Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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The Musical Ass - (2016)   

Tomás de Iriarte y Oropesa

for tenor and piano


The fable which I now present
Occurr’d to me by accident;
And whether bad or excellent,
Is merely so by accident.

A stupid ass one morning went
Into a field by accident
And cropp’d his food and was content,
Until he spied by accident
A flute, which some oblivious gent
Had left behind by accident;
When, sniffing it with eager scent,
He breathed on it by accident,
And made the hollow instrument
Emit a sound by accident.
“Hurrah! hurrah!” exclaimed the brute,
“How cleverly I play the flute!”

A fool, in spite of nature’s bent,
May shine for once—by accident.

4 pages, circa 2' 45"

Tomás de Iriarte y Oropesa


The text is a translation of the Spanish neoclassical poet's humorous rhyme, which appeared in The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia of the Classic Wit and Humor of all Ages and Nations. Strachey, Lionel, et al., eds. New York: The Review of Reviews Company, 1906. His Fábulas literarias (1782) were 'literate' attacks on literary men and their methods.



The song setting makes used of references to the flute in bent snippets, citations from Mozart and Debussy. The song is begun in a modal gesture, as set-up and in contrast to what will follow.



The fable itself tells the story of the ass who finds a flute and by accident makes it sound. The Largo reflects the Larghetto of Tamino's first aria in Die Zauberflöte (1791), and citations from the flute music itself (as at measure 51) followed by small citations after Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1894) and Syrinx for flute (1913).





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 Musical Ass