I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky

Songplay in two acts (1995)

Libretto by June Jordan

Ceiling SKy cast

And the walls shook

and they fell
And I heard the shattering
And I heard I felt the roar
of the devil climbing out of hell

And the air itself was battering
The windows! And the door
flew open and my books
crashed to the floor
And it was like a miracle of fish
and flowers covering up the chaos of my cell

But I could not trust my feet
because the ground was weird and incomplete
So I stood still
I said, “I am the way I will
be free.
It doesn’t matter where
I put my head to bed:
I’m here!
I am the way I will
be free!
(From Dewain’s Song of Liberation & Surprise)

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An Earthquake/Romance. Libretto by June Jordan

3 mezzos, high tenor, 2 baritones (note these roles are written for musical theater singer-actors familiar with pop, soul, jazz and rock genres)
2 reed players (clar, bass clar, alto sax), 3 kybds (piano, kybd samplers), acoustic and electric guitar, electric bass (doubles on acoustic bass) and drum kit (doubles on MIDI drums)

First performance: May 13, 1995, Zellerbach Playhouse, University of California, Berkeley. Stage direction by Peter Sellars. Musical direction by Grant Gershon, conducting the Paul Dresher Ensemble. Sound design by Mark Grey. Sets by Gronk and other LA graffiti artists.

Duration: full evening music theater piece

Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes


Ceiling SKy CD cover

Original cast recording
John Adams, conductor
Nonesuch 79473-2

Buy sheet music

Ceiling score

Read Sarah Cahill’s essay on Ceiling/Sky here