Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


The Young Housewife - (2009)    

William Carlos Williams

for baritone and piano


At ten A.M. the young housewife
moves about in negligee behind
the wooden walls of her husband's house.
I pass solitary in my car.

Then again she comes to the curb
to call the ice-man, fish-man, and stands
shy, uncorseted, tucking in
stray ends of hair, and I compare her
to a fallen leaf.

The noiseless wheels of my car
rush with a crackling sound over
dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.

[ 3 pages, circa 1' 40" ]

William Carlos Williams


This poem was published in 1916, prior to his collection of fifty-two poems, Al Que Quiere! in 1917. The concrete images have attracted many scholarly criticisms of varying sorts, but what is certain is that the poem is one of images with implications, triggered by an individual's reading of the text. What may we think of the young housewife, much less the "solitary" admirer who passes by all the while noticing so much detail. It is suggestive, and for the the setting calls on syncopations so apt for the twentieth century's first decades.



In B  minor, the raised sixth above the tonic minor triad spells the largest harmonic color of the setting. After a short introduction, the falling pattern of the accompaniment is regular, supporting the vocal line above.



The breaks after the strophes sing out a jazzy yet dark solo line for the piano as variations to the verse itself. The last continues on with a repeat of the poet's self-awareness not of the young housewife, so much as his being alone -- "solitary." For this the final cadence whispers away as we await the next chapter in this "novella" which comes to our imaginations.



The score for The Young Housewife 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 Young Housewife