Robert Shaw (1916-1999) was one of the 20th century's most important conductors of choral music, especially in his work with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and chorus. He also was an inveterate writer and speaker. This poem is included in his address "The Conservative Arts," given at Memorial Church, Harvard University, November 9, 1981.
Matters of proportion—
the relations of tone, timbre and texture
of line, rhythm and tempo
of expectation, continuation
recurrence and closure
are not grandmother's eboned and
polished clothing tree
dunce-capped and slack-coated
tall in the hall
while love is made in the parlour—
They are root, trunk, branch and leaf—
seed, sap and substance of Art's meaning.
(From Robert Blocker, ed., The Robert Shaw Reader, Yale University Press, 2004.)