About this work:
A Modern Songbook is a collection fifty songs for voice and piano, two books of twenty-five each, composed between 2016 and 2022. Many of the songs appear in multiple versions to accommodate different voice types; some are particular to a single voice type; and some, designated for “voice,” should be singable by any voice either as written or an octave lower.
Most of the poems set here date from the early twentieth century. In part this is because the years between 1900 and 1926 offer a rich trove of public domain texts, but in part it is because this was the time in which the English language assumed the modern idiom that we still use today a century later. The language of these poems has a distinct quality of freshness about it that has always attracted me. For that reason I felt no sense of discontinuity in translating several texts originally written in other languages, by Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Apollinaire, and Rilke, into the English idiom of the present.
The range of poets is broad. The big names are here, most of them represented by their earlier work, but so too are poets who have been neglected or forgotten. In a few cases the texts have been slightly altered; in others the texts are composites.
Three of the songs from Book II, “The Acrobats,” “The Panther,” and “The Soldier’s Tale,” form the central portion of a song cycle, The Acrobats, pairing and interweaving baritone and mezzo soprano voices. A score of the cycle is separately available. The framing duets appear here in an appendix to Book II.