Music / Singing

Azure and gold

A long, long time ago, it may have been twenty years already, I wrote a piece of music for voice and marimba. It was called Moon cradle, and the text was written by Padraic Colum. I wrote it for my brother and me.

The original score

About two years ago, I rediscovered that piece of music. I still liked it, but thought it needed something. And I wanted to make it easier to perform by replacing the marimba part by a piano accompaniment.

When I submitted some of my other compositions to an online publisher, I became acutely aware of how annoying copyright can be. I had submitted a set of three songs on texts by Walter Kaufman, but I didn’t get the all-clear from the publisher who holds the rights to his texts, so I couldn’t publish my sheet music. I looked at the copyright for Padraic Colum’s texts, and yes, they were still under copyright too. Bummer.

I decided to not give up, and look for an alternative, in case I wanted to publish the song at some point. I love poetry, and I know that there are many beautiful poems out there that are old enough to be in the public domain. The only thing was, a new poem had to match the meter of the original poem to fit the melody, and I had to like it. It also needed to have an atmosphere that fitted the existing melody. I didn’t mind if it would be shorter or longer.

In the end, I found my poem. It’s called Azure and gold and it was written by Amy Lowell, an American poet. She lived from 1874-1925, and she even won a Pulitzer prize in the year of her death. She loved the work of Keats and she was part of the Imagism movement.

The poem was longer than the original poem I used, so I extended my composition as well. It was interesting to work on a piece that had been hibernating for so long. My style has changed a bit with time (of course), but I think that the new bits fit in nicely. I was a bit stuck on the piano part, however. I didn’t really like what I had come up with, so back into hibernation it went…

Recently, I picked it up again, because I had a new idea. I would convert it to a piece for small ensemble: harp, violin, cello and voice. That way I could have both strong rhythm and lyrical lines. The voice wouldn’t be the only melody, and there would be no dominant piano. Enthusiastic, I went to work and I managed to complete the piece in a few days. I find that having a good idea is most of the work, and it frees the way for the second part, writing it all out, which needs dedication and time. And now that I’m sitting a lot because of my hurting knee (I’ll see an orthopedist on Thursday to find out what’s wrong), I have plenty of time for that kind of thing.

Working on it

So here it is, my latest composition. I cannot play all the parts and instruments myself, so I have created midi files for each part. I recorded myself singing the vocal part, and then I combined everything into one file. Of course, it’s quite flat and inflexible because of the midis, but it gives an impression of the rough shape of the piece. If you are curious, you can listen to the impression below:

Azure and gold

I’m curious what you think about it. I’m quite happy with the piece and would love to perform it for real. It has whetted my appetite for writing music again. I’m also seriously considering writing my own texts from now on. That should be interesting!

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