Stein Songs

2019

Composer:
Roger Zare

Librettist:

Composer website:
http://www.rogerzare.com/

Composer contact:
rogerzare@gmail.com

Performance forces:
soprano — b.cl, vln, perc

Length:
0:17

Languages:
English

Notes:
Stein Songs is a setting of two poems written by Gertrude Stein. Described as "verbal cubism," Stein's texts are frequently non-sensical and concentrate on the flow of words and syllables, rather than the meaning of the words. [The house was just twinkling in the moon light] is a love note that Stein wrote for her wife. When writing this setting, I concentrated on conveying the imagery of twinkling and the slightly manic nature of the poem’s obsessive repetition. If I Told Him, A Completed Portrait of Picasso is a masterpiece of Stein's style, full of repetition, nonsensical connections, and an incredible rhythm and flow. As a representative example of early modernism in poetry, setting this long and winding poem suggested the use of early modernist musical techniques. The first few lines contain exactly 12 different words that are reordered in a truly cubist manner: If I told him would he like it. Would he like it if I told him. Would he like it would Napoleon would Napoleon would would he like it. If Napoleon if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him would he like it would he like it if I told him. It only seemed natural for me to assign a different chromatic pitch to each of these words so that a 12-tone row is constructed and manipulated. As the poem ventures forth to varied lexical landscapes, I created two other tone rows to go along with Stein’s unique word-spinning. I would not call this song a serial work, though, as I am not strict in my use and development of these rows; I use the 12-tone rows as melodic motives while the music around it is organically constructed. The result is a song that sounds both chaotic and highly ordered at times.