Mountain Song

Allen Brings

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 and is performed here in this version. 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 iby Mira Music Associates Contact Recorded on Capstone Records CPS 8731 Review: "The CD [Music for Voices by Allen Brings] is a very good anthology of the vocal compositons of Allen Brings. The Three Holy Sonnets (1988) for chorus and orchestra, The Lament of Rachel (1994) for chamber choir and piano, four-hands, and From Psalterium Davidicum (1994) for chorus and orchestra all manifest a polyphonic texture for the voices and the instruments. These compositions are dramatic in their use of dynamics, contrasting textures, and dissonant harmonic language. "The other recordings, A Herrick Suite (1977) for chorus & piano, Three Songs of Blake & Donne for soprano & piano contain beautiful melodies that fit the content of the words eloquently. These works manifest a more consonant harmonic language. The piano accompaniments are rich in counterpoint and create a thematic unity through variation. "The quality and the performance of the recording are excellent." Helmut Christoferus Calabrese New Music Connoisseur, 2004
Version: solo voice & piano
Year composed: 1992
Duration: 00:02:00
Ensemble type: Voice, Solo or With Chamber or Jazz Ensemble:Solo Voice with Keyboard
Instrumentation: 1 Piano, ,1 Soprano soloist(s), ,1 Alto soloist(s), ,1 Tenor soloist(s), ,1 Baritone soloist(s)
Instrumentation notes: This version is available in different keys to suit both male and female voices.
Purchase materials:

Allen Brings's profile »