Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund

 

Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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Trois Chansons de Gide - (2006)     

André Gide

for high or medium low voice and piano


Chansons après les poèmes d'André Gide (1869-1951)

 

i.    Si le jour est passé   [ 3 pages, circa 2'35" ]

 

Si le jour est passé,
si les oiseaux ne chantent plus,
si le vent fatigué retombe,tire au-dessus de moi le voile des ténèbres,
ainsi que tu as enveloppé la terre
dans les courtines du sommeil
et clos tendrement à la brune
les pétales du défaillant lotus.

Du voyageur dont la besace est vide
avant qu'il n'ait achevé sa route,
dont le vêtement est déchiré
et lourd de poussière,
dont les forces sont épuisées,
écarte honte et misère,
et lui renouvelle la vie comme à la fleur
sous le bienveillant couvert de ta nuit.

 

ii.    À mes côtés, il est venu s'asseoir      [ 3 pages, circa 2'35" ]


À mes côtés, il est venu s'asseoir
et je ne me suis pas éveillé.
Maudit soit mon sommeil misérable!

Il est venu quand la nuit était paisible,
il avait sa harpe à la main et mes rêves
sont devenus tout vibrants de ses mélodies.
Hélas! Pourquoi mes nuits toutes ainsi perdues?
Ah! pourquoi celui dont le souffle touche mon sommeil
échappe-t-il toujours à ma vue!

 

iii.    Lumière! ma lumière!     [ 5 pages, circa 2'15" ]

 

Lumière! ma lumière!
Lumière emplissant le monde,
lumière baiser des yeux,
douceur du coeur, lumière!
Ah! la lumière danse au centre de ma vie!
Bien-aimé, mon amour retentit
sous la frappe de la lumière.
Les cieux s'ouvrent; le vent bondit;
un rire a parcouru la terre.
Sur l'océan de la lumière, mon bien-aimé,
le papillon ouvre son aile.
La crête des vagues
de lumière brille de lys et de jasmins.
La lumière, ô mon bien-aimé,
brésille l'or sur les nuées;
elle éparpille à profusion les pierreries.
Une jubilation s'étend de feuille en feuille,
ô mon amour! une aise sans mesure.
Le fleuve du ciel a noyé ses rives;
tout le flot de joie est dehors.

 

 [Total cycle - 11 pages, circa 6' 25" ]


André Gide

 

These settings were composed in Liège during performances of Der König Kandaules, an opera by Alexander Zemlinsky, based on a story by André Gide, Le roi Candaule. It seemed apt to turn my thoughts to the poet as to the composer, and so some gestures in the settings reflect elements in the opera score.

 

English interpretation of these three texts are by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) from Gitanjali, published 1913. The occasional unusual spellings are his, in the British style.

 

 

i.


If the day is done, if birds sing no more,
if the wind has flagged tired,
then draw the veil of darkness thick upon me,
even as thou hast wrapt the earth
with the coverlet of sleep
and tenderly closed the petals
of the drooping lotus at dusk.

From the traveller,
whose sack of provisions is empty
before the voyage is ended,
whose garment is torn and dust laden,
whose strength is exhausted,
remove shame and poverty,
and renew his life like a flower
under the cover of thy kindly night.

 

ii.

 

He came and sat by my side but I woke not.
What a cursed sleep it was, O miserable me!
He came when the night was still;
he had his harp in his hands,
and my dreams became resonant with its melodies.

Alas, why are my nights all thus lost?
Ah, why do I ever miss his sight whose breath touches my sleep?

 

iii.

 

Light, my light, the world-filling light,
the eye-kissing light, heart-sweetening light!
Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the centre of my life;
the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love;
the sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth.

The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light.
Lilies and jasmines surge up on the crest of the waves of light.

The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, my darling,
and it scatters gems in profusion.
Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling,
and gladness without measure.
The heaven's river has drowned its banks and the flood of joy is abroad.

 

The first song setting means to recall the "dust laden" experiences of the traveler as he looks to the "coverlet of sleep" to renew him for them morrow. The long lined 4/2 meter pictures the long trek, while the rising recurrences of the harmonic progression indicates the optimism with which the weary traveler will awaken, though the darker insistence of the final cadence in D sharp minor echoes the day now past.
 

 

The second setting envisions the night, wherein sleep is "cursed" for not having given way to waking moments when "he" -- one may speculate about the pronoun, though I will not -- with "harp in his hands" made dreams "resonant" with melodies. What might be the color of those melodies, much less their meaning to the poet? The night of melody is portrayed in a long-lined 5/4 meter of rhapsodic but static character.

 

 

Whatever the character of the night expected, experienced and now past, Gide then paints for us a portrait of light, wherein "mirth" and "gladness without measure" replace the darker images of the earlier texts and musical settings.

 

Of such mirth and gladness, one might well recall the verse, "Then I commended mirth, because a man has no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor through the days of his life, which God gives to him under the sun." [Ecclesiastes 8:15] Thus, the line speaks well of "heaven's river" whose "flood of joy is abroad."

 

The flood, for Gide, is seen and spoke of in metaphor of light. That flood musically is invoked with the polytonal harmonies built on whole tone relationships -- C, D, E and F sharp -- piling on and contesting one with the other.

 

 

The score for Trois Chansons de Gide 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.

 

Trois Chansons de Gide

edition for high voice

A4 format

 

Trois Chansons de Gide

edition for medium low voice

A4 format