Into the Present Light
Hymns of Carson P. Cooman

Composer Carson P. Cooman
Released 7/2013
Catalog no. 125-060
Price $19.50 (U.S.)

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A highly diverse collection of Carson Cooman's most recent hymn tunes, setting many wonderful new hymn texts.

"I highly recommend Into the Present Light as a fresh and useful new resource for Christian ministry and hymnody."
--The Hymn, Autumn 2014

"This thought-provoking and practical collection o f Christian hymns is comprised of 76 tunes by Carson Cooman, setting the poetry of Richard Leach; John Core; Mary Louise Bringle; Calvin Seerveld; Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr.; Mary Bittner; Fred Pratt Green; and others. Most of the hymn texts are recent, since 1990, and the tunes were composerd between 2001-2003.

Cooman clarifies that 'the title of this collection is drawn from the final line of a text by John Core, and reflects an important part of my general compositional and aesthetic style. My music most often tends to be about a progression towards light; and not always from darkness; sometimes just from lesser light to great light.' (Preface).
Immediately noteworthy are such irresistibly beckoning hymn titles such as 'The laser-like stream of enchantment and joy,' 'As azure shades to cobalt,' 'Lowest, highest,' 'Sing a proverb, solve a riddle,' and 'With their foolish fig leaves flapping.' The texts which unfold in this collection engage the mind and refresh the senses in a smart, perhaps somewhat edgy, but relatable manner. The language is current and real, even as the messages are timeless.

The preface indicates that, for the most part, Cooman's tunes are composed with specific hymn texts in mind. In some instances, however, the process is reversed: the music is composed first. Such is the case with texts by Mary Louise Bringle.

Cooman's tunes make sense and are engaging. Most feature unison singing lines, and--provided that are caringly introduced and supported--are accessible to the singer who learns by rote. Pitch range typically spans the octave and melodic contour is adventuresome but not distracting. Notably missing (but not missed!) are time signatures, although Cooman's tunes generally commit to a consistent meter. Balanced phrasing offers structural comfort. Hymns in this collection are anywhere from four to approximately sixteen measures in length, usually containing two to four stanzas.

In the preface Cooman describes his musical style, which 'draws upon a number of elements. The influences of traditional and contemporary hymnody/common practice writing are of course present, but also the harmonies and sounds of contemporary concert music (and sometimes pop music), and especially the idiosyncratic voice leading and parallel sounds of colonial American music.' Cooman’s relentless, accented setting of 'Wisdom’s warning word is harsh,' and the floating, suspended sound of 'As azure shades to cobalt' provide particularly effective uniting of poetry and music.

The hymns lend themselves to creative interpretation in regard to instrumentation. They can readily be sung by choirs and soloists. For example, 'From glory to glory' is based on the Liturgy of St. James and begins as a single unaccompanied melody, later adding a second harmonizing voice. This could be lovely sung a cappella by a two-part male or female ensemble. Although accompaniments are scored for keyboard, they can be interpreted by other instruments in various combinations.

Into the Present Light comes in a soft cover which folds over spiral binding. It is lightweight and conveniently sized (9" x 6"). Music notation and hymn texts are clear to read. The singing line is on its own staff with the text directly underneath, and the accompaniment below the text. Placement of title and tune name is inconsistent, however, and initially misleading, due to 1) the similar font size and density for each, and 2) the tune name and title sometimes placed side by side on the same page, and other times placed separately over the top of two pages.

Six indexes are included: Topical, Scripture References, Tun Names, Metrical, Authors and Sources of Texts, and First Lines. These are especially helpful, since the hymns are otherwise not presented in any apparent order. [They are presented in alphabetical order by tune name, ed.]

Also available are three pages of 'Notes on Tunes and Names.' Cooman shares facets of his life and influences with us by means of his tune names. Many are in honor of his friends--anagrams of their names. Others are named for places on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, where Cooman and his family took many walks in the summer. . . . Other tune names refer to The Memorial Church at Harvard University in Boston, where Cooman in Research Associate in Music and Composer in Residence, specializing in new music.

Finally as an added delight, all of the hymns in this collection may be used by congregations enrolled in CCLI, LicenSing, or programs.

I highly recommend Into the Present Light as a fresh and useful new resource for Christian ministry and hymnody."
--The Hymn, Autumn 2014


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