These five songs are settings of poems by Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), a 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic. The choice to set Rumi's verses was an easy one, since they are immediately beautiful, moving and evocative. His poetry has an innate musicality and lyricism, and Rumi was himself an avid lover of music. Rather than choosing to set these poems for a more traditional ensemble (voice and piano, for instance), I've written for voice and pipa. These settings may have little or nothing to do with Persian tradition, as I've set English translations (by Coleman Barks) for a Western-trained singer and a Chinese traditional instrument. To me, this is a testament to the universal nature of the poetry. These poems are read and cherished across the world in various translations, and their popularity is due in large part to the universal themes Rumi explores in his writing. The verses are clearly love poems, but to whom are they written? The capitalized "You" in the first poem suggests it is dedicated to a god, but could it also be directed to a person, or to nature itself? Rumi's poems have a myriad of meanings for a variety of readers, and it's my hope that these settings, too, will be taken in whatever way you may choose to receive them.
These settings are dedicated to Rachel Schutz and Yang Jing.
Thomas Osborne’s settings of five verses by poet Rumi in no way reflect upon the poet’s Persian background, but present him as he is today—that is to say, a poet who has something to say to all places and all
times. The pipa doesn’t make Osborne’s settings sound any more Asian than his vocal writing makes them
sound Western. In fact, the timelessness and placelessness of Osborne’s Rumi Songs is what makes them
-Fanfare magazine, May/June 2014