Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund

 

 

The City of Sleep - (2011)      

Rudyard Kipling

for low voice and piano


for Brian Mattinson

Over the edge of the purple down,
    Where the single lamplight gleams,
Know ye the road to the Merciful Town
    That is hard by the Sea of Dreams –
Where the poor may lay their wrongs away,
    And the sick may forget to weep?
But we – pity us! Oh, pity us!
    We wakeful; ah, pity us! –
We must go back with Policeman Day –
    Back from the City of Sleep!

Weary they turn from the scroll and crown,
    Fetter and prayer and plough –
They that go up to the Merciful Town,
    For her gates are closing now.
It is their right in the Baths of Night
    Body and soul to steep,
But we – pity us! ah, pity us!
    We wakeful; oh, pity us! –
We must go back with Policeman Day –
    Back from the City of Sleep!

Over the edge of the purple down,
    Ere the tender dreams begin,
Look – we may look – at the Merciful Town,
    But we may not enter in!
Outcasts all, from her guarded wall
    Back to our watch we creep:
We – pity us! ah, pity us!
    We wakeful; ah, pity us! –
We that go back with Policeman Day –
    Back from the City of Sleep!

[ 5 pages, circa 4' 45" ]


Rudyard Kipling

 

The text is found in "The Brushwood Boy," from a collection of Kipling's stories titled The Day's Work (1898). I had a letter from Brian Mattinson inquiring as to other Kipling texts I might set all the while the sketch for this setting was on my desk, demanding its completion. He continues to compile a listing, "The Musical Settings of Kipling's Verse," found at www.kipling.org.uk  A nudge is as good as stack of brush alongside one's head, such that I completed this setting for it.

 

The poem is preceded in the story with the paragraph which reads: "A prelude ended, and there floated out a voice of the kind that in his childhood he used to call ‘creamy’—a full, true contralto; and this is the song that he heard, every syllable of it:" While thinking of the text for low voice, I had thought a bass would lend appropriate gravitas to this refrain poem, but Mattinson reminded of Kipling's choice.

 

 

The first bright clusters imagine a consonant musical place, and the gently chromatic changes in the accompaniment which follow extend the slowly changing harmonic colors. The piano is meant to "blur with pedal" in making a sostenuto underpinning. As with the text itself, the form is an a/b/a/b/a'/b setting.

 

 

The refrain differs from the dreamland of the verses' imagery with its double-dotted rhythm and more dissonant chromaticism. A pendulum this occurs between verses and refrain, between moods as between musical gestures.

 

 

The score 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.

 

The City of Sleep