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writing on water

by David Lang

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  • writing on water CD
    Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Comes in a 6-panel gatefold card case, with art work by Denise Burt /

    Includes unlimited streaming of writing on water via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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writing on water Shakespeare Coleridge Melville Libretto by Peter Greenaway Music by David Lang 1 Boatswain! Call me Ishmail. It is an ancient mariner. There was a ship. Speak to the mariners. Fall to it yarely or we run ourselves aground! The ship was cheered, Washed by waves. The harbour cleared. Blow till thou burst thy wind, if room enough! The Sun came up upon the left, Out of the sea came he. And he shone bright, and on the right Went down into the sea. I love to sail forbidden seas. And now the storm-blast came. A plague upon this howling! Have you a mind to sink? With sloping masts and dipping prow, The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast, the southward aye we fled. How the wild winds blow it. We are less afraid to be drowned than thou art. Would thou mighst lie drowning the washing of ten tides! We split, we split, we split! 2 I would fain die a dry death. Put the wild waters in this roar. The Sun now rose upon the right, out of the sea came he, Still hid in mist, and on the left, went down into the sea. A brave vessel dashed all to pieces! There’s no harm done. Wipe thou thine eyes. They hurried us aboard a bark. A rotten carcass of a butt, not rigged, nor tackle, sail, nor mast. The very rats instinctively have quit it. And the good south wind still blew behind, the breeze to blow. To cry to the sea that roared to us, to sigh to the winds. I have decked the sea with drops full salt I hear the last of our sea-sorrow. 3 To fly, to swim, to dive into the fire, to ride on the curled clouds. Now on the beak, now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin, On the topmast, the yards, and bowsprit. The most mighty Neptune plunged in the foaming brine, to fetch dew from the still-vexed Bermudes. Think it much to tread the ooze of the salt deep. The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, The furrow followed free. To run upon the sharp wind of the north, like a nymph of the sea. A southwest blow on ye and blister you all over. We were the first that ever burst Into that silent sea. 4 Come unto these yellow sands, with its sweet air. Stained with grief at ebb, my father wracked. 5 Sea water shalt thou drink. Drenched in the sea, stained with salt water well fished for. Full fathom five thy father lies of his bones are coral made, those are pearls that were his eyes. Nothing of him that doth fade, but doth suffer a sea-change. Twas sad as sad could be, the silence of the sea. This ditty does remember my drowned father. Glorious and gracious in the wind, down dropt the breeze. The baser currents of the sea blow my keeled soul along. As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean. See the sun – I’ve oversailed him. Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. What strange fish hath made his meal on thee? Nine fathom deep he had followed us From the land of mist and snow. The braced ship sailed hard upon the breeze. she rechurned the cream in her own white wake against the wind he now steers. My bones feel damp within me and from the inside wet my flesh. 6 Without a breeze, without a tide, She steadies with upright keel. With far-heard whisper, o’er the sea, The stars were dim, and thick the night, From the sails the dew did drip. As is the ribbed sea-sand. Alone, alone, all, all alone, Alone on a wide wide sea. Beyond the shadow of the ship, I watched the water-snakes. The sails did sigh like sedge and the rain poured down from one black cloud. The lightning fell with never a jag. Till noon we quietly sailed on, Yet never a breeze did breathe. Slowly and smoothly went the ship. I am standing water I’ll teach you how to flow Do so. To ebb Ebbing men so near the bottom run impossible that he’s undrowned I’ll fish for thee. 7 There’s a soft shower to leeward. Such lovely leewardings. The sea mocks, the billows spoke, the winds did sing it to me. Will I have eyes at the bottom of the sea? I’ll seek him deeper than ever plummet sound. Under the keel nine fathom deep, I shall no more to sea, to sea, the master, the swabber, the boatswain and I. Some men die at ebb tide some at low water some at the full of the flood. Twas night, calm night, the moon was high, but soon there breathed a wind on me. Nor sound nor motion made Its path was not upon the sea. In ripple or in shade. A billow that’s all one crested comb obliquely from the sea in the rainbowed air, fell swamping back into the deep and sank in a shower of flakes. 8 Circling surface creamed like new milk afloat and swimming. The weltering sea amid fiery showers of foam. Swiftly, swiftly, Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze, On me alone it blew. The ship went down like lead. 9 My body lay afloat. Upon the whirl, where sank the ship, The boat spun round and round. The sledge-hammering seas bale out the pouring water as mountain torrents down a flue. The approaching tide will shortly fill the reasonable shore that now lies foul and muddy. This soul hath been alone on a wide wide sea, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago. And I only am escaped to tell thee, A sadder and a wiser man.


Compiling four pieces for four different ensembles, David Lang’s "writing on water" is a free-flowing recording that presents several unusual and rarely revealed facets of the composer who is perhaps most well-known for his monumental choral works (the Pulitzer-winning "the little match girl passion" and the more recent epic "the national anthems"), as well as his poignant song cycles ("death speaks" and "love fail").

From the struggle between dissonance and melody portrayed in “pierced” to the sweeping, oceanic scope of the title piece, the music defines a path that can be as serpentine as it is rigid (“forced march”) or as minimal as it is immense. Riveting performances by Alarm Will Sound, Real Quiet, Crash Ensemble, the London Sinfonietta, Synergy Vocals and more make writing on water an electrifying, free-spirited and rambunctious addition to the Cantaloupe catalog.


released April 20, 2018


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David Lang New York, New York

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