Compare and contrast the first four stanzas with the sky. In the first four stanzas, Anne talks about the world heading towards darker times as a result of the Holocaust: “I see the world being slowly turned into wilderness.” Here the wilderness represents a less civilized world; a more inhumane and animalistic world. This portrays barrenness and death. Anne also predicts death among many people: “I hear the approaching thunder that one day will destroy us too.” In this line the approaching thunder signifies the fear that one day they may die at the hands of war, Nazi soldiers, or concentration camps. Approaching thunder also portrays lighting storms, grey and cloudy days, and gloomy times. However, the main feeling of this movement is lightness; it is not about death despite the darkness: “And yet, when I look at the sky I feel that everything will change for the better.” In this statement the only peace that Anne finds in the world is the sky. The sky here represents divine peace. Apart from all the hell on earth the peaceful sky gives Anne hopes that there is still peace somewhere and that some day things will get better.
There is one important, tonally major moment: “Whenever you feel sad, try going to the loft on a beautiful day.” Additionally, every time the word “sky” is sung, the pitches rise high towards or on sky; this reflects the importance of the sky, its symbolism for salvation.
Anne also mentions that if one can look fearlessly at the sky, then she is pure. How can looking at the sky fearlessly mean that one is pure? Anne’s Jewish beliefs and faith also reflect her writing. Here the sky also symbolizes heaven hence divine peace. In certain religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, the only way to see a divine presence is to be sanctified, righteous, or pure within. Someone who is evil would not be able to confidently look at a divine presence. Therefore, the sky also symbolizes all that is pure, heavenly, and peaceful. This makes Anne hopeful.
Lastly we experience resolution in the text. The last few stanzas portray Anne giving up her spirit. She knows that she is right within and she has confidence that things will get better. This is Anne’s reassurance and resolution. One could say that in the end Anne moved on to a better place.