An American Kaleidoscope
An American Kaleidoscope:
Song Cycles through the Lenses of William Bolcom,
John Duke, Thomas Pasatieri, and Ned Rorem
This recording features four song cycles that span a 50-year period (1952–2002). Eclecticism—the hallmark
of Americana—is the common note of these works. These cycles showcase
the composers’ diverse harmonic language—the
descriptive and colorful characterization of Duke’s
“ballads,” the post-Romantic harmonies of Pasatieri,
the rich palette of Rorem, and the unmistakable
“American” sound in Bolcom’s angular, bold, aggressive songs that make use of jazz and American popular
Old Addresses (2002)
by William Bolcom (b.1938)
Eclectic in both style and form, Old Addresses is an iconoclastic representation of Americana. He departs from tradition,
combining a group of unrelated songs into a cycle. Old
Addresses is a series of vignettes dealing with different
aspects of contemporary issues. Bolcom employs a variety of musical styles to create characters that capture
the heart of these poems.
Ballad of the Landlord is a tribute to the turbulent 60’s
in the USA with its hard-edged jazz and forceful rhythmic drive that remind one of the social and racial tensions of the era. One hears the cacophony of sirens and
shouts of the angry crowd.
Written in a cabaret style, Lady Death features a pulsating piano motive which shows us the strong drive of this unrelenting character. This, in contrast with the chaotic, jagged syncopation, creates the struggle between the seductive Lady Death and her victims.
Flight for Heaven (1952)
Ned Rorem (b. 1923)
This beautiful, lyric song cycle explores many aspects of
love much as the poet Robert Herrick himself did.
Based on the writings of this seventeenth-century
British poet, the cycle is a unified work in its cyclical
structure, musical style, and story-telling. The first half, featuring songs with more energy
and faster tempo, portrays the vibrancy of life while
the second half explores the darker side—the loss of
Through this lively song, To Daisies, not to shut so Soon, Rorem brings contrast, in tempo and mood, to this cycle. This interlude, a unique feature of this work, brings together themes from the other songs and leads it to a sublime close in the concluding song To Anthea, who may command him Anything.
In To Music, to becalm his Fever, Rorem creates a flowing texture with a forward motion by writing the vocal part in 3/4 against a 6/8 undulating piano part.
Shawn Roy, baritone (right) and Chan Kiat Lim, pianist (left)