Graphite Publishing is organizing an art song consortium for 4 brand new cycles of art song. Four of our most prolific composers of art song will write a cycle for four different voice parts. As a consortium member, you and your students will give regional premieres of these songs. The buy-in cost is only $250 to get copies of all four new cycles. You’d be helping to bring new art song into the world for $62.50 per cycle! Martha Hill Duncan will write for soprano and piano, Jocelyn Hagen will write for mezzo-soprano, piano and string quartet, Paul John Rudoi will write for tenor and piano, and Timothy C. Takach will write for bass-baritone and piano. Help art song stay relevant and fresh by contributing to its creation. Contact info@graphitepublishing.com for more details.

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A SEASON OF SENSATIONS

Soprano and Piano
Martha Hill Duncan; Poetry by Meg Freer

1. Mirage
2. High-Sun Summer
3. Daring to be found in a summer lawn

1. Mirage

Come into my dream at dawn
through the flash of light, swim
in the blue behind my eyes,
while the scent of rosewater
drifts down our faces.

Come walk in the cool hollow
of my mind, through wisdom
and out the other side to love.

But truth emerges in the waking hour,
and you are not, and cannot, be with me,
the illusion uprooted, splintered
and buried, like a tree caught
off-guard by an avalanche.

“Absence makes the … .”
No—it’s just more
aching absence.

© Meg Freer
Note: An abbreviated version of this poem was published in The Ultra Best Short Verse 2016–A Canadian Anthology of Poetry Compiled by George Swede, Beret Days Press, 2016 (Ontario Poetry Society, ibunny@rogers.com)

2. High-Sun Summer

I go into the midsummer night,
print its dense simplicity on my skin,
an alleluia from head to foot.

My voice deserts me,
words dress in silence,
a door stands open.

Night closes over the moon-hour,
and the little red rose that will perish
in the snow will bloom again.

© Meg Freer
Note: Different versions of this poem were previously published as “Hedge Rose”: NatureWriting, posted online October 9, 2017, https://www.naturewriting.com and as “high-sun summer” and “the world returns with a shudder” at Another Way Round (the smallest) literary journal (in Los Angeles), August 7, 2018, https://awrjournal.wixsite.com/anotherwayround/poetry-meg-freer

3. daring to be found in a summer lawn

the night hoards my dreams
swallows them whole
refuses to give them up
steals my mind’s natural appetite

desperate for scraps of meaning
traces of you everywhere nowhere
fleeting fragments

an arm
across my shoulders I want it
to stay a more personal message
I wear your jeans best of all
it makes you laugh dipping into a voice smooth
as crème brulée crisp on the surface
in a garden creeping thyme
purple carpet luscious under bare feet

tornadic activity ends
with breathtaking brevity
those were just dreams

this is true
I fold a four-leaf clover carefully in paper
place between pages of a favorite book
fold myself carefully into your future

© Meg Freer
Note: An abbreviated version of this poem was published in quatrain.fish, online (four-line poems), March 7, 2018. The complete poem was published in Sulphur: Poetry and Prose from Northern Ontario, 2018 issue


“Untitled”

Mezzo-soprano, String Quartet and Piano
Jocelyn Hagen

I will be composing two more songs for mezzo-soprano, string quartet and piano, creating a 10 minute song cycle featuring two newly written poems that reflect on women holding jobs or roles typically taken by men. “The Racing Form,” composed last year, is about a female jockey riding so fast she transforms, winning the race in spectacular fashion. Poet Brian Newhouse is currently writing a poem about the woman who holds the Stop/Slow sign at road construction sites. I will write my own text for the third song, reflecting on life as a female composer.

“The Racing Form”
Phil Dacey

And the cap flies off
and then the blouse,
silk rainbow
the wind balloons,
then breeches, boots,

and she’s left with
only underthings,
still riding hard,
the whip falls again
and again to the flank

of her naked horse,
and now the pink
top flutters away
and the bottoms tear
easily and ride the air.

O, it is too late
to bet on her!
I watch, through tears,
her body move
with her mount’s and cheer

against myself, the wad
I put down on the field.
As she wins, her whip
turns into a snake
wearing the colors of God.


The Pulse of God

Tenor and Piano
Paul John Rudoi

The Pulse of God will be a cycle of medium difficulty loosely influenced by the baroque solo cantata form. The poem–which speaks to our spiritual connection to the earth via trees, meadows, birds, and more–will be set to music with delicate dance rhythms and split into three short movements with wordless vocalises bookending the cycle. While the instrumentation will be for tenor and piano, the final movement will evaporate into an a cappella ending, alluding to  the earth’s changing climates and dissipating natural complexity. My hope is that a message of the earth combined with pulsing counterpoint will offer a spiritual message for our time.

The Pulse of God
St. Thomas Aquinas, trans. Daniel Ladinsky

1. The limbs of a tree reached down and lifted me,
  thinking I was its
  child.

  And in the
  meadows my spirit becomes so quiet
  that if I put my cheek against the earth’s body
  I feel the pulse of
  God.

2. “Tell me the way you do that, birds–
  enter the private chambers of my Lord.”

  And they all sang,
  they just
  sang.

  I gathered it was time to become a musician,
  and I did.

4. Years passed,
  and the sky reached down one day and lifted me;
  the birds noticed and
  spoke,

  “How do you enter the Sun like that
  and know the pulse of
  God?”


Black-Eyed Susans

Bass-Baritone and Piano
Timothy C. Takach

“Black-Eyed Susans” will be a long single movement piece for bass/baritone and piano, written at a difficulty level of 3 out of 5. The narrative of the poem will be the main thread through the piece. The way that Rash unfolds the story and slowly lets the reader know more about the context will be preserved, matching musical moments with the moments of discovery already present in the poem. The piano writing will sparse at times, rich at others. The vocal line will be melodic and folk-like, elegantly supported by reference notes and harmonies in the piano.


“Black-Eyed Susans”
Ron Rash

The hay was belt buckle high
when rain let up,
three days’ sun
baked stalks dry, and by midday
all but the far pasture mowed,
raked into windrows, above
June’s sky still blue as I drove
my tractor up on the ridge
to the far pasture where strands
of sagging barbed wire marked where
my land stops, church land began,
knowing I’d find some grave-gift,
flowers, flag, styrofoam cross
blown on my land, and so first
walked the boundary, make sure what
belonged on the other side
got returned, soon enough saw
black-eyed susans, the same kind
growing in my yard, a note
tight-folded tied to a bow.
Always was all that it said,
which said enough for I knew
what grave that note belongs to.
I knew as well who wrote it,
she and him married three months
when he died, now always young,
always their love in first bloom,
too new to life to know life
was no honeymoon. Instead,
she learned that lesson with me
over three decades, what fires
our flesh set early on cooled
by time and just surviving,
and learned why old folks called it
getting hitched, because like mules
so much of life was one long row
you never saw the end of,
and always he was close by,
under a stone you could see
from the porch, wedding picture
she kept hid in her drawer,
his black-and-white flashbulb grin
grinning at me like he knew
he’d made me more of a ghost
to her than he’d ever be.
There at that moment – that word
in my hand, his grave so close,
if I’d had a shovel near
I’d have dug him up right then,
hung his bones up on the fence
like a varmint, made her see
what the real was, for memory
is always the easiest
thing to love, to keep alive
in the heart. After a while
I laid the note and bouquet
where they belonged, never spoke
a word about it to her
when or ever, even when
she was dying, calling his
name with her last words. Sometimes
on a Sunday afternoon
I’ll cross the pasture, make sure
her stone’s not starting to lean,
if it’s early summer bring
black-eyed susans for her grave,
leave a few on his as well,
for soon enough we’ll all be
sleeping together, beyond
all things that ever mattered.

1: (Easy) No divisi in voice parts, accompaniment doubles or supports vocal parts, diatonic, symmetrical phrases, textures mostly homophonic, simple rhythms, stepwise voice leading (conjunct), moderate ranges, no extended techniques, and limited sustained singing.

2: (Medium Easy) Limited divisi, voices somewhat independent from accompaniment, some chromatics, phrases may be longer or more fragmented, mostly homophonic, moderate rhythmic complexity, some difficult intervals (disjunct motion), moderate ranges, extended techniques are simple, limited sustained singing.

3. (Medium) Limited divisi, unaccompanied, or with independent accompaniment (voice parts not doubled), many chromatics, phrases of varying lengths, more contrapuntal textures, moderately complex rhythms, some difficult intervals (disjunct motion), moderately difficult/challenging ranges, extended techniques are potentially challenging, and some sustained singing.

4. (Medium Difficult) Abundant divisi, unaccompanied, or accompanying instruments are fully independent from voice parts, many chromatics and/or key changes, long and/or broken phrases, potentially little homophony, complex rhythms, many difficult intervals (disjunct motion), difficult/challenging ranges, potentially difficult extended techniques, and a demand for sustained singing.

5. (Difficult) Adundant divis, unaccompanied, or accompanying instruments are fully independent from voice parts, many chromatics and/or key changes, long and/or broken phrases, potentially little homophony, complex rhythms, extreme ranges, use of challenging or unusual extended vocal techniques, abundant sustained singing.