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Who actually wrote this wonderful poem???

Dear ChoralNet users,
 
I am writing my first major, extended piece for mixed choir, children's choir, string orchestra, piano and soprano soloist.
The world premiere will take place at the Carnegie Hall, New York, on May 28, 2016. 
The piece will be 35 minutes long and it is divided into 5 movements. I'm writing the last one, so it will be soon finished.
The title of the fourth movement is "I am the Sunlight".
I took the text from this wonderful "Native American Prayer":
 
I give you this one thought to keep 

I am with you still 
I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sunlight on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush,

I am the sweet uplifting rush,

of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not think of me as gone 

I am with you still in each new dawn.
 
 
But then, I found also this "poem" in another version, which is attributed to Mary Elizabeth Frye
 
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die.
                  
So, do you know for sure who is the author of the text that I used?
In case of a publication of the piece (I hope so!!!) who do I have to credit?
 
Thank you very much for any advice and help :-)))
 
Ivo Antognini
Replies (16): Threaded | Chronological
on November 4, 2015 7:14am
It is a question well worth investigating.  Frye's poem is not public domain, so if she is in any way connnected to the "Native American Prayer", you'll want to be sure you've got your permissions in order.  Congratulations on the premiere!
 
Frank La Rocca
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 4, 2015 9:29pm
Dear Frank, thank you very much.
In the meantime I found this:
There are other versions - this is one example - which have emphasised the supposed 'Native American' origins,
such is the appeal of that particular very popular but (probably) incorrect attribution.
...
If you use this version it is probably appropriate to say that it is adapted by person(s) unknown from the original poem
Do not Stand at My Grave and Weep, generally attributed to Mary Frye, 1932.
 
I think that everything is now clear, but now, another question: Am I allowed to change the title of the poem - "my" title is I am the Sunlight - ?
 
on November 5, 2015 12:20pm
I'm sure you can.  One common example of this is Rossetti's "Come to me in the Silence of the Night" - there are quite a few settings with this title. Yet, the actual title of that poem is "Echo" (which is what I used for my SSSAAA setting).
 
Looks like you're in the clear since no one ever copyrighted it.
 
Best,
Frank
 
 
on November 6, 2015 2:49am
Yes - Howard Goodall's setting of it (the 5th movement of "Eternal Light") is entitled "Lacrymosa".
on November 5, 2015 9:46am
Thank you very much, Frank!
Blessings,
 
 
IVO
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 5, 2015 2:26am
See here for a very good and interesting summary of what is known about the origin of this poem. It's worth reading at length, at least as far as the section on copyright. I won't repeat here what you can read in the article, but Mary Elizabeth Frye apparently never made any attempt to claim or exercise copyright, and I am not aware that anybody else has done so, either as her heir or successor or in their own right.
on November 5, 2015 3:05am
Hi Ivo, I had to look into this for my own settting recently. Mary Elizabeth Frye IS the author of the poem, and it IS public domain - she never asserted copyright over it or claimed royalties, and only admitted she was the author a few years before her death. Your second version is the correct one, I don't know who adapted the first one from it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_Not_Stand_at_My_Grave_and_Weep - "Frye circulated the poem privately, never publishing or copyrighting it."
 
It has been used by several prominent composers, including Howard Goodall (as part of his "Eternal Light", which is published by Faber and Faber!), without attribution or copyright payment (I have checked the score and they don't even identify the author of the text). It was also published (again, unattributed) in "The Nation's Favourite Poems" in the UK, a major project supported by the BBC. If there was any issue with copyright, it would have emerged by now.
 
Hope that's helpful.
 
Chris
on November 5, 2015 3:21am
A quick search seems to indicate that Frye's was, indeed, the original version, although there is not any definitive proof of authorship as yet.  You can find more information here: http://www.businessballs.com/donotstandatmygraveandweep.htm.  It appears Ms. Frye passed away in 2004, and I couldn't find contact information for her estate. The piece has been set to music many times, so I assume there is a way to get your permissions in order, although the article above says it is usually considered public domain.
on November 5, 2015 4:07am
Ivo,
"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" is a poem written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Although the origin of the poem was disputed until later in her life, Mary Frye's authorship was confirmed in 1998 after research by Abigail Van Buren, a newspaper columnist.
 
The poem was originally composed on a brown paper shopping bag, and was reportedly inspired by the story of a young Jewish girl, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who had been staying with the Frye household and had been unable to visit her dying mother in Germany because of anti-Semitic unrest. Because people liked her twelve-line, untitled verse, Frye made many copies and circulated them privately. She never published or copyrighted the poem. The identity of the author of the poem was unknown until the late 1990s, when Frye revealed that she had written it.
 
This and more information is found in a dissertation on the Eleanor Daley’s Reqieum (which includes her popular setting of this poem) by Andrew James Robinette, available at 
 
All the best with the composition,
Len
on November 5, 2015 9:41pm
I wanted to thank everyone who took part in this discussion.
ChoralNet is really a big and unique help for me, sometimes!
I found that touching poem, thinking that it was from Native Americans, but now I'm learning that it was written by a woman and the "version" that I used for my piece has been "adapted" by unknown. This does not change things: the poem is wonderful and I will not modify my piece.
I will simply credit Mary E. Frye.
I've seen, looking around that I am in pretty good company...
 
I found this:
lyricist: Mary Elizabeth Frye
or
lyricist: unknown
or
lyricist: unknown (often attributed to M. E. Frye)
or
Indian Prayer
 
Have all a nice week-end :-)
 
IVO
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 5, 2015 11:12am
I don't know any of the specifics of this case, but based on other instances, I suspect two things are going on here.  First, this is likely an example of the "folk process" by which texts and music from the oral tradition are borrowed and reworked.  Probably someone (outside Native culture?) wrote down and/or adapted the "original"  "Native American Prayer," and then Ms. Frye reworked it, either from the "original" or the "Prayer."  So far, so good.
 
However, there is often a second type of tradition at work--the tradition of copyrighting and profitting from the work of another culture.  "Folk culture" or "the oral tradition", by definition, is anonymous and dispersed.  It's a simple matter for a poet, composer or arranger to give general credit to these sources--though it's often not given--but how does a society ensure that payment is made to anonymous, dispersed, and multiple sources?  And under what circumstances does someone in the chain, like Ms. Frye, get to adapt and copyright a traditional creation and keep some or all of the money?  I don't know what the solution is, but this is a gray and problematic area in our copyright laws.  Meanwhile, the uncertainty creates difficulties for others, like Ivo.
 
Most of the "folk revival" of the 1960s was based on this appropriation and selling of the collective work of another segment of society.  The much more important but smaller part of the folk revival which involved the discovery and recording of true folk musicians yielded plenty of irony.  You can hear the great original field recordings of John and Alan Lomax in the Library of Congress and on Smithsonian-Folkways recordings, and the original singers are noted in their books.  However, when transcribed into music notation, the songs are usually listed and copyrighted as "arranged by Lomax."  The Kingston Trio and Warner Bros. had to be threatened with lawsuits before they would pay royalties to North Carolina farmer Frank Proffitt (from whom the song "Tom Dooley" was collected) and banjo player Don Reno (creator of "Dueling Banjos" used in the film "Deliverance.")  In the first case, the Trio claimed it was a folk song in the public domain, and in the second, Don Reno's piece had "entered" the folk tradition, apparently unbeknownst to the film makers.  Ironically, copyright law in these two cases helped the current source and originator, respectively, collect their due.
 
 
on November 5, 2015 6:55pm
Bart I think what also often happens is the opposite of what you have described:  someone wants to give a message a seemingly exotic, folky nature, so they claim that the origin is Native American, when in actuality it isn't.....to me that seems likely in this case, that Mary Elizabeth Frye wrote her poem, and someone found it sometime without her name on it, so decided that it was part of a large folk process and claimed that it was Native American.  In certain circles that carries more interest than something written by a white woman.....
Applauded by an audience of 3
on November 6, 2015 3:33am
I agree this seems likely. One of the links above mentioned that someone tried to prove it was a Native American piece, and several Native Americans came forward to explain that it is not actually in keeping with many Native beliefs, despite its focus on nature. For example, many Native American religious beliefs do not want the spirit of a person to linger, but to move on.
on November 6, 2015 8:01am
Good point.  Something similar happened with Chief Seattle's supposed speech (and two others).  As the website Chief Seattle Arts puts it, "...too many people would rather believe myths about movie Indians than learn about the real people." 
 
While we're on the subject, does anyone know the specific and true origins of the songs Neesa neesa (said to be Seneca), Ancient Mother, and The Earth is Our Mother?  I have seen them attributed to American Indian tribes, but never with any details.  Some internet sites categorize them as "pagan" or "witches' chants."
on November 6, 2015 8:30am
I agree with Joanie Calem. You can't trust vague attributions such as "native american" or "celtic" or "an eastern philosopher". If the material is genuine, then it would surely have a more specific and more significant description - e.g., Irish or Welsh or Breton instead of Celtic, Zhang Zai or Ibn Miskawayh instead of the "eastern philosopher". I won't offer a "for example" for "native american", because I know nothing about that.
on November 5, 2015 12:03pm
Dear ivo antognini!
Your lyrics is: 
"I give you this one thought to keep 

I am with you still 
I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sunlight on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush,

I am the sweet uplifting rush,

of quiet birds in circled flight.
 

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not think of me as gone 

I am with you still in each new dawn."
 
And then again:
"Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die."
 
Do you replace God in these texts by your person? Or by the person of Mary Elizabeth Frye?  
"I am", "I do", "I give you" repeating many times istead of God is too much for me.
 
I guess that you simply "edited" Psalm 148, replacing the name of God by your own name or by the name of Elizabeth Frye:
 
Psalm 148
 
1     Acclaim the Lord up to the skies, the heights of the supernal,
2     Acclaim Him, angels high above, impetuous and eternal,
3     Acclaim Him, heaven, moon and stars, and shining light celestial,
4    Acclaim Him, waters in the skies, in everlasting vessels,
5     Acclaim the Lord because you are united in creation;
6     You dip into the river of time your immortalization.
 
7     Acclaim the Lord, entire earth and all the depth of ocean,
 8    Celestial lightning, hail and snow and hurricane in motion
 9    And all the mountains and hills, the orchards and the cedars
10   And all the beasts and cattle and birds and every breathing creature
11   And all the governors of world, all tribes and every nation,
12   Young men and maidens and adults in childlike adoration.
 
13  The name of God they`ll glorify in every land and nation
      Through all the heaven and the earth and every generation
      Give strength to people of Your trust who`re chanting and believing,
      To all the faithful of their God, who trust Him with their feeling.
 
Looking very alike. Is not it? Simply you replaced the name of God in your texts by your personal name.
 
Wishing you success in your concert at the Carnegie Hall, New York, on May 28, 2016. 
 
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