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Songs of October

Simon Fink (b. 1980)

Songs of October (2010)
Song Cycle for Soprano, Tenor, and Chamber Ensemble

Completed as the composer’s Dissertation Piece for the Ph.D. in Music Composition at the University of Chicago.

Instrumentation

Flute (doubling Piccolo and Alto Flute in G) Clarinet in Bb (doubling Bass Clarinet in Bb)

Horn in F

Percussion:
Timpani (one 26” Timpani), Tubular Bells, Vibraphone (plugged in), Snare Drum, Medium-sized Suspended Sizzle Cymbal, Glockenspiel, Marimba, Chime Tree, Tom-toms (three: low, medium, and high), Crotales, Sleigh Bells, Medium-sized Suspended Cymbal (not sizzle)

Piano

Soprano

Tenor
2 Violins

Viola

Cello

Bass

 

Songs of October is a song cycle presented from the perspectives of two people entangled in a complicated emotional bond. The cycle begins and ends after—or perhaps in the midst of—an important crossroads or rupture in their relationship. In between, the music journeys through various states of feeling and recollection. The texts come from a mixture of authors from around the first half of the 20th century and together form a dramatic dialogue between the two individuals. The title of the cycle comes from Carl Sandburg’s poem set in the eighth song: “And this will be all?/And the gates will never open again?/And the dust and the wind will play around the rusty door hinges and the songs of October moan, Why-oh, why-oh?” I was fortunate to be able to begin this work while in residence among the striking October leaves at the I-Park Artists’ Enclave in Connecticut and to finish the work under a Dissertation-Year Fellowship from the Mellon Foundation.

Texts

I.

Silence (1916)
by D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930)

Since I lost you, I am silence-haunted; Sounds wave their little wings
A moment, then in weariness settle On the flood that soundless swings.

Whether the people in the street
Like pattering ripples go by,
Or whether the theatre sighs and sighs With a loud, hoarse sigh:

Or the wind shakes a ravel of light Over the dead-black river,
Or last night’s echoings
Make the daybreak shiver:

I feel the silence waiting
To sip them all up again,
In its last completeness drinking Down the noise of men.

II.

Evening Waterfall (1922)
by Carl Sandburg (1878–1967)

What was the name you called me?– And why did you go so soon?

The crows lift their caw on the wind, And the wind changed and was lonely.

The warblers cry their sleepy-songs Across the valley gloaming,
Across the cattle-horns of early stars.

Feathers and people in the crotch of a treetop

Throw an evening waterfall of sleepy- songs.

What was the name you called me?– And why did you go so soon?

III.

Nightfall (1920)
by Sara Teasdale (1884–1937)

We will never walk again
As we used to walk at night, Watching our shadows lengthen Under the gold street-light
When the snow as new and white.

We will never walk again Slowly, we two,
In spring when the park is sweet With midnight and with dew, And the passers-by are few.

I sit and think of it all,
And the blue June twilight dies,— Down in the clanging square
A street-piano cries
And stars come out in the skies.

IV.

‘Why did I dream of you last night?’ (1939) by Philip Larkin (1922–1985)

Why did I dream of you last night? Now morning is pushing back hair with

grey light
Memories strike home, like slaps in the

face:
Raised on elbow, I stare at the pale fog

beyond the window.

So many things I had thought forgotten Return to my mind with stranger pain: –Like letters that arrive addressed to

someone
Who left the house so many years ago.

The Storm (1920) by Sara Teasdale

I thought of you when I was wakened By a wind that made me glad and afraid Of the rushing, pouring sound of the sea That the great trees made.

One thought in my mind went over and over

While the darkness shook and the leaves were thinned—

I thought it was you who had come to find me,

You were the wind. V.

Home Thoughts (1922) by Carl Sandburg

The sea rocks have a green moss. The pine trees have red berries. I have memories of you.

………………
Speak to me of how you miss me. Tell me the hours go long and slow.

Speak to me of the drag on your heart, The iron drag of the long days.

I know hours empty as a beggar’s tin cup on a rainy day, empty as a

soldier’s sleeve with an arm lost. Speak to me…

At Night (1915) by Sara Teasdale

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 thoughts—the air between us is laden,

My thoughts fly in at your window, a flock of wild birds.

VI.

In a Boat (1916) by D.H. Lawrence

See the stars, love,
In the water much clearer and brighter Than those above us, and whiter,
Like nenuphars!

Star-shadows shine, love:
How many stars in your bowl? How many shadows in your soul? Only mine, love, mine?

When I move the oars, see How the stars are tossed, Distorted, even lost!
Even yours, do you see?

The poor waters spill
The stars, waters troubled, forsaken!— The heavens are not shaken, you say, love; Its stars stand still.

There! did you see
That spark fly up at us? Even Stars are not safe in heaven! What of me then, love, me?

What then, love, if soon
Your star be tossed over a wave? Would the darkness look like a grave? Would you swoon, love, swoon?

VII.

“Intrigue” (1897)
by Stephen Crane (1871–1900) (ed. Simon Fink)

Thou art my love,
And thou art the peace of sundown When the blue shadows soothe,
And the grasses and the leaves sleep To the song of the little brooks,
Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art a storm
That breaks black in the sky,
And, sweeping headlong,
Drenches and covers each tree,
And at the panting end
There is no sound
Save the melancholy cry of a single owl– Woe is me!

Thou art my love,
And thou art a tinsel thing, And I in my play
Broke thee easily,
And from the little fragments Arose my long sorrow–
Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art a weary violet, Drooping from sun-caresses, Answering mine carelessly– Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art the ashes of men’s love, And I bury my face in these ashes, And I love them–
Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art the beard On another man’s face– Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art a wretch.
Let these sacred love-lies choke thee,
For I have come to where I know your lies

as truth
And your truth as lies–

Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art a temple,
And in this temple is an altar, And on this altar is my heart– Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art a priestess,
And in thy hand is a bloody dagger, And my doom comes to me surely– Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art a skull with ruby eyes, And I love thee–
Woe is me.

Thou art my love, And thou art death, Aye, thou art death, Black and yet black.

VIII.

And this will be all? (1922) by Carl Sandburg

And this will be all?
And the gates will never open again? And the dust and the wind will play

around the rusty door hinges and the songs of October moan, Why- oh, why-oh?

And you will look to the mountains And the mountains will look to you And you will wish you were a mountain And the mountain will wish nothing at

all? This will be all?

The gates will never-never open again?

The dust and the wind only
And the rusty door hinges and moaning

October
And Why-oh, why-oh, in the moaning dry

leaves, This will be all?

Nothing in the air but songs
And no singers, no mouths to know the

songs?

You tell us a woman with a heartache tells you it is so?

This will be all? IX.

‘If hands could free you, heart’ (1944) by Philip Larkin

If hands could free you, heart, Where would you fly?
Far, beyond every part
Of earth this running sky
Makes desolate? Would you cross City and hill and sea,

If hands could set you free?

I would not lift the latch;
For I could run
Through fields, pit-valleys, catch All beauty under the sun —

Still end in loss:
I should find no bent arm, no bed To rest my head.

X.

Call into Death (1916) by D.H. Lawrence
(ed. Simon Fink)

Since I lost you, my darling, the sky has come near,

And I am of it, the small sharp stars are quite near,

The white moon going among them like a white bird among snow-berries,

And the sound of her gently rustling in heaven like a bird I hear.

And I am willing to come to you now, my dear,

As a pigeon lets itself off from a cathedral dome

To be lost in the haze of the sky; I would like to come

And be lost out of sight with you, like a melting foam.