Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


When I Go Free - (2009)    

Walter de la Mare

for medium voice and piano


When I go free,
I think 'twill be
A night of stars and snow,
And the wild fires of frost shall light
My footsteps as I go;
Nobody--nobody will be there
With groping touch, or sight,
To see me in my bush of hair
Dance burning through the night.

[ 3 pages, circa 2' 15" ]

Walter de la Mare


The proper title of this poem published in the 1922 collection, Down-adown-derry; a book of fairy poems, is "Salamander" and inscribed to Margot. The salamander is not only an amphibian, but also a mythical creature which is able to exist in fire or great heat. De la Mare contrasts images of cold and hot in making a portrait of one who shall be "free" and who unobserved would "dance through the night."  The key phrase is "When I go free," for which I choose the title of the setting. The phrase indicates a future moment for which one waits, not freedom of the now or that experienced in the past.



The setting relies on whole tone scales used melodically and harmonically, with additional static polytonality at one point which is linked thematically to the wholes scale as the opening gestures show. As de la Mare speculates on the picture of that future moment of freedom, that future remains in the moment an unknown yet imagined landscape. For this the voices and rapid gestures point to something unknown, with melisma in the accompaniment becoming dance-like before sinking back into the deepest range of the piano at its end, unresolved and waiting, even past the final measure.



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.


When I Go Free