Songs for Sopranos

This academic year has been rich with opportunities for writing vocal music. In addition to the two choral pieces I wrote for Fall quarter, I also had the opportunity of writing two art songs, one for a collaboration with Nicolas Isherwood’s vocal studio, and one for another collaboration during a residency with Lucy Shelton.

Of course this composition process lead to a lot of singing to myself in a a variety of inappropriate locations, but that’s not really anything new for me. Since September, I’ve learned quite a bit about writing for the voice, and I’ve found I need to direct my attention to a lot of factors that I took for granted, such as the idea of rhythmic placement of consonant sounds.

Regardless, it’s been a great experience, and here’s what it sounded like:

Sea Lily
Katherine Price, Soprano

[audio:http://www.simonhutchinson.com/SeaLily.mp3]

Text by H.D.

Reed,
slashed and torn
but doubly rich–
such great heads as yours
drift upon temple-steps,
but you are shattered
in the wind.

Myrtle-bark
is flecked from you,
scales are dashed
from your stem,
sand cuts your petal,
furrows it with hard edge,
like flint
on a bright stone.

Yet though the whole wind
slash at your bark,
you are lifted up,
aye–though it hiss
to cover you with froth.

On a March Day
Annie Reser, Soprano; Ben Krause, Piano.

[audio:http://www.simonhutchinson.com/March.mp3]

Text by Sara Teasdale

Here in the teeth of this triumphant wind
That shakes the naked shadows on the ground,
Making a key-board of the earth to strike
From clattering tree and hedge a separate sound,

Bear witness for me that I loved my life,
All things that hurt me and all things that healed,
And that I swore it this day in March,
Here at the edge of this new-broken field.

You only knew me, tell them I was glad
For every hour since my hour of birth,
And that I ceased to fear, as once I feared,
The last complete reunion with the earth.

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My guiding idea, which I have been conscious of ever since I found myself a composer, is the idea of the brotherhood of nations, a brotherhood in spite of war and strife. This is the idea I am trying to serve, with the best of my ability, in my music.

-Bela Bartok