That music always round me: Three poems by Walt Whitman

Lawrence Kramer

About this work:

    Each of the poems in this cycle addresses a different aspect of music.  The songs might accordingly be thought of as attempts to supply the music that Whitman, an ardent music lover, tells us he "hears."

    "I Hear America Singing" is Whitman's vision of a world in which people
are fulfilled, not alienated, by their work.  But it belongs to a world that was
perhaps already lost when the poem was written; the work Whitman describes
is physical and most often artisanal, the work of a preindustrial America.  The
music expands with the text; as the song proceeds, its texture gradually grows
richer; its pace quickens.  "Dirge for Two Veterans" mourns the dead of the Civil
War.  The song is haunted by the drumbeats imagined by the text, which it tries,
and ultimately fails, not to hear.  A more welcome hearing returns with "That
Music Always Round Me."  The poem is at once a paean of praise for music
and a vision of human community.  The song responds with rich sonorities
and a liquid vocal line.  It aims at a tranquility that persists even at the most
exalted moments.

     Duration: 18 minutes.  The text of the "Dirge" has been slightly modified.

Version: Voice and Piano
Year composed: 1984
Duration: 00:17:00
Ensemble type: Voice, Solo or With Chamber or Jazz Ensemble
Instrumentation: 1 Piano, 1 High Voice

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