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A Midwinter Night Serene

i. curious I found (Text: Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams)
ii. a singing bird in winter (Text: Songbird, by April Smith)
iii. beauty was revealed (Text: The Nightingales by William Carlos Williams)

When Lauren Smagacz came to me asking me to compose a piece for her I was honored, and began looking for a way to write something that would be unique to her. I decided to set three short texts with string trio, but struggled to find texts that I liked that had a common theme. Lauren found a haiku that she loved, and I began looking for texts that could pair with "Songbird" and create a scene in the listeners mind. I eventually settled on two texts by William Carlos Williams that I read and instantly put me in the setting I was trying to construct. I thought the vividness of Williams' words complimented the simplicity of Smith's "Songbird," and that I could combine these texts to create the atmosphere I thought they described.


Musically, I tried to create a rich harmonic environment that was sensitive to the texts. The opening movement holds itself back dynamically, and concentrates on tuning the listener's ear to various sonorities that occur throughout the piece. I placed the haiku as the second movement, and based that movements' structure, (and to some extent, the structure of the entire piece,) on the 5:7:5 ratio that a traditional haiku abides by. The third and final movement simple, flowing vocal lines with, accented canonic passages in the strings that push the piece towards its conclusion.

"Winter Trees" and "The Nightingales" by William Carlos Williams, from THE COLLECTED POEMS: VOLUME I, 1909-1939, copyright © 1938 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.