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Programme Notes

These four songs are based upon four very different poems written by poet Juliane Wald.  Rag Doll alludes to the loss of an unborn child.  I have opted to use sparse musical textures to reflect the stark and empty mood, and let the text speak for itself.  The Intimates provided plenty of opportunities for dramatic expression, hence, this is the most heavily-scored song of the set.  The next two poems The River and Snow are not personal and confessional like the first two, but instead offer a detached philosophical perspective.  The River deals with the dichotomy between lightness and weight, and I have attempted to elucidate this duality through the use of contrasting meters as well as contrasting musical gestures.  Snow, one of my personal favorites, is simple and direct in tone, yet carries profound meaning.  My guiding principles in setting this poem to music were simplicity and symmetry, and I have tried to stay consistent with the light and evanescent quality of the text.




Rag Doll

Rag doll

Disembodied oyster

Fleshy Mother of pearl.


Where there should have been life,

Only tea dregs remain.

A wilted tree with

Asphyxiated roots ---


I had not even known,

Or was just not ready to face you.

But now you are gone

Without even a "hello!”


My little crystal ---

What were you?

What would you have been?


Like a rag doll

Disembodied oyster,

Here I lie ---


Cold and bare,

An empty shell.


The Intimates

Darkness descends.

Its heavy black veil

Gently smothering

Muted screams

Engulfed within.

Run, now.

Hide from them -

They can see you,

They can see you.


On and on,

Forward, forward,

The voices pause -


For a breath.

A deafening chorus

Shrieks from within.


Nowhere to turn.

Nowhere to flee.



The River

The river has seen it all.

It does not speak.

Serenely, plodding along its own

Infinite course of rebirth.


The weary soul

Yoked and chained to

The boulder of its own existence,

Does not understand

The lightness of the river.


The quiet waves

Gently lapping

Over a

Submerging head.

Silent kicks, muffled cries

Blending into the deep, deep,

Grey hues of the water.


The river has seen it all.

It does not speak.




Oh, Snow,

Clean and light, 

Fresh and white.

A picture of tranquility!


Your pristine form

Sheathes a heart of dust.

A birth from impurity!


Transfigured speck,

You remain untainted - 

Evanescent entity!


Oh, Snow,

Clean and light, 

Fresh and white.

A picture of tranquility!


Performance History

Premiered on 26 March,2015 by Hailey McAvoy, Martha Chan, Joey Duncan, Benjamin Kronk, Pedro Sánchez, and Alex Yuill in Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, USA. 

"Rag Doll" and "Snow" were also performed by Hailey McAvoy, Martha Chan, Joey Duncan, Yunwen Chen, and Alex Yuill on the "Women's Voices" concert celebrating 100 years of New York Women's Right to Vote, held on 5 March 2017 at the Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music.




Awarded the Bernard Rogers Memorial Prize (2015) by the Eastman School of Music.

Four Songs (2015)

for mezzo-soprano, flute, clarinet in Bb, violin, cello, and piano

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