Petals Fallen from the moon
Solo voice (soprano)
Text: Sara Teasdale
Commissioned by Maria Jette
Premiere—2006, by Maria Jette, Saint Paul, MN.
- The Kind Moon
- Full Moon (Santa Barbara)
- Old Tunes
- At Night
- Moon’s Ending
- The Wine
In 1923 Herbert Bedford stated the aims of unaccompanied song (or “song-in-a-single-line”) as “a sensitive re-utterance of poetry in a new medium,… a supple vocal line, complete in itself, able to create its own atmosphere, containing its own ornament, and composed in such a way as to be dependent upon no external harmonic explanation.” Maria Jette is an unabashed advocate of the genre, which wonderfully displays her vocal flexibility and keen musicianship. She also professes an affinity with the moon. In commissioning this cycle of moon songs, Maria has asked that it be dedicated to Bruce Carlson.
“This quiet, red-haired lady from the Middle West,” as one editor described Sara Teasdale in 1922, “has written some of the best-known love lyrics of the past decade.” A poet in the reclusive tradition of Dickinson and Christina Rossetti, Teasdale was born in Saint Louis in 1884. She was courted by Vachel Lindsay, but married a businessman and moved to New York in 1915. Three years later she won the forerunner of the Pulitzer Prize for Love Songs. She died from an overdose of sleeping pills in 1933.
“Vocalise” introduces the chain of thirds that will symbolize moonlight. Compound lines allow for counterpoint in “The Kind Moon.” The steadiness of a snail on pavement under a full moon is followed by off-balance waltz rhythms remembered in “Old Tunes.” Opposing registers suggest antiphony and distance in “At Night,” which leads to Teasdale’s last poem, “Moon’s Ending,” and on to a final, affirming question.
THE KIND MOON
I think the moon is very kind
To take such trouble just for me.
He came along with me from home
To keep me company.
He went as fast as I could run;
I wonder how he crossed the sky?
I’m sure he hasn’t legs and feet
Or any wings to fly.
Yet here he is above their roof;
Perhaps he thinks it isn’t right
For me to go so far alone,
Tho’ mother said I might.
FULL MOON (SANTA BARBARA)
I listened, there was not a sound to hear
In the great rain of moonlight Pouring dawn,
The eucalyptus trees were carved in silver,
And a light mist of silver lulled the town.
I saw far off the grey Pacific bearing
A broad white disk of flame,
And on the garden-walk a snail beside me
Tracing in crystal the slow way he came.
As the waves of perfume, heliotrope, rose,
Float in the garden when no wind blows,
Come to us, go from us, whence no one knows;
So the old tunes float in my mind,
And go from me leaving no trace behind,
Like fragrance borne on the hush of the wind.
but in the instant the airs remain
I know the laughter and the pain
Of times that will not come again.
I try to catch at many a tune
Like petals of light fallen from the moon,
Broken and bright on a dark lagoon.
But they float away-for who can hold
Youth, or perfume or the moon’s gold?
We are apart; the city grows quiet between us,
She hushes herself, for midnight makes heavy her eyes,
The tangle of traffic is ended, the cars are empty,
Five streets divide us, and on them the moonlight lies.
Oh are you asleep, or lying awake, my lover?
Open your dreams to my love and your heart to my words,
I send you my thought-the air between us is laden,
My thoughts fly in at your window, a flock of wild birds.
Moon, worn thin to the width of a quill,
In the dawn clouds flying,
How good to go, light into light , and still
Giving light, dying.
I cannot die, who drank delight
From the cup of the crescent moon,
And hungrily as men eat bread,
Loved the scented nights of June.
The rest may die-but is there not
Some shining strange escape for me
Who sought in Beauty the bright wine
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