Tag Archives: Words in Music

Serenade to Spring with George Butterworth and Ralph Vaughan Williams


During the summer months, I anticipate I’ll be offline more than on. For the moment, here are photographs of Innisfree Garden taken May 22, 2015, and music by George Butterworth and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Continue reading

Kyle Gann’s Transcendental Sonnets


and what if they eat clouds, and drink wind, they have not been without service to the race of man
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kyle Gann’s Transcendental Sonnets are settings of sonnets by the Transcendentalist poet Jones Very (1813-1880). Jones Very’s story is one of possible madness and a short, ecstatic period in which he wrote what are regarded as the best of his poems. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in reviewing a book of Very’s poems, wrote of him:

The author, plainly a man of a pure and kindly temper, casts himself into the state of the high and transcendental obedience to the inward Spirit. He has apparently made up his mind to follow all its leadings, though he should be taxed with absurdity or even with insanity. In this enthusiasm he writes most of these verses, which rather flow through him than from him. Continue reading

Sun-Dogs: James MacMillan’s Setting of a Michael Symmons Roberts Poem

The Sun-Dog Painting (Vädersolstavlan)

The Sun-Dog Painting (Vädersolstavlan)

Dazzle mine eyes, or do I see three suns?
—Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3, Act 2, Scene 1

I’m not terribly versed in choral music, to say the least, but little by little I’ve been adding pieces to my personal “canon.” Until David Nice noted that James “MacMillan took a leaf out of [Benjamin Britten’s] ‘The Driving Boy’ with the wonderful whistling tune in a choral masterpiece, Sun-Dogs,” I’d not been aware of the piece or the poem MacMillan set. I’ve since listened to Sun-Dogs again and again. Continue reading

Forms of Resurrection: Wendell Berry’s Poems and the Music of Shawn Jaeger

1 IMG_6140_edited-1Again we come
to the resurrection
of bloodroot from the dark

—Wendell Berry

Sometimes a particular piece of music takes hold and thoroughly captures my imagination. Shawn Jaeger’s The Cold Pane is one such piece. While out walking in search of the first signs of spring, Again, the final song in his lovely setting of five poems by Wendell Berry, accompanies me on my route. Continue reading

Summoning the Sun with Britten’s Spring Symphony

Hymn to the Sun. engraving by William Miller 1872

Hymn to the Sun. engraving by William Miller 1872

Each day now, as I look out over the hills, I mark the snow’s receding and watch as deer forage in brown patches that emerge. As I look, I’m gauging when the local rail trail might be free of snow so I can jog and walk outside, rather than eyeing my treadmill balefully (or perhaps the treadmill is balefully eyeing me). Every now and then, but not as often as I should, I get on it, with considerable empathy for the hamster on her wheel. Continue reading