Freedom - (2008)
for medium voice and piano
Freedom, as every schoolboy knows,
Once shrieked as Kosciusko fell;
On every wind, indeed, that blows
I hear her
She screams whenever monarchs meet,
And parliaments as
To bind the chains about her feet
toll her knell.
And when the sovereign people cast
The votes they
Upon the lung-impested blast
Her clamors swell.
For all to whom the power's given
To sway or
Among themselves apportion heaven
And give her hell.
[ 4 pages, circa 1' 45" ]
The reference to Polish general Tadeusz Kościuszko, who assisted United
States military efforts during the American Revolution, and after whom a
county in Alabama is named. The anglicized name of the township omits the
"z;" Bierce's spelling follows the "American" version. (The Alabama County,
Kosciusko, was originally named Red Bud Springs for one of three natural
springs that were present in the city.) His brilliant service as an engineer
during the American Revolution had largely made possible the stunning
American victory at Saratoga in October, 1777— the victory that turned the
tide of war in the colonists’ favor. His planning and building of the
defenses at West Point had rendered impregnable that most crucial of
American strategic positions. And it was his mastery of logistics and
terrain that on more than one occasion prevented the British from capturing
a retreating American army. Kościuszko is reported to have said, "I look
upon America as my second country.” In the struggle for Polish independence,
he was captured and imprisoned by the Russians.
The text speaks with a clear, loud voice, with Bierce's choice of verbs like
"shriek" and "yell," and nouns like "clamor" and "blast." For this a setting
was suggested with forceful, driving accompaniment and some dissonant
contrast between the reigning C minor and a spicy E-flat minor chord in its
midst over a scalar bass line emphasizing the natural minor.
As Bierce created a four stanza poem, the obvious choice for a song form was
chosen. The second strophe for this second stanza begins in similar fashion,
minor changes to better reflect the scansion being made.
The contrasting bridge breaks the triple rhythm with a 6/8 feel in the vocal
line over a driving longer scalar line in the accompaniment.
The score for Freedom
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