He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

 

 

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven - (2007)     

William Butler Yeats

for medium voice and piano


 

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and half-light,

 

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

[ 2 pages, circa 2' 10" ]


William Butler Yeats

 

This is the young man's plea as with the older man who has no riches to bestow. It is romance transformed into the "wish." For this Yeats uses what looks to be two stanzas, and yet is one complete thought. The first is the thought of giving such riches as no man can bestow, and this thought comprised five of the eight lines. The confession which follows and subsequent plea painted in the small realities which the lover can offer is of three statements, separated by semicolons.

 

The range of the setting is not wide, but the flowing gentility of the vocal line demands a sensual legato.

 

 

The opening scheme contrasts a C major seven against G flat major seven, both chords in first inversion and therefore parallel. The quiet clash between these tonalities is further emphasized by a note to "blur with pedal." The tempo is languid, as if contemplating the changing dark colors of the evening sky under which lovers meet and sweet words are exchanged. Only with the boast that the lover will "spread the cloths" does the tonality begin to broaden.

 

 

As the first section of the poem passes, the tonality no longer shifts between the "indigestible tritone" ( this a loving term applied by Professor Emeritus Roy Travis  [ 1 ]  ).   Rather the tonality settles a moment into G major, emphasizing still the major seven chord, before coming to rest in B major, B having served as the initial C major's major seventh.

 

 

 

The score for He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven 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.

 

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

                    


NOTES

 

[ 1 ]     Professor Emeritus Roy Travis (b. 1922) served on my master's committee at the University of California, Los Angeles, and was for many years a trusted teacher, friend and colleague. I assisted him in some ways as well, recording some of his ongoing work. Roy Travis studied at the Juilliard School and Columbia University (1947–51) and with Darius Milhaud at the Paris Conservatory. He taught first in New York at Mannes College of Music (1952-57) , then at UCLA beginning in 1957, and named full professor in 1968. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1982. Travis worked with Felix Salzer, bringing him as guest to UCLA in the spring semesters of 1959 and 1960, and was an well reputed advocate of Schenkerian Theory in the United States with his articles published in Journal of Music Theory and Perspectives of New Music. Travis compositions include two operas The Passion of Oedipus (1968) and The Black Bacchantes (1982), as well as the Chamber String Quartet (1958); Duo Concertante for violin and piano (1967); Barma, for septet (1968), Orchestral Collage (1968) and Piano Concerto (1969). Additionally Professor Travis worked in electronic music at the studio at University of California at Los Angeles, from 1969. Additionally Travis had an interest in African music, partly through his meeting with his former student, Akin Euba.


 

Himmelstuch

Bertram Kottmann after William Butler Yeats

 

Hätt' ich der Himmel besticktes Tuch,
durchwoben von Gold- und Silberlicht,
das blaue, verblasste, dunkle Tuch
aus Abend-, Dämmer-, Tageslicht,
dann würd’ ich es breiten unter dir:
Doch arm, der ich bin, hab ich nur meinen Traum,
den ich gebreitet hab unter dir;
behutsam - du wandelst auf meinem Traum.

Copyright © 2014  Bertram Kottmann

 

My colleague, Bertram Kottmann, has sent a German translation of Yeats' work. Small changes to observe scansion are made, but the work is musically the same.

 

The score for Himmelstuch 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.

 

Himmelstuch