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What If

What If is a quintet from my musical Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings. In it, Exstasis (our heroine) tries to convince four other angels (Pieta, Aia, Fervio, and Gravitas) to follow her on her adventure to get her (and their) wings back.

Craig Hella Johnson saw the 2007 Los Angeles production of Paradise Lost, and asked me if he could arrange What If for percussion ensemble and his excellent ensemble Conspirare. I hesitantly agreed, not knowing what to expect. When he sent me the final product, I couldn’t believe my ears. The choral parts work perfectly as a quintet, and the percussion arrangement is almost note for note what my electronic track was doing. Like everything Craig does, this new arrangement just sounds so fresh and vibrant.

What If

EXSTASIS: You’re hiding.
PIETA: No.
EXSTASIS: Surviving.
PIETA: So?
EXSTASIS: You’re stubborn, too.
PIETA: True.

EXSTASIS: (To Fervio) And you’re frightened.
FERVIO: I’m not!
EXSTASIS: Not knowing…
AIA: What?
EXSTASIS: Your heart.
AIA: And you?
PIETA: And you?
FERVIO: And you?
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: And you?
EXSTASIS: I’m trying…
FERVIO/ PIETA: To?
EXSTASIS: To question.
GRAVITAS/ AIA: And?
EXSTASIS: The answer’s near.
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: Where?
EXSTASIS: Here:

We yearn to soar…
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: So?
EXSTASIS: So, there has to be much more…
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: No.
EXSTASIS: Yes, there must be another way.

It’s time to…
AIA: Fly?
EXSTASIS: That’s right.
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: Then try…
GRAVITAS: …explaining slow.
EXSTASIS: We have to go.
PIETA: Where?
EXSTASIS: High above.
FERVIO: The wall?
EXSTASIS: Of course.
PIETA: We’ll fall!
EXSTASIS: Perhaps, but then we’ll know.
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: Know?
EXSTASIS: Know all the things.
AIA, GRAVITAS: Like what?
EXSTASIS: Like wings and worlds we knew before.
FERVIO: You’re not making sense…
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: …let’s say we yearn to soar.
EXSTASIS: Right.
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: But we don’t have wings anymore.
EXSTASIS: We might. And there must be another way.

What if
All this
Came true
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: Pure Bliss!
EXSTASIS: What if
Your wings
Sailed free
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: We’d sing!
ALL: What if
All this
Came true
Pure Bliss!

What if
Your wings
Sailed free
We’d sing!

EXSTASIS: (To Gravitas) What would…
GRAVITAS: I do?
FERVIO, PIETA: You’d lift…
EXSTASIS: The moon…
GRAVITAS: And make it spin.
EXSTASIS: And spin.
AIA: And spin
PIETA: And spin.
FERVIO: I’d inspire…
EXSTASIS, AIA: Yes?
PIETA, GRAVITAS: What?
FERVIO: A choir…
EXSTASIS: Go on.
FERVIO: Of sapphire winds.
EXSTASIS: (to Pieta and Aia) And you?
PIETA, AIA: Who?
FERVIO, GRAVITAS: You.
PIETA, AIA: We’d sing.
EXSTASIS: What song?
PIETA, AIA: Just harmony.
ALL: And then, we’d sing free,
In perfect harmony.
EXSTASIS: There must be another way.

What if
This time
Your dreams
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: They’d rhyme!
FERVIO: Sublime!

EXSTASIS: What if,
Your voice,
Set free,
ALL: Rejoice!

What if
This time
Your dreams
They’d rhyme!

What if,
Your voice,
Set free,
Rejoice!

And then, we’d sing free,
In perfect harmony.
There must be another way!

Lyrics by David Norona and Eric Whitacre

  • http://www.youtube.com/6Voices Mao Yong

    In 2009, I have got the concert DVD of Conspirare. I thought that you arranged "What if" for this choir. This is amazing. You should discuss publishing this piece with the conductor. — Mao Yong, from China

  • Mike

    You know… back in 2006 a whole bunch of "events" led me to print this out and post it into my cubicle… people would ask me "What if…what?"… I would say "not sure… what do you think?"…. 4 years later.. I happen onto your site from the virtual choir… my eyes caught this title…had to click it…. and now I know… damn you're good!…

  • http://www.classicaltrombone.com Chris Bill

    After hearing this at the Carnegie concert and listening to it all day I think you should arrange it for a brass quintet.. or at least allow me to?

  • http://feyapl.blogspot.com Paige

    Is there sheet music available for this piece yet? Either the SATB or quintet version? Thanks!

  • Josh

    When will the sheet music for this be published? :O

  • Wilfred Mathews

    Pure bliss indeed! What a MAGNIFICENT composition, sung and performed so beautifully! Eric, THANK YOU for sharing your music with us. Oh what joy this brings to my soul! :-)

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/janiegirly07 Sarah

    I came across this piece a week ago while going through this website, and I must say I haven't gone a day without listening to this song over and over again. This mystifies me, there is a magical, joyful element that truly grasps me whenever I listen to it.

    Your music truly inspires me. :)

  • Dylan McCaulla

    Seriously this is one of my favorite songs right now. So good.

  • An Meeusen

    Where can I order this piece???

  • Cohagen

    Should this arrangement be on the list of SATB choral pieces?

    Not only can it not be purchased, but it wasn't even arranged by whitacre.

    • Jorge

      How can one purchase the piece from you?

    • Scott

      I’d like to buy it. How can I make this happen?

    • Thaxter Cunio

      Hello,

      We’re trying to purchase your “What if” for SATB choir and are unable to locate publisher. Wondering if you have any info? We’re hoping to perform and stage this with our high school Prelude Singer/Actor Program at MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis, MN. Thanks in advance for any info you can send our way.

      thaxter

      Voice Faculty
      MacPhail Center for Music
      Studio 505

      Cunio Studio info: http://sites.google.com/site/thaxtercuniovoicestudio/Home

      Director of Music
      White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church

      Choir Schedule: http://sites.google.com/site/wbuuchoir/wbuu-choir

    • Roberto Maggio

      I’m interested to buy the score music of What if. How much cost it? How is possible to purchase and pay for it?
      Thanks.
      R.

    • Nathan Short

      Mr. Whitacre,

      This song is truly an incredible work of art. I literally listen to it every evening. I’m a HUGE fan of your work and would love the sheet music for this piece. How could I purchase it?

      I’d love to hear from you.

      Thanks,
      Nathan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KeychainKun Kandie Uzumakie

    i love the song what if! youre talented bucko!

  • http://www.facebook.com/KeychainKun Kandie Uzumakie

    also cuz its my lullaby ._.

  • maria

    wow! this song is amazing! i came across it last week and fell in love with it. i humming it all day the next at school it is such an awesome song. im not in choir (im in band) but this song is makes me wish we had a choir. i can listen to it all day!!!!

  • Julie Souin

    I can't express how much I love this song. This group is so much fun to watch and sings it brilliantly!

  • hannah

    It was an explosion of bliss when i was listening to this..

    are there any other pieces like this?

  • Dan

    Sublime! What a way to start the day. Off to an interview this evening, this will surely be my inspiration…."there must be another way!" Thanks Eric, keep it up!

  • Wilfred Mathews

    Gosh, six months later I'm still listening to this and it continues to give me tears of joy seeing the wonderful expression on the faces of the singers and listening to this thrilling music. Thank you again and again, Eric and Conspirare. You two should collaborate more often! :-)

  • Andrew Clayton Crawl

    Is there a video available? I've never seen Paradise Lost and I would love to be able to watch.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dC8N4ms3NOs Celso

    yippp!!

    another versión of this sweeet piece

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dC8N4ms3NOs

    My own transcription and playing

    • Dan

      I think every cell in your body was resonating (in perfect harmony)–there obviously is another way!!! Thanks for sharing…thanks for posting…thanks for reinterpreting!

  • Anne Hamilton

    I am eager to purchase both the sheet music and the electronics track to What If, but can't find a link to a source for ordering. It says here on this site that the music is available from Eric, but how does this happen?

  • Caitlin

    Ok sorry for being the grammar Nazi here…xD but

    "EXSTASIS: What if,

    You’re voice,

    Set free,

    ALL: Rejoice!"

    I think it is "your voice" <3

    Anyway, LOVE this song, loved performing it with you, and I ESPECIALLY love that you include techno and anime in this musical. Just more reasons to love you and your music haha :)

  • Gilbert Aldridge

    I would like to buy both the vocal and percussion parts to What If? I would like to do it live with no track. Can you tell me hoa I can purchase these parts?

  • JK

    Good God that's lush!

    BEautiful stuff altogether Eric.

  • Kate

    Eric, which choir is singing this song for the SATB version?

  • Jennifer Davis

    Interested in purchasing this piece and the electronic track if possible. Please send any info that would help with that:) This piece makes me smile.

  • William Camp

    I would like to purchase or rent this piece for our orchestra. We are trying to plan this for November. Is this available?

  • Marta Blázquez

    Wow, You are definitely the fifth member of Depeche Mode!!!. I need hold my feet to not dance or jump!. Pure rhythm straight to the heart :-).

  • Nikoleta Popova

    Please, please, please, publish this piece!!! I would be so happy to perform it!

  • Paul Barta

    Is this piece published yet? How do I get my hands on the SATB/percussion version? It is great!

  • gwen

    Is there an accompaniment trax available to buy?

  • http://www.facebook.com/HixsonMiddleChorus Brian

    Is there an SAB version that my middle school choir could perform? Also, is there an accompaniment trax?

    • Megan Davies

      Hi Brian. I’m afraid What If isn’t published yet, neither SATB nor SAB. The piece comes from Eric’s musical Paradise Lost which hits the stage next year so it will likely be after that. Stay tuned!

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