Songs of Experience
song set for voice and piano (2007)
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17 July 2007
Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and Academy
Steven Condy, baritone; Kelly Horsted, piano
voice and piano
Walt Whitman, Gardner McFall, Sara Teasdale, Stephen Dunn, Emily Lawless, Emily Dickinson (E)
1. Youth, Day, Old Age, and Night (Walt Whitman)
2. Amelia's Song (Gardner McFall)
3. Wisdom (Sara Teasdale)
4. Elegy for Ray Charles (Stephen Dunn)
5. The Stranger's Grave (Emily Lawless)
6. Two Butterflies (Emily Dickinson)
Devotees of art song are particularly sensitive to the difference between song cycles — such as the highly integrated Larkin Songs, which unfold musically from a single twelve note row and are arranged textually in chronological order of composition by a single poet, and in which a psychological "through story" has been limned — and song sets — such as Songs of Experience, which collect together in a theme and psychological progression a sequence of poems, often by a wide range of poets, concerning a single theme, such as love, or the idea of Letting Go.
The Whitman setting was made in Philadelphia on assignment in 1981 from my mentor Ned Rorem; the McFall was written during the summer of 2005 at Yaddo, and constituted the first sketches for our grand opera Amelia, written for the Seattle Opera; the Teasdale was written during the winter of 2006 as a gift for Nathan Gunn, who had thrilled and delighted my wife and me as Papageno at the MET a few nights before; the Dunn was written a few days after Ray Charles' death, the day after my dear old friend first wrote and read the poem, again at Yaddo; the Lawless was composed last, during the spring of 2007 in New York City, once the rest of the set had already been assembled; the Dickinson was originally written as a Valentine's Day gift for my wife during the winter of 2005.
The songs were premiered at the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and Academy in Virginia on 17 July 2007 by Steven Condy, baritone and Kelly Horsted, piano.
— Daron Hagen, 2007