New York Sorrows - (2007)
Seven songs for mezzo soprano and piano
i. Central Park at Dusk [ 2 pages, circa 2' 05"
Buildings above the leafless trees
Loom high as castles in a
While one by one the lamps come out
To thread the twilight
with a gleam.
There is no sign of leaf or bud,
A hush is over
Silent as women wait for love,
The world is waiting for
ii. Broadway [ 4
pages, circa 4' 00" ]
This is the quiet hour; the theaters
gathered in their crowds, and steadily
The million lights blaze on for
few to see,
Robbing the sky of stars that should be hers.
waits with bag and shabby furs,
A somber man drifts by, and only we
Pass up the street unwearied, warm and free,
For over us the olden magic
Beneath the liquid splendor of the lights
We live a little
ere the charm is spent;
This night is ours, of all the golden nights,
The pavement an enchanted palace floor,
And Youth the player on the
viol, who sent
A strain of music through an open door.
The Kiss [ 2 pages, circa 1' 00" ]
I hoped that he
would love me,
And he has kissed my mouth,
But I am like a stricken
That cannot reach the south.
For though I know he loves me,
To-night my heart is sad;
His kiss was not so wonderful
As all the
dreams I had.
iv. The Old Maid [ 3
pages, circa 3' 20" ]
I saw her in a Broadway car,
The woman I
might grow to be;
I felt my lover look at her
And then turn suddenly
Her hair was dull and drew no light,
And yet its color
was as mine;
Her eyes were strangely like my eyes,
Tho' love had
never made them shine.
Her body was a thing grown thin,
for love that never came;
Her soul was frozen in the dark,
forever by love's flame.
I felt my lover look at her
turn suddenly to me --
His eyes were magic to defy
The woman I shall
v. Coney Island [ 3 pages,
circa 4' 05" ]
Why did you bring me here?
The sand is white with
Over the wooden domes
The winter sea-winds blow--
no shelter near,
Come, let us go.
With foam of icy lace
sea creeps up the sand,
The wind is like a hand
That strikes us in
Doors that June set a-swing
Are bolted long ago;
try them uselessly--
Alas there cannot be
For us a second spring;
Come, let us go.
vi. Less than the cloud to the wind
[ 2 pages, circa 1' 20" ]
Less than the cloud to the wind,
than the foam to the sea,
Less than the rose to the storm,
Am I to
More than the star to the night,
More than the rain to the
More than heaven to earth
Art thou to me.
Summer Night, Riverside [ 4 pages, circa 4' 00"
In the wild soft summer darkness
How many and many a night we
Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
lights like golden spangles
Glinting on black satin.
The rail along
the curving pathway
Was low in a happy place to let us cross,
down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom
your kisses and the flowers,
Tangled in my hair. .
The frail white stars moved slowly over the sky.
In the fragrant darkness
The tree is tremulous again with
For June comes back.
To-night what girl
her mirror shakes from her hair
This year's blossoms, clinging to its
[ 20 pages, circa 19' 05" ]
Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) was an American lyrical poet, born Sarah Trevor
Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri. Her major themes were love, nature's
beauty, and death, and her poems were much loved during the early 20th
century. In 1918 she won the Columbia University Poetry Society prize (the
forerunner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry) and the annual prize of the
Poetry Society of America for her volume, Love Songs.
Throughout her life, Teasdale suffered poor health and it was not until she
was nine years old that she was seen healthy enough to begin her education
at a private school. In 1898 she attended Mary Institute, and the following
year she enrolled in Hosmer Hall, from which she graduated in 1903. Her
influences included the British poet, Christina Rossetti, and Teasdale made
numerous trips to Europe, beginning in 1905. In 1913, Teasdale was courted
by two admirers. The poet Vachel Lindsay fell in love with her and at one
point was sending her long, fantastic love letters on a daily basis
expressing his true love. After that, he asked her to marry him, but though
she had deep feelings for Vachel, she instead married Ernst Filsinger, a
wealthy businessman in 1914 when she was thirty years old. The following
year they moved to New York City, which became her home for the rest of her
life. Teasdale and Lindsay remained fond but platonic friends
throughout their lives, and Lindsay said that she was his life's "most
inspiring, most satisfying friend."
Teasdale was very much a product of her Victorian upbringing, and she was
never able to experience in life the passion that she expressed in her
poetry. She was not happy in her marriage, and she divorced Filsinger in
1929, against his wishes. Teasdale's health further declined. In 1931, two
years before Teasdale's suicide attempt, Vachel Lindsay had also committed
suicide. In 1933 in her New York City apartment, Teasdale took an overdose
of sleeping pills and died in her bath. Her last, and some say her finest,
collection of verse, Strange Victory, was published posthumously that
same year. She is buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.
The first setting centers on parallel seconds, individually and as
components of chords. While gentle and lyrical, the seeming romance is
underpinned by the pleasantly unrelieved dissonance.
The second setting tells a tale of that "quiet hour" when lively Broadway
turns more quiet. A slow jazzy texture underscores the remembrance of a
romantic time now past, as "over us the olden magic stirs." Thoughts of
these sense memories are bittersweet as the harmonic setting never fully
settles on the "blue notes" or more normal diatonic direction of the style,
but rather is suspended between the two.
The third setting is the angry confession that "dreams" are not being
fulfilled in loving and being loved. The repetitive seconds return from the
opening, this time with a aggressive vengeance across three octaves.
As these texts speak of the 1920s' era, this next setting telling of the
"old maid" twists a simple gesture from that time into a quintuple meter and
lays over it polytonal commentary. The resulting seconds unify this with
previous settings, and hint that the speaker telling of the "old maid" will
likely end up much like this individual, in spite of the assertion that this
will "never be."
Additional settings of Teasdale's text continue the "sorrowful" tale, until
the final lyrical remembrance of a summer night at the riverside, meaning by
the Hudson river. The last lines inform us of the nostalgia as the images,
now past, are being replayed for other lovers as is the old and recurring
tale of romance and lost love. This ends the seven song cycle which I choose
therefore to call "New York Sorrows," as I imagined these poems to be quite
autobiographical and sweetly yet sadly gray in tone.
The score for
New York Sorrows 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
New York Sorrows