I am in Need of Music

two songs on poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Elizabeth Bishop 

Composed in: 2005
Text by: Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Elizabeth Bishop
Instrumentation: Medium-low Voice & Piano
Voice, Tenor Saxophone, Viola, Cello, Piano
Vocal Range: A#3-F#5
Commissioned by: Juliana Gondek
Premiered by: Juliana Gondek, mezzo-soprano
Douglas Masek, tenor saxophone
Paul Coletti, viola
Christopher Ahn, cello
Brad Ellis, piano
Publisher: C. Swigart Music

Program Notes

In 2005, Juliana Gondek asked me to write something new for an upcoming recital of hers, which was to feature songs by UCLA composers. The various songs on the program required sax, viola, cello, and piano, but none used all of those instruments, and so she asked me if I might write my songs to include all of them. This unusual—but dark and beautiful—ensemble immediately suggested to me something autumnal and elegiac, which in turn led me to one poem by Tennyson and another by Elizabeth Bishop—both of which speak of the call of music at a time of emotional fatigue, of world-weariness.

I. There is Sweet Music Here

There is sweet music here that softer falls
Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
Or night-dews on still waters between walls
Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,
Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes;
Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
Here are cool mosses deep,
And through the moss the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

II. I am in Need of Music

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling finger-tips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

—Elizabeth Bishop

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