Advice to Little Girls - (2008)
for medium voice and piano
Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every
trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under
peculiarly aggravated circumstances.
If you have nothing but a
rag-doll stuffed with sawdust, while one of your more fortunate little
playmates has a costly China one, you should treat her with a show of
kindness nevertheless. And you ought not to attempt to make a forcible swap
with her unless your conscience would justify you in it, and you know you
are able to do it.
You ought never to take your little brother's
"chewing-gum" away from him by main force; it is better to rope him in with
the promise of the first two dollars and a half you find floating down the
river on a grindstone. In the artless simplicity natural to this time of
life, he will regard it as a perfectly fair transaction. In all ages of the
world this eminently plausible fiction has lured the obtuse infant to
financial ruin and disaster.
If at any time you find it necessary to
correct your brother, do not correct him with mud--never, on any account,
throw mud at him, because it will spoil his clothes. It is better to scald
him a little, for then you obtain desirable results. You secure his
immediate attention to the lessons you are inculcating, and at the same time
your hot water will have a tendency to move impurities from his person, and
possibly the skin, in spots.
If your mother tells you to do a thing,
it is wrong to reply that you won't. It is better and more becoming to
intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in
the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.
should ever bear in mind that it is to your kind parents that you are
indebted for your food, and for the privilege of staying home from school
when you let on that you are sick. Therefore you ought to respect their
little prejudices, and humor their little whims, and put up with their
little foibles until they get to crowding you too much.
girls always show marked deference for the aged. You ought never to "sass"
old people unless they "sass" you first.
[ 11 pages, circa 4' 45" ]
A joy of my childhood was reading Mark Twain, Puddin'head Wilson
being among my favorites. But much of Twain's work was in smaller works,
such as this short story. The idea of a short story as a song lyric seemed
odd, until the Meltons in Aachen had suggested a short story by Lord Dunsay
as a possibility. That longer story was essentially edited down into a
libretto due to its sheer length, but this delightful sarcasm written in
1865 was of such a length and its "phrases" and repetitions apt for setting,
that I was enthused to set it, with only a little repetition in the manner
of earlier settings.
These "good little girls" are Twain's delight, but there is a lesson in the
text as well, wherein the human foibles of politics, immorality and crime
are mirrored in the text -- inordinate justification for bad behaviors, the
urge to "get away with it," the unfair bargain, the quid pro quo which is
ever denied and always there.
The setting employs a simple rising and falling diatonic scale in the vocal
line, while the accompaniment is made up of periodic phrases which counter
the prevailing "cut time" meter, based simply on the five opening notes of
the diatonic scale. Rapid transpositions carry successive phrases into the
mediant major and subdominant before returning to the tonic. In the example
below the mediant replaces the tonic.
The second "strophe" substitutes the subdominant for the mediant in the
first. Bridge material is of contrasting texture, chords replacing the two
voice accompaniment. The score is "undermarked" in terms of dynamics and
potential tempo changes, and performers are encouraged to find their own
preferences in this patter song based on a prose text.
The score for Advice to Little Girls is available as a free PDF
download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work
is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the
graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
Advice to Little Girls