Old Age Blues -
(2006/text from 2008)
for medium voice and piano
One old woman lived far too many years.
She smoked and drank and had too
She was dry as a leaf but she was sharp as a knife,
then death paid a call and snuffed out her life.
That old woman lived far
too many years.
She smoked and drank and had too many fears.
I'm no younger than that old woman was,
I will drink to my fears as I
smoke my cigars.
I'll look gaunt and peaked, maybe look even worse,
Because dying is nasty, while age ain't such a curse.
O God, let me live
far too many years,
To smoke and drink and even have too many fears.
[ 3 pages, circa 1' 55" ]
One hundred years old with a cigar and scotch
A number of song settings which I have composed over the years were to
settings by poets whom I very much admired, mostly deceased during the
twentieth century. In looking to create a vocal anthology for publication, I
wrote to some of the estate managers, prominently those for E. E. Cummings
and Tennessee Williams, only to learn that either they expected sums which I
was unwilling to pay for the rights, control over my work which I was
unwilling to give, or outright rejection. No matter, for a text can be
written; there are enough words. [ 1 ]
This is a variation on a theme by one poet which speaks of age and death;
there are many poems which deal with these unavoidable and very human
subjects. The vocal line is written within the 6/8 time signature, but is
meant to contravene the underlying triple feeling of the accompaniment, and
an interpretive rubato is encouraged within the structure of the meter. The
chord structures throughout are the so-called major-minor six and seven
chords in the minor tonic, while the song form is simply a set of verses
without following the harmonic conventions of the standard twelve-bar form
of traditional blues.
It is wished herein, dear reader, that we all arrive at our old age with joy
in living and a sense of humor, if not necessarily with a cigar and a bottle
of scotch. Then again, at that age, why not?
The score for Old Age Blues 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.
Old Age Blues
[ 1 ]
Necessity, it is said, is the mother of invention. When told during these
last months that some texts were not and would not be available, it was
simply necessary to invent others.
There is a fine story told of the Baal Shem Tov and his
companions. When an illiterate man entered the synagogue, prays
halted, and this poor man began simply reciting the Hebrew
alphabet as best he could. The rabbis companions complained, but
the great rabbi taught that this was the best the man could do.
For his sincerity, God would take the letters of the alphabet
and make the appropriate and correct prayers from them for him.
A fine lesson to be reminded, and it is with this lesson I from
time to time turn my hands to those things in which I am less
expert but nonetheless earnest.