Three Songs for Roger -
texts by the composer
for baritone and piano
for Roger Bourland
i. Life - [ 7 pages, circa 3' 20" ]
Life's ups and downs don't ever disengage,
And when one book is read,
there's still some other page.
The ins and outs are just a part of one
And you must play, for all this world's your stage.
What's a little scratch when you got an itch?
little flick to the power switch?
What's a little
catch for the pitcher's pitch?
What's a little gloom
when your life's a bitch?
One comes with the other one, that's for
For most every illness there seems some cure.
If you start with
one, you'll deal with two,
'Cause that's what life has made for you.
What's a soothing balm for each ache and pain?
a plumber's plunger to that backed-up drain?
little bleach to the red wine stain?
What's a changing
wind to the weathervane?
One comes with the other one, I'll tell you
For any one thing there comes the cue
That you'll play with one,
but romp with two,
'Cause that's how life was made for you.
What's a fitting answer to every little plight?
the color black to the color white?
What's a bumpy
tumble from some lofty height?
What's a workman's
wrench when the nut's too tight?
What's a little
lovin' when you're feeling fine?
What's the thing
that's yours that is also mine?
What's the dark of
night when the sun does shine?
What's that giant
puzzle? Read between each line.
One comes with the other one, I'll
say it straight.
For any one thing, like love or hate,
You will sport
with one, but war with two,
'Cause those are the rules life's made for
ii. Who Am I? - [ 3 pages, circa 2' 30"
What am I, as I look back?
That fallen giant or the bean
Is the handsome prince what I have been
Or just some Joe
taking it on the chin?
Where am I, as life goes by?
traveling kind of guy?
I've been lost but I've been found,
been loosed, though once was bound.
Was I the tailor killing flies
But also that dragon's last surprise?
Are all my stories quite the same?
I'm due the praise and due the blame.
Who and what and why, I ask,
While taking off each story's mask?
Who am I, as I take and give?
exactly do I live?
Who am I, as life goes on?
The ugly duckling
and a graceful swan?
Who am I, each day I live?
What is it that I
iii. Love - [ 8 pages, circa 3'
Love; it's a difficult word at the very best.
don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that sting.
Besides, what's love
gotta do with it?
Pop stars holler and sell a hit,
But it could as
well be in a grade school skit.
What does love mean to you and me?
Does it mean my freedom or your slavery?
I love my pizza, and I love
I love my dog, and conquering fear.
When my team wins, I love
And when they lose, I love to jeer.
I love to cuss, and
I love to grouse;
I love to laugh, and I love my spouse.
To love so
many things is great,
That even I can love to hate.
I love bein'
right, and I love bein' seen
In all the right places, or in between.
love to fight when the time is right,
And the time seems right both day
I love myself, even when I don't,
And I love to choose,
even when I won't.
I love to love to love to love,
And especially when
push comes to shove.
So what does all this lovin' mean?
from God or just a chromosomal gene?
Is love its very own opposite?
love so fine though sometimes shi....?
Oh, I love my pizza, and I
love my beer,
I love my dog, and conquering fear.
So, come what may,
this much seems clear,
Love's here to stay, from what I hear.
[ 1 ]
Copyright © 2009 Gary Bachlund All international rights
[ 18 pages, circa 9' 40" ]
I received a request in 2009 from Roger Bourland, professor of composition
and chairman of the Music Department at UCLA, asking for some texts by which
he would challenge a student with something new. Roger wrote me teasing that
I was some "word-meister" and that he was hoping for texts which
would be "something on the way to a musical" and in a "a fast-slow-fast
set." He added, "Have them be texts that YOU would like to set as well, and
feel free to set them yourself." Therefore yesterday, the 16th of January, I
wrote the three texts and set two, with the last in the set composed today,
the 17th. I have felt "free to set them" myself therefore, and they are
dedicated to Roger.
www.rogerbourland.com/blog/ , has been among the top 50 classical music
blogs for several years. In one entry, he wrote, "Songs are usually “about”
something, such as love, or no love, or springtime and so forth." So these
songs are about life and love, perhaps viewed though the empty bottom
of a martini glass, but mostly they are about having fun with words and
I take exception to Roger's observation and distinction, found on his blog,
that song writers and composers are two different animals, songwriters being
miniaturists. Given the "miniature" 24 minutes of a single song -- my
The Hoard of the Gibbelins -- as compared to the truly miniature
Small Homes lasting a mere 35 seconds, the range
of "miniature" need be clarified. But then I was never a particularly easy
The first is a musing about life in the form of many questions. Coming out
of the tradition of "blessings and curses" from Deuteronomy through the
Beatitudes, whose curses are implicit in the meaning, I thought to put
together the profound alongside the profane. The opening is a simple
introduction marked ad libitum for the performers.
The up tempo begins this litany of questions, romping through a 12/8
reminiscent of a gesture from the song "Nola," which came to mind as I
thought about the last conclusion of Iago's "Credo in un dio crudel" from
Verdi's Otello, in which this villain sees "nothing." "Nulla." Ergo a
pun by the musical reference. Go figure. The verses and refrains twist into
the relative natural minor before returning to the tonic major, with a short
play off at the conclusion.
The slow middle setting is also a set of questions, differing in their
seriousness and linked to images from various fairy tales. This set of
verses is a simple hymn form with variations.
The last text is meant as the final "fast," though it too opens with a
rubato musing. Some slight references in both text and melodic shapes
point to 20th century popular music about love and music as a joke within
this large ironic meditation on all the things "love" is used to express in
these modern times.
The up tempo is a hard driving 2/4 with the major-minor chords decorating a
walking bass line, over which syncopations play out in the vocal line. It is
meant to be aggressive, a joke about what it means to be male in a society
which sometimes attacks this meaning in a variety of unsuccessful ways.
A diversion into the lowered supertonic morphs into a quasi-waltz for the
span of one verse in text, before dropping again into a reprise of the
opening rubati, and final drive to a conclusion that "come what may, this
much seems clear, / Love's here to stay, from what I hear."
The score for Three Songs for Roger 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.
Three Songs for Roger
[ 1 ]
"There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping,
egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and
crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of
kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of
manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as
unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but
the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even
wisdom you didn’t know you had." In a letter from John Steinbeck to his son,
Thom, 10 November 1958. (Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, Penguin