Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund



Summer Silence - (2009)    

E. E. Cummings

for medium voice and piano


Eruptive lightnings flutter to and fro
Above the heights of immemorial hills;
Thirst-stricken air, dumb-throated, in its woe
Limply down-sagging, its limp body spills
Upon the earth. A panting silence fills
The empty vault of Night with shimmering bars
Of sullen silver, where the lake distils
Its misered bounty.—Hark! No whisper mars
The utter silence of the untranslated stars.

[ 3 pages, circa 2' 30" ]

E. E. Cummings


This text was first published in the 1915 Harvard Advocate, though subsequently included in later collections. As a prose poem, it begins to show the direction of Cummings as a young artist in its imagery and language.



The setting, intended to be performed wholly in shades of piano and softer, moves back and forth between whole tone scales, some light polytonality through the whole tone use, and a brighter E major. The vocal line rises slowly through the minor third to arrive thereafter at the major third and then the major seventh of the scale, in a small act of brightness against the opening whole tone gestures.



The text is broken into parts, such that there becomes a repeat A section, and a final lingering piano postlude concludes the meditation on "summer silence" and the "stars" as Cummings paints their "untranslated" images.


The score for Summer Silence 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.


Summer Silence