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A Boy and a Girl

A Boy and a Girl is such a tender, delicate, exquisite poem; I simply tried to quiet myself as much as possible and find the music hidden within the words.

I’m often asked which of my compositions is my favorite. I don’t really have one that I love more than the others, but I do feel that the four measures that musically paint the text “never kissing” may be the truest notes I’ve ever written.

A Boy and a Girl

Stretched out on the grass
a boy and a girl.
Savoring their oranges,
giving their kisses like waves exchanging foam.

Stretched out on the beach,
a boy and a girl.
Savoring their limes,
giving their kisses like clouds exchanging foam.

Stretched out underground,
a boy and a girl.
Saying nothing, never kissing,
giving silence for silence.

Octavio Paz, 1914-1998
(Translated by Muriel Rukeyser)

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  • Rachel Blair

    I'm so stoked that you say that about the "never kissing" part. Thats how I feeling when I listen to it. It has so much longing and love. Its some of my favorite text painting in any modern work.

    • Rachel Overbeck

      I agree wholeheartedly with Ms Blair. Your work often makes my heart clench up and that spot happens to be one of them. Thank you so much for sharing your soulfire with the rest of us!

  • Delia

    I had the honor of singing this with you in New York June 2009. You asked us what the poem meant to us and at that point I did not have the guts to stand up and share this with you (I got more gutsy as time went on…I was the girl who had the brain fart when auditioning for the solo in Cloudburst) but the meaning has intensified and I wanted to make sure to share it.

    To me this poem tells the story of a relationship…but not just any relationship, a true love. It starts off sweet and innocent and then becomes bittersweet (limes) as they endure life's high and low points together (waves) and even in death that love still reigns true. I saw my grandparents relfected in this (married for over 55 years). My grandfather recently passed away and this piece has served as a reminder to me that a love like that doesn't just go away…it's also given me something to look forward to finding some day.

  • http://www.youtube.com/xoclkox Courtney Lea K

    I remember singing this song for my audition for Iowa All-State, my Choir concert and for my Chamber Choir (so I got to sing this piece 3 times – which I was DEFINITELY happy about!)

    This piece was actually the first choral piece that I had ever listened to that actually left me with tear stained cheeks whilst having a lump in my throat and goosebumps all over. Just at the part of "Giving silence"………."For silence"……..*lets out a high pitched squeak!* Nothing is more haunting and emotionally overwhelming that musical silence.

  • http://www.crazymusician.net Nick

    I performed this piece with the Iowa State Singers at the 2004 NC-ACDA convention in Sioux Falls. To this day, it is my favorite memory of my time with the group–70 voices as one singing these words with this perfectly crafted music. Tears were streaming down my face at the end.

    We received a standing ovation that day (which I am told almost never happens at an ACDA convention… don't really know whether it's true or not), and I think this song is the reason why. The text and the music work together to create a well of emotion for the singers to draw on that almost everyone can relate to.

  • zil

    You're right with the 'never kissing' part, it IS – for me at least – THE musical phrase, I could use all kinds of adjectives here, but the point is that it's indescribable. Thank you for having done such a wonderful rendition of this marvellous poem.

  • Lane

    What I would give to be that good…it's very intimidating to enter the field of music and to think about it as a JUNIOR in highschool!!!!!!!!! GAH

    WOW….God..I could listen to this and catch something new everytime…it's like a normal musician would take the standard bar and bend it to create good music

    MR WHITACRE BREAKS THE BAR and brings new music that astonishes people and (even this very second) leaves the music ringing in my ears making me want to listen to it again!

    I want to be able to do that ten years from now…heck…5 years….

    Thanks to Whitacre for all the inspiration yar? :)

  • Tanner Dean

    this has become my favorite song, even over cloudburst, haha

  • Ben

    Someone should start a project so we can play this on every t.v . station and radio station nation wide. maybe we would have less road rage ;)

  • TRUC

    C'est fabuleux!!!!!!

  • Aleks

    What choir is this?

  • Andrew R.

    I am currently working on a project for graduate school at Oberlin Conservatory, where I, in front of my peers, will go through a song and describe the meaning, or what I perceive to be the meaning, behind a particular piece of music – the melodic/harmonic decisions, the choice of text, the theme, etc. When I was assigned this project, A Boy and a Girl immediately jumped into my head as the perfect choice. There is so much beauty in both the notes and the text – I can honestly think of no better combination which I have heard, performed, seen, or read. The richness is ineffable at times, and is enough to bring tears to the eye of most any music listener and appreciator.

    I was struck by Delia's (4/12/10) comments, about this progression of a relationship, and the love between the "boy" and the "girl." In the end, aren't we all supposed to be children at heart? I wonder if that is the message behind the poem – not to loose this childlike purity of love, one that simply loves wholeheartedly. I also wonder if this progression, when we do become "stretched out underground," continues even beyond the scope of this life. I say this because of the continuing hums in the choral parts. Love is eternal, and perhaps when we do reach the conclusion of life, we return to the initial childlike innocence of when we first fell in love, suggested by the specific section the choir hums ("Stretched out on the grass….like waves, exchanging foam" – the first encounter and early moments in the relationship). Granted, there are many ways of interpreting this incredible piece. I only offer my thoughts and perspectives.

    Mr. Whitacre, thank you for all you contribute musically. It is people like you who suggest so strongly the need for continuing music exposure and participation, both in schools and in various capacities as adults. We, the current and future teachers in this country, owe you more than we can possibly give.

  • http://www.artrilliumhouse.com Martina Pook

    I too can't say which music is my favourite of all composers, but I truly can say that John's music is definately on the top of the list. It is pure, angelic and honest music.

    Thank you for sharing this god given work with us.

    Martina Pook

    Director

    Artrillium House

  • http://youtube.com/smm9612 Shylie

    I absolutely LOVE this composition. The sound resonates beautifully!

  • Nyx

    First, let me tell you that I'm the most unemotional individual when it comes to things like movies and songs and it is very rare for something remotely romantic to actually touch me. This piece of work is just simply beautiful. The sound really suits the words. The only actual word i can use to describe not only this song, but all the other Eric Whitacre compositions, is heavenly. The voices brought together make it seem as if angels are observing our world and appreciating the simple beauty of our world, that which most of us tend to forget. Back to the song, the beginning put a smile on my face. It's so dolce and cute. I also like how it is a time line of a couples life. The simplicity of savoring our earths fruits and kisses(love) to sound so beautiful compared to waves and clouds(which are ethereal in their own beauty). The last stanza made tears come to my eyes. It is a gentle cradle to describing death. To not be able to show that appreciation or love again simply breaks my heart. However, the ending hums and vibrations make it seem that after we die, a little piece of use still vibrates and stays around for eternity. Thank you so much , Mr.Whitacre, for actually showing me how much music actually touches the human soul, and for amazing me with the simple, but breathtaking beauty of your work.

  • Elliott

    This was actually the first piece of yours I heard. Well, actually, first CHORAL piece. It was two years ago, and our school band did a quick run-through/sight-read of October and I was thinking something along the lines of:

    "omgholycrapIgottalookthisguyupthismusicisamazingomgomg."

    And so, I found your blog, scrolled down a tad, and saw your post about arranging this piece for strings. So I listened to it and my jaw dropped about a foot.

    Then I got to the 2:51 mark (on the string version) and my jaw dropped an additional 2 feet.

    I guess all I can say is, thank God your friend "tricked" you into joining that choir. ;-)

  • Tullye Ralph

    Indescribably scrumptious! It spritually moved me!

  • Becca McNeil

    On top of everything that has been said I think the imagery of the waves and the clouds needs some attention. At first I thought the prase about the beach should be paired with the phrase about the waves. They go together, right? Wrong.

    In the beginning stages of love kisses come and go like innocent, quick waves. Deeper into the relationship, the kisses tend to be more passionate and long-lived, like clouds colliding and hanging together in perfect harmony until a gust of high-altitude wind breaks them apart, or makes them dissapate.

    The text is equally as genius as the musical composition. Great choice. I really enjoy your work.

    Becca McNeil, Sapulpa, OK

  • Adam Wilson

    I can listen to this song for hours and not get bored of it. It's my favorite song by you and I can't wait to sing this as soon as I can.

  • Joel Bruessel

    Where can I buy the orchestral version of this song? I am unable to find it.

  • Laura

    I'm a very big fan of Mr. Whitacre, but I really must confess that this piece has none of the sensuality and sorrow of the poem. I think it rather ruined the whole Latino orgasmic vibe that was going on.

  • Ian Walker

    I love this piece, it's really spectacular. I do think it's interesting how it's changed over the years tho.

    I think I liked "stretched out underground" with the original harmony; and similarly "never kissing" in it's originally written state where the tenors didn't anticipate the "ne(ver ki-".

    Again, huge fan of the work, but it's interesting to see it become something different.

    • http://www.ericwhitacre.com Eric

      Ian, I'm afraid I don't know you mean. I've never changed the piece – it's exactly as I wrote it all those years ago. Can you help me understand?

      • Ian Walker

        I apologize for being cryptic. I was in the St. Olaf Choir when we performed this in (I think it was 2002) and the original copy had a few slight differences, not dramatically different, but noticeable. I have a recording I'm happy to share with you. I believe you may have changed the "ne-ver kissing" after a concert we sang in Pasadena.

        Thanks for responding, and again, it's not a knock, the piece is ridiculous. It's magic.

  • Briannah K.

    Is there an iTunes download of the string version of this song? I would love to listen to something like this while studying or doing homework. Anyway, keep up the amazing work, Eric! You are truly an inspiration.

  • Ethan S.

    I love all of your music! But this one makes me shiver when I listen to it! So beautiful!!!

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  • Francois Botha

    I struggle not to cry when I listen to this.

  • Deb A

    Absolutely beautiful, Eric. I found those 4 measures to cut right through to my heart and bring out the longing of never being able to kiss my love again.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings with the rest of us. I am a better person for having listened today.

  • Josep

    Avui he descobert la música delicada i punyent d'Eric Whitacre.

    La Música sempre ens dona sorpreses i aquesta n 'es una de les més fabuloses que he tingut darrerament.

    Segurament cantarem "SLEEP" amb la nostra coral.

    Ho espero amb molta frisança.

    Thank you, Eric.

  • Joshua Joseph

    Mr. Whitacre, i am honored to write this message to you. You are an inspiring and amazing composer who gives me this indescribable and euphoric feeling through your music. I am a highscool student and you are a light to a lot people my age.

    ~Josh

  • Roberta from Italy

    La musica può essere pura, libera, "liberante". Mi sento di dire che "A Boy and a Girl" è geometria perfetta, ciò che qualcuno chiama Dio. Grazie, Eric, di avere condiviso con noi questa musica.

    Music can be pure, free and giving freedom. I think that "A Boy and A Girl" is the perfect geometry – what somebody calls God. Thank you, Mr Whitacre, for sharing this music with us.

  • Žan

    I’m not a native speaker, so the first time I heard this piece, not knowing what it was all about, I didn’t think much of it. Now, after a couple of months I decided to give it another try, this time by following the lyrics on screen.
    I’ll just say that when I heard the “never kissing” part, it made me cry. I couldn’t believe one can put so much beauty and sorrow at the same time in these two words. I immediately decided to check what you wrote about it, and you saying: “…the four measures that musically paint the text ‘never kissing’ may be the truest notes I’ve ever written.” shocked me beyond belief.

  • Caitlin

    I swear, sometimes I wonder if you wrote the score for finding nemo…I heard a bit of it in Lux, and now at the end of this…it sounds like waves, like th bit where they are in the whale…

    but honestly this is beautiful. I hope I get to sing it someday :)

  • Joshua

    I had to post something that hasn’t been brought up about this piece….and that is purity. I have been studying choral music for most of my life and though I no longer sing in a professional group (unfortunately, Chicago doesn’t have many options when it comes to singing modern a cappella music), I still obsessively listen and arrange choral music with Eric and Arvo Part as my main influences.

    My last “hurrah” was singing this piece of music last year at Carnegie Hall (with Eric directing). I was there as an individual (not there with another choir), and I would be willing to bet I was the oldest one in the choir! It was at that moment, after finishing this song, that I realized my choral “career” was complete. After hearing the string version of this song, I realized the true meaning (to me) of this piece of music. It’s not the words, but the chords…..the constant pulling/tension, flow, suspensions, etc… It’s the purity of the chords that makes this piece so amazing. This poem could never be arranged differently….

    Eric, you have set the benchmark a little too high with this one :-) I only hope that when my daughter is old enough, she will appreciate not only your music, but choral music as much as I do. I am afraid though that choral music, especially in high school, is becoming a lost art. I do not believe that those sitting on the school boards, senators, governors, congress, do not realize the impact that ANY music can have on someone. Eric, thank you…your contribution to music will be studied, enjoyed, and loved for generations.

    • http://www.ericwhitacre.com Eric

      Thank you, Joshua. You made my week.

    • Susan Anderson

      Joshua – I was there too, also as an individual. There is so much to say about that experience and this piece in particular. We sang this just after my 95 year old father had passed away…and the last verse is so touching. The way Eric brings the sopranos in and literally stretches the word ‘stretched’ is so beautiful….and the ending which just fades way into memories, thoughts, love and reflection…very touching.

  • Rick Dobrydney

    I am a trumpet player , and have played along side many choirs through the years. When I first heard this piece I was absolutely stunned at its beauty, and still continue to be. I never tire of hearing it, and , combined with the beautiful words of the poem, my life has been exponentially enriched. Thank you, Eric.

  • Tyler Riggs

    Eric Whitacre… YOU ARE MY IDOL!! It is because of this song that I am now learning to write my own choral music. I hope that it will be half as good as your tear-jerking music. Like my second father (my choir teacher, Geoff Anderson) always said, “Music is more than just ink and paper.” I will be begging my choir professor in college to ensure that we sing plenty of your pieces due to the fact that I completely envelope myself in the chords that we sing with this song, “Sleep”, “Leonardo”, and “I Hide Myself”.

    I get goosebumps whenever I listen to any of your songs. They are absolutely so moving that I almost cry every time I hear them! I don’t ever cry about anything! I am always in wonder on how you can make minor seconds sound so incredible is beyond my understanding. It is nothing short of divinity on earth!

    Keep being amazing, Eric!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527755677 Christopher Ryan

    This piece is exceptional!!! I never payed too much attention to the words, but now that I have I appreciate this piece so much more! What a fantastic poem. Congratulations on this piece, Mr. Whitacre! :)

  • Trevor Kaminski

    This is such a moving work. The music to the words “never kissing” always gets me.

  • Katie T

    iTunes play count for this masterpiece: one thousand two hundred thirty four, and counting.
    iTunes play count for the enchanting string version of this happiness: ninety five…. and counting!

    These voices and these lyrics are equal to brilliance, in such a simple yet sophisticated manner. Excellently done. “You could say that again…” Okay, any day of the week; excellently, marvelously done. Encore!

  • Daniel B Cropp

    Yes, I remember thinking when I heard that your (Whitacre’s) favorite thing you wrote was four measures in this piece, I knew it was the notes for the text “Never Kissing”. I just knew it!

  • Alicia M

    Thank you so much for sharing this with the world. This piece speaks to me and moves me every time I listen to it.

  • David Briguglio

    Can you tell me what choir sang the recording that you originally used for this piece in your music player?

  • Christian Kuhlman

    VC 3.0 anyone?

  • Nic Hughes

    I’m no wordsmith, so I’d simply like to say that in my humble opinion, you’re a genius. I am a violinist and a choral scholar at Lancing College in the South of England, so you can probably see how the two recordings appeal to me :) You have a lot of fans among my circle of friends. Thank you for the music.

  • Courtney Anderson

    Mr. Whitacre, I must begin my saying that I am absolutely in love with your music. I feel as though God gave you the ability to give us a glimpse of Heaven, and you are using that ability to the souls of many a choir geek, especially me =).

    The first song of yours I ever heard was actually “Sleep”. In my ninth grade, my school’s concert singers sang this at our Spring Festival and I fell in love. Just last year, my first year in my school’s concert singers, I had the amazing opportunity to be one of a very small few to be selected to sing “Sleep” again, this time at our school’s Fall Festival. As if things couldn’t get any better, we are in the process of learning “Go, Lovely Rose”.

    I feel as though YOU, Mr. Whitacre, are the embodiment of what music should be. Thank you for using your gift in this way; thank you for sparking a light in the darkness of the world.

  • Erik

    This has become probably one of my favourite pieces of all time, ever. I have put this work on unlimited repeat numerous of times, everytime it ends I want to experience it again and again.

    If I ever strand on a deserted island, this is the work I want to have with me, it’s so perfect in every way. Normally I don’t like sucking up to people, so please don’t read this as if I am, I just had to express my graditude to you for writing this gem. Thank you.

  • David Brewer

    What happened to the strings version!?!? It was my favorite thing in the whole world : ( please please repost if you can.

  • Cooper Aiken

    I think it’s so awesome how you paint the text with the chords. In almost every chord there is a major or minor second pairing, like the pairing of two lovers… a boy and a girl. YOU ROCK SIR ERIC!!!

  • Kevin

    I had the privilege of being in the choir that premiered this piece. Even today, a decade later, I peruse the simple, hand written score that we received, hum along and sing in my head, and revel in its beauty and brilliance. The pictures that come to mind from the tapestry of the music are peaceful, humbling, and awe inspiring. Truly one of the most beautiful choral works I’ve had the opportunity to sing or hear.

  • Stephanie

    Where can I purchase/rent the orchestral version? I’d love to do this with my youth orchestra. Thank you!

  • Tommy

    Wow, amazing.
    I’ve heard most of your songs at least a millions times if not more! At first, I like most of your songs because there were delicious cords, and amazing parts. I got the privilege to sing under you when you came to Vancouver, and when I was listening to the Vancouver Chamber Choir sing this, I forced myself into reading along to the poem. It truly brought new meaning to the music, and made it that more effective! I love you Eric Whitacre, and everything that you do and compose!

    Hope you come back to Van City soon,
    ~Tommy Vo

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  • Mikayla Dawson

    Dear Mr. Whitacre,

    I am currently a junior in high school, and have heard of you and your beautiful music before. However it wasn’t until last year that I became truly interested. My director decided to use this piece for our chamber choir for competition (which took first place) last year. I was not in that group but I loved the beautiful chords and the flow of dynamics. I would run to choir everyday just hoping I could hear this song. Now every time I have a bad day, like today,minturn on this song and it puts me at ease. This song has shown me a new meaning to the word beautiful. This year I am proud to be apart of that chamber choir, and I am looking forward to singing more of your music and also hopefully meeting you someday.

  • Madelyn

    This song is a master piece! Every time I listen to this I get chills. The chords are so beautiful and tightly knit in an elegant haunting way! Just that first chord, so simple but beautifully transformed with one note! Every part of this song has emotion and passion. You can feel the longing and in the breaks you can feel the silence and emptiness. I have been blessed by my choir director to have the opportunity to perform this piece and am counting down the days until our performance! This song is true art!!

  • Josef

    Hi

    So I know you get this a lot, but my choir is doing A Boy and a Girl this year. And it is honestly the most amazing piece of choral music I have ever listened to. The first time I heard of you was when my school choir sung Lux Arumque last year and it was nothing less than a divine work. I commend you for your amazing pieces.
    I’m not sure if you see these comments or not, or if the opinion of a final year high-school student matters as much as a professionals opinion, but you have made the world a better place with your music.
    Thank you.

    • http://ericwhitacre.com Eric

      Josef, I do read the comment, and yours means the world to me. Thank you, and good luck with life after high school. You’re going to LOVE it.

  • sobrone

    I first heard “A Boy and a Girl” at my daughter’s spring college choir concert performed by the men’s and women’s chorus. From the first measures I experienced such an emotional response that I just cried and cried. A little embarrassing for a 62 year old. An older gentleman seated behind me reached up and grabbed me by the shoulder when the song was finished and the applause done. He said that music had the same effect on me, and I noticed the tears on his cheeks as they were on mine. Now, to read that Eric feels some of the measures are the truest he ever composed….. I understand. Hearing that song piqued my interest and I have since discovered Eric’s world of wonderful music. I played and sang for over 50 years and Eric’s music may be the truest I have ever heard.

  • SirLouie

    Oh man. This stuff is so important. Thank you for constantly stretching the meaning of choral music, and cobbling together bits and pieces to create something of meaning and beauty. Choral music hits at an emotional core, and listening to it can be a transformative experience. This is the stuff that makes us put aside our worries, releases us from the superficial, and delivers us into some quiet spot, where we can feel, think, and observe. Stuff like this, can give a young man, or a young woman a sense of empowerment as they perform. And really, is there anything as important? Thank you so much. I hope you will join us over at my FB page –Fullerton Sings, which is for the choral music program at our local high school. We’re introducing the teens to your stuff via FB, and posting photos on the wall.

  • Guest

    Me and my friends like your composations very much, and we love it :)

  • Francesco,Gökhan;selim

    Me and my friends like your compasations because it is something different than the standard. And this makes your music-style amazing. And you are the only composist who is still living. Good luck for the future :) (Y)

  • Claudia Hernandez Babic

    This is how I imagine angels singing in heaven, if angels and heaven exist… mesmerizing!

About Eric

Eric Whitacre is one of the most popular and performed composers of our time, a distinguished conductor, broadcaster and public speaker. His first album as both composer and conductor on Decca/Universal, Light & Gold, won a Grammy® in 2012, reaped unanimous five star reviews and became the no. 1 classical album in the US and UK charts within a week of release... view full bio