I’ve begun work on a newly commissioned piece for the Canyon County High School Honor Choir of Nampa, Idaho. The lyric I’ve selected is this poem by Witter Bynner:
Except within poetic pale
I have not found a nightingale,
Nor hearkened in a dusky vale
To song and silence blending:
No stock-dove have I ever heard,
Nor listened to a cuckoo bird,
Nor seen a lark ascending.
But I have felt a pulse-beat start
Because a robin, spending
The utmost of his simple art
Some of his pleasure to impart
While twilight came descending,
Has found an answer in my heart,
A sudden comprehending.
I selected this poem so that I can use the songs of the specified birds as themes in the polyphonic vocal lines. My hope is that it will teach the students about the calls of each bird , but I also hope to pique their interest in the sounds of the world around them and how they might be transcribed, layered, and arranged to create music. I’m just getting started on this composition which will have accompaniment for piano and strings. I hope to be pretty well-versed in the songs of nightingales, stock-doves, cuckoos, larks, and robins by Sunday! I used the mating call of the male robin in one movement of my recent song cycle “Your John Keats,” so I’m looking forward to diving in a little deeper for a truly cacophonous result.