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Three Poems by Henry Stevens for alto and piano

By Joseph Dillon Ford

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Piano Solo, Piano Accompaniment, Alto Voice - Advanced Intermediate - Digital Download
Composed by Joseph Dillon Ford. 21st Century, Contemporary Classical, Impressionistic, Neo-Classical. Score. 15 pages. Published by David Warin Solomons (S0.436199).

Item Number: S0.436199

Three striking new art songs in a neo-impressionistic idiom for alto voice (alto, f-sharp - d'') and piano based on original lyrics by award-winning American poet Henry Stevens.

The pdf contains al three scores.
The sound sample is an electronic preview using a piano and a vocal "ah" sample

The Three Poems by Henry Stevens were composed in the same order as they appear in the final score during a period beginning in late June 2008 and lasting until 20 August of the same year. Ford intended them as a gift for the poet, whom he had befriended through correspondence on a Unitarian-Universalist mailing list about Buddhism. Stevens had previously commissioned Ford to compose the score for his poetry DVD titled Victory (2005), and thereafter continued to show his support of new art music as a member of the Delian Society's Order of the Cynthian Palm.

1 "At Burger King [3/4, 4/4; no specific key; M+]

Although the style of the three songs is a direct response to the three Stevens poems, the poems, in turn, were chosen because of their relevance to Ford's own life circumstances. "At Burger King" sets the overall tone, emphasizing, as the original poem does, the psychological distance and division that exist between sectarian believers and those who do not hold their ideologically separatist views. The faithful and those who exist outside of their bubble of religiosity have in common only their coincidental presence at a well-known fast-food establishment. The highly ambiguous, chromatically charged harmonic language, with its strange, quasi-mystical augmented sonorities and rapturous figuration, conveys a sense of otherworldly detachment. Tonal stability is only intermittently evident, and the song ends without any firm cadential closure.

Moving slowly not to spoil their raiment
moving calmly still other worldly,
they do not see any of us
white, brown, or black,
sitting with our families eating burgers and fries,
though they smile gently to one another.
We know who we are and why we are not seen.
If it happens while we're all together
we'll see them taken up leaving us behind
but for now the saved have joined with us for lunch.
We know who we are and why we are not seen.

2 "Walking Catfish" [mainly 4/4; no specific key; M+]

"Walking Catfish" retains the ambiguous harmonic idiom of the first song, but here it functions chiefly to communicate the wonder and sheer capriciousness of the natural world. Dotted rhythms describe the "jazzy" walk of the curious amphibious fish of the title whose ambulatory habits make it unique in the animal kingdom. Lisztian arpeggios and chromaticism meanwhile paint the wild elements and powerfully mysterious forces at play in the subtropical Floridan environment.

Walking cat fish have always fascinated me
it's a myth, a fairy tale
I wonder how a fish could walk
sounds like teaching a stone to talk
but once after a South Florida rain
following weeks of the very same
while walking down a wet paved street
I met small catfish on their feet
a jazzy type of walk was theirs
more a series of belly flops
a trickle is all they need to walk
now I wait for a stone to talk

3 "Divine" [primarily 3/4 and 4/4; tonally ambiguous, ending in b minor; M+]

"Divine" is a poem about the journey of life and its ending, which may come abruptly and unexpectedly. Stylistically, the song is closely akin to its preceding companions, describing through vivid text painting—and with only fleeting moments of tonal stability—the vicissitudes of mortal existence. The individual, "with grace or gracelessness," seeks enlightenment in the midst of circumstances and events that often yield more questions than answers. Death arrives swiftly and with absolute certainty in the dark key of B minor, as the music fades into nothingness.

Divine is the name for the endless quest we all endure
some with some with grace or gracelessness
all not knowing if a connection is available
or ever will be
we see endless repeating rhythms
pulsing illusions dark tunnels
opening into blinding light holding on tightly
till consciousness fails us
the sting of dust
it's over.

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