Thursday, February 03, 2005

William Bolcom: William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience - "Nurse's Song"

I thought it would be interesting to hear how Blake's poems were put to music since I had read them last year. I listened to both the Innocence and Experience versions of "Nurse's Song" and found them both to be lacking much musical complexity. I didn't expect to be wowed though, I was mostly intending on comparing the two, which were both less than two minutes long. The Innocence version has two stanzas - the first is entirely in minor, the second in a major key. I found this to fit well with the meanings and speakers in the poem because whereas the first stanza is spoken by the nurse, the second begins with the children speaking, hopeful that they will be allowed to stay outside and play a bit longer. It begins with an "oom-pa-pa" accompaniment that stays constant throughout the song. In the Experience version, however, it opens with an eerie flute duet full of downward-moving chromatics. The vocal line has the same melody as in the Innocence, but does not venture into a major key which is an appropriate decision to have made for the musical presentation of this poem. The "oom-pa-pa" string accompaniment continues for most of the piece, but there are now some dissonances that weren't previously present.

1 comment:

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Did you prefer one version to the other? And what sort of musical complexity do you wish Bolcom had included?