We discovered Lansing's music in 2008 and immediately reached out to program something in June 2009 for the second Month of Moderns. That something was
Burning Chariots, a work in 12 languages, with a line from Jeremiah that really resonated: "Do no violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, nor the widow; neither shed innocent blood..." Soon after, we asked Lansing to write a new work for The Levine Project (2010). What we received was really compelling and thoughtful:
The Memory of Rain, with a part for Crossing organist Scott Dettra. It includes this wonderful Levine invention, referring to the indifference of clouds, that we all still love today:
"They should be beaten every morning /
They should be boiled and bitten like spoons."
The Memory of Rain, I set out to make a commission for a choir I was conducting in Cincinnati, determined to have a piece on words of Wole Soyinka - a work that looked at zealotry and how we treat each other. Lansing wrote that 10-minute work in 2011 and it immediately felt to me like the beginning of a big work - a very big work. It eventually became, with the longtime curation of The Crossing, the 70-minute oratorio
Zealot Canticles that won the 2019 Grammy for Best Choral Performance. Full of strong poetry, prose, and excerpts of Soyinka's speeches, the final movement observes, "What is on fire today is not only within the mind, but the very nation space in which we all draw breath."
This leads us to Lansing's Jeff Quartet, with yet another memorable literary phrase: "There is a forest which isn't a forest/ just a collection of trees/They call them 'The Trees of the Lonely.'" Right in the middle of our now 10-year friendship with Lansing, we lost Jeff.
was still an idea. It's interesting to think of what Jeff knew when he left us - the plans we had that landed as expected, those that developed in ways we couldn't have guessed, and those that happened because he left us, like Jeff Quartets.