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Cello, Timpani, Harp

and Strings



20 minutes



April 6, 2014

Daniel Poceta (Cello)

Elim Chan (Conductor)

University of Michigan



The music of Desiderata expresses the soul-searching journey for purpose and tranquility that is often the subject of religious homily. The title is taken from the poem Desiderata (1927) by American poet Max Ehrmann and refers to things desired for happiness. The inspiration behind the work comes from the poem’s didactic and devotional principles that confront personal and interpersonal struggle. Desiderata is a musical representation of the poem, using directional harmonic relationships to express challenges in life and a recurring developing motif to symbolize positive affirmations that can lead towards harmony.


There is one primary musical motif, a four-note arc consisting of an ascending and descending contour that signify musical sighs and desires. The figure begins the piece, which is consistently repeated in the solo and orchestral music representing the poem’s constant reminder to remain positive. After an extensive rumination in the opening cadenza, the solo cello weaves the figure as a head motif to different strands of melodic material that progress from the lyrical, assertive, anxious to serene qualities. A brief cadenza in rapturous energy leads into an extended orchestral interlude reprising transformed materials heard earlier.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.


Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.


Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism


Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.


Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.


And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.


© Max Ehrmann 1927


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