Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


when life is quite through - (2008)    

E. E. Cummings

for voice and piano


when life is quite through with
and leaves say alas,
much is to do
for the swallow, that closes
a flight in the blue; ....


(for the remainder of this text, please consult any one of the many printed and electronic sources)


"when life is quite through" was originally published as "VI" in The Dial, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Jan. 1920),

New York: The Dial Publishing Company, Inc., Editor: Scofield Thayer,

and subsequently republished in the collection, Tulips and Chimneys (1923),

and several subsequent editions of Complete Poems


[ 2 pages, circa 2' 30" ]

E. E. Cummings


This gentle set of stanzas speaks of loss, albeit in hushed metaphors and tones. For this I chose a verse form, in which the introductory gesture is repeated an octave higher as the bridge to the second strophe, and thence a octave higher again and conflated or condensed into sweet, high dissonances. The vocal line breaks the five lines of the poem's structural stanza into two arching phrases, ending an octave higher than it begins.



The bridge to the third strophe is in the higher range of the piano, and the simple 4-2 chord forms are arpeggiated, seemingly strummed with a final block chord breaking the flow, a musical metaphor for being "quite through with...."



vocal range for low, medium and high editions


The score for when life is quite through is newly engraved and edited according to the text published in 1920 as found at the University of Virginia Library's Electronic Text Center, and is available in three keys for low, medium and high voices 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 life is quite through

edition for low voice


when life is quite through

edition for medium voice


when life is quite through

edition for high voice