Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Francois-Rene's blog post questions the possibility of very different settings of the same poem, if one is following the natural stresses and feeling of the poem. So comparing different versions reveals a lot.
Lucas Misael Cuadra shared his new setting as well. (You should also listen to his awesome Gates of Fate)
Like I always say, a composer reveals more in his music than he realizes he is revealing, because the things he takes most deeply for granted are the ones that come across the most strongly. Francois-Rene wrote a tight, jazz-flavored song which makes the words clear and straightforward and has a relaxed and spicy feeling. Lucas wrote a richly romantic, lyric melody which is very continuous and glides through the poem with changes of motion and strength corresponding to the feel of the words. It's much more similar to my own setting--it lives in the same century or the same ethos in some sense.
My setting is broadly epic, moving from dark to bright over a long elaboration, with the words used in interweaving choral voices. I also included contemplative instrumental interludes between the verses of the poem, and more intro and coda instrumentals to round out the song.
I wrote this setting of Invictus on commission for the Ann Arbor-Saline Area High School, back in 1999 or so. I conducted the premiere myself. Unfortunately, the recording skips a second or two when the choir starts singing.