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Ned Rorem

Ned Rorem Composer

Poems of Love and the Rain, song cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano

Performances: 1
Tracks: 17
  • Poems of Love and the Rain, song cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano
    Year: 1962-63
    Genre: Solo Song / Lied / Chanson
    Pr. Instrument: Mezzo-Soprano
    • 1.Prologue: From the Rain
    • 2.Stop All the Clocks
    • 3.The Air Is the Only
    • 4.Love's Stricken 'Why'
    • 5.The Apparition
    • 6.Do I Love You, No.1
    • 7.In the rain
    • 8.Song for Lying in Bed During a Night Rain
    • 9.Interlude
    • 10.Song for Lying in Bed During a Night Rain, conclusion
    • 11.In the rain, No.2
    • 12.Do I Love You, No.2
    • 13.The Apparition, No.2
    • 14.Love's Stricken 'Why', No.2
    • 15.The Air Is the Only, No.2
    • 16.Stop All the Clocks, No.2
    • 17.Epilogue: From the Rain
"I had toyed with the notion of how it might be for a single composer to set on a poem several times, draining the words of their multiple implication," Ned Rorem explained. "If a poem were good, really good, wasn't there more than one way of musicalizing it?" Thus, in song cycle Poems of Love and the Rain, nine texts are presented, but all (except one) are presented within the context of two distinct (and sometimes contradictory) musical moods. First, the eight poems are each presented once, followed by a single "pivotal" iteration of the ninth (on Theodore Roethke's "Interlude"), after which each of the previous eight poems are set again in reverse order. This structural axis of symmetry thus corresponds with a semantic axis of contrast. The second and sixteenth songs, for example, both take as their text W.H. Auden's heartbreakingly mournful "Stop All the Clocks." The first time the song is heard, the singer, a mezzo-soprano, seems filled with anguish bordering on anger; a bold, chordal accompaniment underscores a forceful melodic line that forcefully moves across a broad range. When the singer returns to the text near the end of the cycle, however, the tone is one of resignation and disorientation with uneasy syncopations highlighting the blunt, rhymed-couplet structure of the poem. This kind of contrast appears throughout the work. The lonely lover in Roethke's "The Apparition" sings angular, anxious lines on the way out, with sudden changes of tessitura and terse responses from the piano; on the way back, though, a more woeful mood is set by the soft, steady chords in the piano while the melody is shadowed by the piano's bass line. In two cases, the symmetry is further disrupted by selective use of the text. In the first half of the cycle, Rorem sets only Part I of Jack Larson's "I Love You," and at the corresponding point in the second half of the cycle, sets only Part II of the poem. Likewise, Rorem takes two passes (No. 8 and No. 10 in the cycle) to complete the text of Kenneth Pitchford's searing "Song for Lying in Bed During a Night Rain." The moods set in such stark contrast by the cycle's symmetrical structure thus lend special significance to the first and last song, on an excerpt from Donald Windham's "The Rain." The setting is nearly the same both times: a kind of mysterious interlocking of a falling treble figure and a dissonant rising bass line. The notable difference is that the second setting is a half-step lower. "I wished for the singer to arrive on the stage one person," Rorem explains, "and to leave it another."

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