El Castillo Interior: The Interior Castle (2015) by Carla Lucero
for male soprano, bass clarinet, and prepared piano
World premiere

1. The Void (Your own backyard)
Oh, paralyzed soul, do not let the reptiles in!
2. Prodigal Son (Wall Street)
Refrain from visiting one house after another, when your house is full of good things. Like the Prodigal Son, you desire to eat the food of swine!
3. Humility (Hollywood, CA)
Let us practice humility, the ointment for our wounds. Amen.
4. Rapture (Crawford, TX)
Absorption, foolishness, rapture! The devil would go to great lengths to gain people in such states of hysteria... Euphoria!
5. A Prayer For Union With All (San Francisco, CA)
A prayer for union with all: There are always a few little worms which do not reveal themselves until they have gnawed through all of our virtues. We must not sleep again. Love thy neighbor!
6. Torture (Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)
God gives us no more than we can bear, and He gives us patience first... but I should always choose the way of suffering, for there are many things that assault the soul with an interior oppression, so intolerable that it can only be compared to the torment of those who suffer in hell. For in this spiritual torment, no consolation is possible. In this torment there is no help, but to wait for the mercy of God, Who suddenly, at the most unlooked for hour, with a single word, or on some chance occasion, lifts the burden from the soul. All the soul knows for certain is that it has sinned.
7. Grace (Everywhere)
    [text based on the writings of Santa Teresa de Avila]

This trio is a song cycle built around Santa Teresa of Avila's vision and interpretation of the soul, in her seminal work, El Castillo Interior. She envisioned the soul as an interior castle with seven mansions. This interior castle isn't considered a loose interpretation of the seven deadly sins, as her writings are much more detailed than those of St. John of the Cross, and predate them, as well. She cites examples of the pitfalls of humanity, and offers ways to escape and altogether avoid them, although, to ascend from one mansion to the next, the soul must travel though each mansion. They were both considered mystics during the 1500's in Spain, but Santa Teresa invites us to enter another realm, completely, in the pursuit of contemplation and then transcendence. She draws us into states of extreme pain and extreme euphoria and then leaves us with nothing but the simple idea that ultimately, it is God's grace that will bring us into heaven. It is not our choice or due to our thoughts and actions. Yes, our purity of thought and goodness of heart will bring us closer to God, but the labyrinth we navigate through, rife with danger, pain and ecstasy is not our ticket for admission into the kingdom of heaven.

I chose to send an astral traveler on this journey through these seven mansions as a tourist or sightseer. Instead of a journey inward, the astral traveler is sent on its mission to different locations, which highlight the specific human condition Santa Teresa of Avila explores in her writings.

In The Void, the traveler is confronted with his own demons. He is his own worst enemy. These beginning steps are the most perilous of the journey, for the serpents are all around. Temptation hangs thick in the air.

The next section, Prodigal Son, beckons the traveler to Wall Street, where ambition can make or break the dreamer. Money is the pungent aphrodisiac and the STD. It is foie gras at French Laundry and the bloated, suffering goose with the tube in its throat. It is wretched excess. It is the 1%.

Hollywood is where the traveler searches for Humility and finds so little of it that he prays for the bloated egos he encounters. In one moment he is scolding, in the next, he realizes that he, himself is not being humble. He prays for himself, falling into the same trap again and again.

In Rapture, the traveler finds himself in Crawford, Texas, the hometown of an ex- President. He finds himself seduced by all of the fire and brimstone fanaticism, bible thumping and snake handling. It is all so intoxicating, but he knows the devil is watching and waiting to wage war, don a white sheet, crucify a homosexual on a barnyard fence, or just spread the good word in tongues.

A Prayer For Union With All takes the traveler to San Francisco, where he first encounters the stench of human waste. He tries and tries to find a common thread in the vast tapestry of humanity before him in this city, but finds none. He chastises others and realizes that it is he who won't shake the hand of the broken, unshowered drunk, and it is he who will cross the street when he sees the schizophrenic talking to herself. He can't look away, but he can't wait to leave. He is ashamed of who he has become and all of whom he knows.

Torture is the most disturbing of the mansions. The human pain and suffering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center angers the astral traveler. He seeks justification for the horrors he witnesses, and knows that salvation has to be close at hand for the catastrophically wounded veterans. He also realizes that no war is without sin, no matter the side, the creed or faith, although he evangelizes and proselytizes through words of self­martyrdom and condemnation of others.

Grace is not bought or bartered. The traveler sees it bestowed upon human beings, animals, plants — it is all around him. He finds it in the sole survivor of an airline crash, in the dog rescued on a floating raft in the middle of the sea and in the little flower growing through the crack of a sidewalk in front of a condemned house. It is all around him, above him, beneath him. It is given sometimes for seemingly no reason at all. It is everywhere.

— C. L.    

[from program for May 18, 2015 concert]