Emily’s Garden for mezzo-soprano and piano

Emily’s Garden is a set of three art songs on nature-themed texts of Emily Dickinson. I love the poems’ surface simplicity belying a great depth of meaning. Utterly devoid of the dreaded pomposity, these poems are full of subtle humor, even when dealing with the most philosophical of all topics: death. My musical setting of The Cricket Sang uses jazzy syncopations and non-functional tonal progressions. The musical language of To Make a Prairie has an “Americana” sound and is similar to the Piano Sketch, with its gentle diatonic dissonances. Bring Me the Sunset in a Cup is the most complex and heterogeneous stylistically, as a response to the great range of moods and sentiments in the poem.

Duration: c. 7 min.

 

    1. The Cricket Sang, and Set the Sun
    2. To Make a Prairie
    3. Bring me the Sunset in a Cup


I.
The cricket sang,
And set the sun,
And workmen finished, one by one,
Their seam the day upon.

The low grass loaded with the dew,
The twilight stood as strangers do
With hat in hand, polite and new,
To stay as if, or go.

A vastness, as a neighbor, came,—
A wisdom without face or name,
A peace, as hemispheres at home,—
And so the night became.

II.
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

III.
Bring me the sunset in a cup,
Reckon the morning’s flagons up,
And say how many dew;
Tell me how far the morning leaps,
Tell me what time the weaver sleeps
Who spun the breadths of blue!

Write me how many notes there be
In the new robin’s ecstasy
Among astonished boughs;
How many trips the tortoise makes,
How many cups the bee partakes,—
The debauchee of dews!

Also, who laid the rainbow’s piers,
Also, who leads the docile spheres
By withes of supple blue?
Whose fingers string the stalactite,
Who counts the wampum of the night,
To see that none is due?

Who built this little Alban house
And shut the windows down so close
My spirit cannot see?
Who ’ll let me out some gala day,
With implements to fly away,
Passing pomposity?

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)