Song of Irony/Songs of Love (Millay)
About this work:
Program Notes and Performance --Songs of Irony/Songs of Love (3 sonnets and a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay)
2. What lips my lips have kissed
3. I, being born a woman
4. Love is not all
Composed June –August, 2002
These settings were commissioned by a lovely singer named Donna Zapola with whom I toured in the early 90’s. She was supposed to premier them on her doctorate recital at Rutgers. Although we did coach the first two songs, her particular premier is on indefinite hold. So with permission I went ahead and recorded them with my buddy, Heidi Skok at Sean Swinney’s recording studio on the West Side. In return I coached her on the Four Last Songs of Strauss. These songs have not yet been programmed on a concert but Heidi did sing Spring and What Lips for some guests in my living room before our recording session.
I have intended to set this bitchy protest for some time. Surely, the narrator in Spring is not getting any. However, the passionate articulation of that annoyed indignance makes her all the more loveable and human. She stamps her feet, wrinkles her nose and then swaggers with the pride of an Annie Oakley- like tom boy. To capture the physics of that month, April, descending the hill, I preface the approach with a quasi-military fanfare da lontano then an excess of harmonic modulations suggests further that April is zigzagging up and down the landscape splashing its colors.
What Lips My Lips Have Kissed is a nostalgic melody echoing deep within that space the literary critics call interiority.
In the poem, I, being born a woman, never have I read such high flown language express such earthy, physical desires. I felt a jazzy rag emerging into a Latin dance was the perfect musical vocabulary for the words to this hard hitting sonnet.
The opening declaration in Love is not all is a primal wailing: a denial that some quality like love could override the material. Yet….in the end it must.
Maisie Light Publishing. Available through Glendower Jones at Classical Vocal Reprints www.classicalvocalrep.com.
Version: high voice and piano
Year composed: 2002
Ensemble type: Voice, Solo or With Chamber or Jazz Ensemble:Solo Voice with Keyboard
Instrumentation: 1 Piano, 1 High Voice
Instrumentation notes: high voice and piano