Incantation  - (2012)    

Elinor Wylie

for mezzo soprano and piano


A white well
In a black cave;
A bright shell
In a dark wave.

A white rose
Black brambles hood;
Smooth bright snows
In a dark wood.

A flung white glove
In a dark fight;
A white dove
On a wild black night.

A white door
In a dark lane;
A bright core
To bitter black pain.

A white hand
Waved from dark walls;
In a burnt black land
Bright waterfalls.

A bright spark
Where black ashes are;
In the smothering dark
One white star.

2 pages, circa 2' 30"

Elinor Wylie


The text is taken from Wylie's 1921 collection, Nets to Catch the Wind.



Each set of four lines is gathered by the poet into a stanza, while I chose to create verses of six lines of text as a shape variation on the whole. For this, six stanzas become four large arches with a last "button" as summary. Each large arch moves to a "distant" tonal domain, such that the structure moves as follows: D natural - D flat - C natural - D flat - D natural, and then cadences in a foreshortening of that last set of harmonic relationships. The augmented chords for the dominant slip the setting from region to region in a set of alterations like unto the text's white-black and bright-dark contrasts. 



The score for Incantation 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.