The movements of “Song Book” are relatively brief. They have a particular thing to say, a particular mood and attitude to express, and then they are done. I think of the pieces as emotional scenes.
- “Song for Davy” is a reworking of the chorale melody “Das alte Jahr vergangen ist” (“The Old Year is Past”). This is a song for my young self, written at a time of personal transition. The music touches a very old memory chord and has a wistful and haunting character.
- “Lost” is based on the chorale “Herr, Ich habe misgehandelt” which translates roughly as “Lord, I have done the wrong thing”. Out of this sensibly comes the feeling of being lost and needing help.
- “Hymn tune with Four Variations” is the only movement that uses a hymn tune verbatim. The melody is “Werde Munte, mein Gemute” (“Be strong my heart”). Each variation is a successive speeding up of the chorale statement, with the last being a chaotic scramble.
- “Serious Music – In Memoriam Arthur Cohn” is the longest and severest piece in the set. Arthur Cohn was for many years Director of the Serious Music Department of Carl Fischer, and over a lifetime of stalwart champion of living composers and new music. My association with Fischer began through Arthur in 1974, and over the years he became both mentor and friend. His death in 1998, though not untimely, was a great sadness for me. The designation “Serious Music” by the Carl Fischer Company of what would otherwise be called “Concert Music” has always amused me. And so I have written a VERY serious piece for Arthur and hope that he appreciates the little joke.
- “Summer Song” is a sweet piece that needs no further explanation.
- “Song for Alison” is for my wife, who has been a grounding influence on me for many years. She is not a musician, but has, through her kindness, steadiness, and love, provided a safe haven for my flights of fancy.
- “Evening Song” brings to mind some of my favorite music, the Op.116 Intermezzos by Brahms. “Evening Song”, like other pieces in the set, is an openly Romantic music. It is ultimately quiet and resigned, but has, over its course, an urgent and passionate statement to make.