Columns of Rain
for soprano, piano, cello and flute (1989)
duration: 10’
text by Ross Baglin
GRT • 007

youtube excerpt

score available from
Australian Music Centre

“The Bridges Collective worked as a mobile ensemble, at one point in Stuart Greenbaum's Columns of Rain three artists performing from stairs outside the gallery – the Greenbaum scena with its atmospheric scene-setting...demonstrating a dedication to vocal and instrumental colour.”
Clive O’Connell, The Age, March 2012

author's note
Antonio Gramsci was born in Ghilarza, near Sardinia, in 1891. As General Secretary of the Italian Communist Party, he was arrested in 1926 on the orders of Mussolini. During his 11 years in prison, he secretly filled hundreds of notebooks with his reflections on history, politics, philosophy and culture; notebooks which are now recognized as central readings of modern political culture.

During his years in prison, Gramsci was physically consumed by the nervous and vascular diseases to which he had been prone since childhood. Exacerbating these torments, his wife Julia was committed to an asylum for the mentally ill in Moscow in 1927. Julia had importuned Gramsci to leave Turin during the weeks of escalated repression which preceded his arrest and Gramsci interpreted her breakdown as a response to his refusal of her importunings.

Gramsci's letters to Julia remain one of the great achievements of modern Italian literature. Hard, passionate and lyrical, they embody the mental vigour and precision which sustained him during the years of physical and nervous decomposition.
Columns of Rain is written in imagination of the circumstances which inspired these letters.

Ross Baglin

Now that the moss dyes
The slate roofs across Ghilarza
The bees are building in the bell tower;
I wake where we once slept
Your lips traced within my breathing
I turn toward you like a sunflower.

Love is grass and cornflower
It's memory
It grows in the stone,
The flat white rose and the sloping sky
And all our violent science
Defeated dreams.

Yet do I hear your heels upon the Palatine floor
The crackling crowds below the ancient city wall
A ringing kiss in a burning city, fire
Staining your skin, within these columns of rain.

When mustard roads, limestone hills,
The blue moss deep in the burner
Have petrified all of the factory fires
Then we'll race to work past
The dawn rising on the water
The light so tall in the ivory skies.

Alert all night a globe sings
White and still
To the spearing nerve,
And the heart compels the blood's fountain fall;
The bees are building in
Ghilarza walls.

The worked wax cells that will all be ruined
By the sightless vine seeking out the sun
On the broken tower with a Pisan bell
It questions the rain, the whisp'ring columns of rain.