Each movement of Six Poems for Violin and Piano takes its inspiration from a particular poem. The poems that I selected are from some of greatest names in American literature. Each poem is unique, and searching for a common thread will yield results of dubious meaning.
The movements are not literal re-tellings of the poems, nor do they necessarily intend to capture the mood of the poem. In most cases the poem served as a springboard of invention.
Six Poems was composed for my good friends Bassam Nashawati and David Riley, who premiered it in May of 1998 in Lexington, Virginia.
A dream within a dream (Edgar Allan Poe) begins with a violin melody that will reappear at times throughout the six poems in various guises. The movement is divided into two sections, the first being the unfolding of the opening melody. At around the halfway point the music settles into a quirky waltz which carries through to the conclusion.
Hope is the thing with feathers (Emily Dickinson) is based on a setting for voice and piano of the Emily Dickinson text that I composed several years ago. It is in a three-part form: the outer two present a lyrical melody, while the middle section contains a flowing piano accompaniment to the violin playing a melody in octaves.
A Flea and A Fly in A Flue (Ogden Nash) is perhaps the best known of the poems that I have selected. Its quirkiness seemed to inspire a set of variations that take the listener on a fun journey, never taking itself too seriously.
Ashes of Life (Edna St. Vincent Millay) is the most somber movement of the six poems. It is a slow dark movement which remains loud almost to the very last measure.
Jazzonia (Langston Hughes) is a rhythmic movement which takes the blues as its jumping off point. The blues is interrupted by a contrapuntal section, and then returns with a restatement of the opening rhythmic figures.
Credo (Edwin Arlington Robinson) features a variation on the melody from the first movement over a flowing piano accompaniment. Elements from each of the other movements are presented, often subtly, sometimes not. The final melody heard is once again the opening melody from movement one, ending the journey where it began.