About this work:
When Leonard Cochran offered me the text of Mountain Song, he wrote that it was the result of an
attempt to "imitate the kind of work sometimes found among the Elizabethans...and, by a natural progression,among the people who live in the Southern highlands of the United States." He referred to it as a "literary" attempt to produce what he suspected "came about quite naturally in certain times and in certain places." He went on to say that he wrote it "in hopes that it might be set to music" and that he would "rather see it put
to music than published as a poem." Mountain Song then began its existence as a kind of poesia per musica, for which there is a rich and honorable tradition that extends many centuries into the past.
Concerning the music I have tried to capture the disarming simplicity of Leonard Cochran's text by
choosing a scale which strongly suggests the almost-but-not-quite pentatonicism often found in American folk melodies and by employing a litany-like form in which each line begins similarly with a variant of the same opening motive but which continues thereafter quite differently in order to reflect the ever changing text. However, unlike in litanies, where all lines tend to be the same, the lines of Mountain Song are constantly varied; indeed they appear almost to have been improvised. For all of its folk-like character in both text and music, Mountain Song is, in fact, a consciously conceived work of art invented by a poet and musician fully
aware of what they were doing. Composed and published first as a setting for mixed chorus and piano, Mountain Song was later published also as a solo song with piano accompaniment.
Mountain Song is only the latest example of a collaboration that began when I asked Leonard
Cochran to provide a text to a vocal piece that I had already composed, the text for which I had long
discarded. The result, The Maid of Astolat, is a technically brilliant achievement certainly, but it is also exceedingly beautiful poetry. The second example was the text for the hymn O God Whose Voice. Whatever can be said for the music I composed to set it, Father Cochran's text is one of the most beautiful hymn texts I know. From my work with Father Cochran I continue to draw the inescapable conclusion that good poets have the same "ears" as good musicians.
Leonard Cochran is a Dominican priest at The Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas and a retired member
of the faculty at Providence College, where he continues to teach a course in the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Mountain Song is published by Mira Music Associates. Contact email@example.com.
Version: SATB chorus & piano
Year composed: 1992
Ensemble type: Chorus, with or without Solo Voices:Unknown
Instrumentation: 6 S, 6 A, 4 T, 4 B