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Three Twelve-Tone Songs for Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, and Alto

Image: Luna by Evelyn de Morgan, 1885
Image licensing information: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Morgan_Evelyn_de_-_Luna_-_18...

Since there has been some recent discussion here about atonal music, I thought I would post a piece in that style which by coincidence I've just finished revising.  It perhaps does not follow the rules for twelve-tone composition very strictly, but I think it is atonal enough to sound weird, which is what I was aiming at.  It may be hard to sing, but is it possible? The sound file is as usual computer-generated with choral ah vocals as a demo to help imagine what a performance might sound like. I imagine this as a trio, though it also could be sung as a choral work by multiplying the voices.  As always, comments welcome.

Probably best accessed at:

MuseScore: Three Twelve-Tone Songs for Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, and ...

where the score can be seen at the same type the audio is played. Otherwise, the pdf score and mp3 audio file are attached to this posting. The lyrics are in the score, but for convenience I append them below.  Version of 19 February 2020. 

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Spring by William Blake
(Words slightly adapted by Jon Corelis)

Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute.
Birds delight
Day and night;
Nightingale
In the dale,
Lark in sky,
Merrily,
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.

Little boy,
Full of joy;
Little girl,
Sweet and small;
Cock does crow,
So do you;
Merry voice,
Infant noise,
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.

Little lamb,
Here I am;
Come and lick
My white neck;
Let me pull
Your soft wool;
Let me kiss
Your soft face:
Merrily, merrily, we welcome in the year.



Full fathom five by William Shakespeare

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them,—ding-dong, bell.


Queen and Huntress by Ben Jonson
(“Luna” refrain added by Jon Corelis)

Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair
State in wonted manner keep:
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright.
Luna …

Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia’s shining orb was made
Heaven to clear when day did close:
Bless us then with wished sight,
Goddess excellently bright.
Luna …

Lay thy bow of pearl apart
And thy crystal-shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever:
Thou that mak’st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright.
Luna …

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An interesting work Jon. I liked best the parts where the voices moved independently. I wished such parts were the rule, instead of passages where the voices simply doubled each other at a specific interval like a tritone or a major second. But I loved the sequences of (tonally) unrelated triads in the first song. As to whether it's hard to sing, I couldn't say for sure, but given that it is a capella, I would guess that it probably is quite difficult.

Do you know Webern's Second Cantata? It has some beautiful a capella choral writing, all 12 tone of course. Some parts in your work here reminded me of it.

Thanks for the useful comments.  I didn't know about the Webern, but I will look it up.  

I know about piano reductions, but I'm not sure one would be useful in a piece like this.  Maybe the singers could begin by singing along with the computer-generated audio file a few times, just to get a feel for it.

Liz Atems said:

An interesting work Jon. I liked best the parts where the voices moved independently. I wished such parts were the rule, instead of passages where the voices simply doubled each other at a specific interval like a tritone or a major second. But I loved the sequences of (tonally) unrelated triads in the first song. As to whether it's hard to sing, I couldn't say for sure, but given that it is a capella, I would guess that it probably is quite difficult.

Do you know Webern's Second Cantata? It has some beautiful a capella choral writing, all 12 tone of course. Some parts in your work here reminded me of it.

Thank you Jon for sharing the music and the score.  It really sounds atonal.

Parallel writing with a constant interval in between creates an atonal effect,

after all atonality is closely related with dissonance sometimes. 

But this may have a short term affect like using trumpet fanfares in an orchestra. 

I accept that it is useful though... 

I liked the relation  of music to the lyrics.  Use of fugue entrances at the ends is a good idea.

Maybe making a stretto could even be better.  

The canon ideas are generally good and interesting, tying them to 3 5 chords looks like

Schoenberg.

Thank you again for presenting your work, my ears had a good time.

Ali

Thanks for the comment.  I hadn't been consciously trying for a fugal structure, but I can see that it's similar to that.

The relation of the music to the lyrics though is something I tried to consciously implement.  The first song is inspired by bird song, the second should evoke a body rolling in the ocean, and the third should have a brittle, crystalline moonlight atmosphere.

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