No Stars Tonight But Echoes
for soprano, baritone, viola, piano and metronome
- YEAR: 2010
- TEXT: My Grandmother’s Love Letters by Hart Crane
- DURATION: 11-14 minutes
- COMMISSIONED BY: Colorado State Music Teacher’s Association
- THEMES: rainfall, memories, nostalgia, time passing
Info about the score recording coming soon.
MY GRANDMOTHER’S LOVE LETTERS
by Hart Crane
There are no stars tonight
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.
There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother’s mother, Elizabeth,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.
Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.
And I ask myself:
“Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?”
Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.
While searching for an appropriate text for the Colorado State Music Teacher’s Association commission, I had two goals: finding a text with music metaphors that would be universally resonant to an audience of musicians; and, a text that allowed for the interaction of two singers. Hart Crane’s My Grandmother’s Love Letters suited both purposes.
Throughout the poem, Crane uses sonic and natural world images to suggest the space between the past and the present. References to the passing of time, the echo of “old keys,” and the continual sound of rain are represented with the intermittent use of a metronome, the echo between the two voices, and the rain-like ping of high range piano passages. In this setting, the dialogue between male and female voices recreates Crane talking to himself through the poem, and perhaps, the ghostly presence of his grandmother.
Megan Buness, soprano
Gene Roberts, baritone
Margaret Miller, viola
Nan Shannon, piano
June 4, 2010
Colorado State Music Teachers Association conference
Pendulum New Music Series
January 26, 2011
University of Colorado