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Friday, March 3, 2017

Listening at the Keyhole, Pt. 2

Our next conversation will be questions from Sarah Reynolds who will sing "November" from Theme in Yellow on our Women's Voices Concert on March 9 at 6 p.m. at Syntax Physic Opera.

Here is the response from Juliana:

Where did you grow up? And/or is there a region of the country you have an affinity with? This song (& cycle) reminds me of living in New England.

I was born in Huntington, West Virginia - right on the Ohio River - and grew up in the tiny village of Chesapeake, Ohio (opposite Huntington on the other side of the river).  However, I have lived in Connecticut for nearly 30 years and New England feels like home to me.  Amy Lowell lived in Boston, and her work really does have a New England feeling to me...this poem - November - especially...and I have tried to capture that feeling in my song.

How did you come across this poem of Amy Lowell's? What about her poetry grabbed your attention?

I design my song cycles differently today, but back in my earlier days when this song was written (1990) I would choose a topic for a new song cycle, then research poets to find poems I thought would go together well for the chosen topic.  November is one of six songs that comprise the song cycle THEME IN YELLOW, which has as its topic the season of Autumn.  While searching for new poets, I happened upon a book of poems by Amy Lowell and liked them quite a lot; they have a dark lyricism that is very appealing to me.  She is good at painting a picture that very effectively conveys the emotional feeling underlying whatever physical scene is portrayed in that picture.

What do you imagine prompted the sadness of the speaker in this poem?

November in New England has a certain feeling, a quality that is different from Autumn in other parts of the country.  The kind of wistful sadness in the poem feels very much to me like Fall really feels here.  The type of rain, wind, the dusky darkness of the light in late afternoon.  The sadness of the speaker in this poem "trying to write down the emptiness of my heart" is not an overly emotional sadness, but is more stoic...which is a New England trait.

The use of triplets seem to indicate the time it is taking the poet to write about the images, giving weight (maybe even struggle) to finding the right words.How did you intend them to function? How would you like the singer to interpret this rhythmic element?

There are two types of triplets, each of which serves a different purpose.  The eighth-note triplets are descending notes, "illustrating" a sigh...the type of sigh one feels in the dark of Autumn when sadness lingers in the air and time seems to stand still.  The quarter-note triplets serve to expand, or stretch, the vocal line, "painting" words like "rusty" and "emptiness" - words that communicate a sense of Autumnal colors and a dark state of mind...such stretching helps to emphasize the "broken" quality of Autumn, with colors fading and darkening, leaves withering and falling to the ground, and time slowing down and seeming to come to a halt as the darkness of the Autumn sky envelopes everything, giving the scene a sense of the physical world decaying into Winter, losing its grip on life and giving rise to that Autumnal feeling of the emptiness of life now gone.

I hope you enjoyed this article and please come to our upcoming show, "Women's Voices" live at Syntax Physic Opera on March 9, 2017 at 6 p.m.

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