I’ve set English translations of these three extraordinary Antonio Machado poems to music for soprano and marimba: The Wind One Brilliant Day, Has My Heart Gone to Sleep?, and Last Night As I Was Sleeping. Machado’s exquisite blend of mystical, spiritual, moral, symbolic, and reflective imagery is what defines him as a preeminent poet. The sound of the voice and marimba together is captivating and although these works could be performed with piano and voice they would not achieve that rich, warm, combined timbre.
The Wind One Brilliant Day is a conversation between the singer’s soul and the wind about taking care of one’s responsibilities or “your garden” as Machado describes it. The weeping, mournful, last line “What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?” is a painful discussion with yourself.
Has My Heart Gone to Sleep? is posing these questions; Has my heart gone to sleep? Have the beehives of my mind stopped working? Has the waterwheel of my mind run dry? The questions are essentially asking the singer if they are incapable of moving ahead. “No”, the singer concludes, “my heart is not asleep, not dreaming, its eyes are opened wide watching distant signals, listening on the rim of vast silence.” I am indeed capable despite what lies ahead.
In Last Night As I Was Sleeping Machado describes a journey of awakening through the use of metaphor and symbolism, describing the letting go of past sins and the forsaking of them in the future as one’s heart is changed and healed. With the line “Marvelous error” all is changed, and pain and grief are alleviated.