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To The Light, To The Flame

MIT Video Productions

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Published on May 28, 2020
• Published by Takht-e Jamshied Music, BMI
• Composed by Jamshied Sharifi, ’83, Humanities, for the MIT Wind Ensemble
• Conducted by Frederick Harris, Jr., Director in Music, MIT Music and Theater Arts
• Virtual performance premiered at MIT Commencement 2020

Director and Editor
• Jean Dunoyer ’87, Ocean Engineering; Editor and Producer, MIT Video Productions

Executive Producer
• Lawrence Gallagher, Senior Producer, MIT Open Learning, MIT Video Productions

Audio Mixing and Mastering Engineer
• Jamshied Sharifi

Over 80 musicians comprised primarily of MIT Wind Ensemble students and MITWE alumni from across the globe, came together to produce this virtual performance of Jamshied Sharifi’s “To The Light, To The Flame” conducted by Frederick Harris.

Using MITWE’s 2016 live, emotionally charged performance of the piece as a guide, musicians recorded themselves remotely, many for the first time, uploading 115 individual audio tracks, which Sharifi assembled. Jean Dunoyer provided guidance on filming, ultimately receiving 70 video files he assembled to bring a visual story to Sharifi’s composition.

Of the piece, Sharifi offers the following:

I wrote “To The Light, To The Flame” in 2015, as a response to the loss of two friends, both around my age, both unexpected losses. It is a meditation on the fragility of our lives, on the paradoxical sense of them being both long and brief, and on the need and wish and desire to live presently, fully, and with intention. It was a gift to the M.I.T. Wind Ensemble and to Fred Harris, and it gives me great pleasure that it has found a place in this time of loss and uncertainty. While writing the piece I came back several times to Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day.” It was in some way a guide to the composition. I wish the M.I.T Class of 2020 the best at this threshold in their lives.

"The Summer Day"
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver (1935–2019)
from New and Selected Poems, 1992, Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver. All rights reserved.

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