The Tower and the Garden (world premiere live recording) by Gregory H Spears published on 2018-12-11T16:50:17Z Performed by the Crossing conducted by Donald Nally (Philadelphia 10-2018) I. “80” II. “In The Land Of Shinar” III. “Dungeness Documentary” IV. “80” The Tower and the Garden is a four-movement setting of three poems for choir and string quartet. The texts juxtapose the dangers of technological hubris (the tower) with the need for a place of refuge (the garden) in a world threatened by war and ecological disaster. Each text suggest ways in which Catholic thought and imagery might challenge the technological status quo. The first text, poem “80” from the collection “Cables to the Ace,” was written by Trappist monk and social activist Thomas Merton. It is an eschatological meditation on the garden of Gethsemane, where Christ’s disciples slept on the eve of his crucifixion. Merton compares their slumber to society’s indifference to the destruction of our natural world by dangerous new technologies and war. The second text was written by poet and Catholic activist Denise Levertov. It is a meditation on the Tower of Babel and the tendency for technology in the nuclear and information age to serve only its own growth and to potentially destroy society in the bargain. The third poem, written by Keith Garebian, is an homage to queer filmmaker Derek Jarman and his cottage garden at Dungeness on the English coast. Situated precariously between a towering nuclear power plant and the sea, the garden was Jarman’s austere refuge during the final months of his struggle with AIDS. While an atheist and highly critical of the church, Jarman was intrigued by the role religious hagiography and poetry could play in his filmic indictments of Thatcher-era Britain. This is most notable in his film The Garden, which was shot on location in Dungeness. The fourth movement is a more expansive setting of Merton’s poem “80” and a meditation on his larger views on technology and language. Merton saw language both as a potential garden that could bring us together in dialogue or as a vehicle for political propaganda that could tear us apart. Today, both forms of communication are increasingly being manipulated and distorted for profit by information technologies. Perhaps singing — and communal singing in particular — might allow us to step outside this technological system and reclaim communication at a moment when the digital world seems itself to be a looming Tower.