Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


The Inexpressible - (2009)  

Ernest Hemingway

for medium voice and piano


When the June bugs were a circlin'

    Round the arc light on the corner

And a-makin' shooty shadows on the street;

    When you strolled along barefooted

Through a warm dark night of June

    Where the dew from off the cool grass bathed your feet.


When you heard a banjo thunkin'

    On the porch across the road,

And you smelled the scent of lilacs in the park

    That there was something struggling in you

That you couldn't put in words --

    You was really livin' poetry in the dark!

[ 3 pages, circa 1' 55"]

Ernest Hemingway


This text was published in March 1917 in Tabula, the Oak Park and River Forest High School yearbook, for which Hemingway wrote while attending school from September 1913 until graduation in June 1917. Hemingway excelled academically, especially in English, and athletically in boxing and American football. While some may consider this work juvenilia, it indicates a talent at words and characterization. Later he would say of Oak Park, it had "wide lawns and narrow minds."



As with the form of the poem, this is a simple two verse setting of small syncopations as the meter sits between triple and duple, making the accents of the second half note as per the scansion in a light American dialect. A dissonance between chromatic lines and the minor tonic's clarity carries the tone of the piece.



The score for The Inexpressible 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 Inexpressible