Water Night was just one of those pieces.
In January of 1995 I spent the day with Dr. Bruce Mayhall, and in one amazing four hour conversation he basically convinced me to stay in school, finish my degree, and continue my life as a professional artist. Heavy stuff. I wanted so much to show my appreciation to him, to write him a piece worthy of his wisdom and understanding. I got home, opened up my book of Octavio Paz poetry, and started reading.
I can’t really describe what happened. The music sounded in the air as I read the poem, as if it were a part of the poetry. I just started taking dictation as fast as I could, and the thing was basically finished in about 45 minutes. I have never experienced anything like it, before or since, and with my limited vocabulary I can only describe it as a pure and perfect and simple gift. It has become one of my most popular pieces, and I’ve heard countless people who sing it or hear it describing the same feeling I had when I wrote it down. I remain eternally grateful for this gift.
Water Night is dedicated in deepest friendship to my friend and mentor Dr. Bruce Mayhall.
Night with the eyes of a horse that trembles in the night,
night with eyes of water in the field asleep
is in your eyes, a horse that trembles,
is in your eyes of secret water.
Eyes of shadow-water,
eyes of well-water,
eyes of dream-water.
Silence and solitude,
two little animals moon-led,
drink in your eyes,
drink in those waters.
If you open your eyes,
night opens, doors of musk,
the secret kingdom of the water opens
flowing from the center of night.
And if you close your eyes,
a river, a silent and beautiful current,
fills you from within,
flows forward, darkens you,
night brings its wetness to beaches
in your soul.
Octavio Paz, 1914-1998
(Adapted by Eric Whitacre, Translation by Muriel Rukeyser)