CD119 Daron Hagen: Love in a Life
Daron Hagen: Love in a Life
& other works for voice and piano
Paul Kreider, baritone
Muldoon Songs (1989)
Love in a Life (1999)
And Her Scent, Was It Musk?
from "Shining Brow" (1992)
The Heart of the Stranger (1999)
from "Bandana" (1998)
“Youth, Day, Old Age” from Love in a Life
LOVE in a LIFE & Other Works for Voice & Piano
by Daron Hagen
When a singer sings, he has nowhere to hide. He is the matador to the listener's bull. A pianist can still depress the keys, a violinist still stop the strings, even a wind player can still count on the instrument to respond if they are ill. But a singer's body is his instrument - an unpredictable one at that. A cold, a tickle, even a stressful day, can turn a singer's instrument against him. Since even the tone-deaf can sing, the potential exists for there to be enjoyed a more immediate, stronger sense of identification between singer and listener than is possible with any other instrument. How moving and human the singer's lot: as his experience and artistry grows with time, his instrument decays!
Because of this, working with singers has provided me as a person with my most gratifying musical experiences. An artist must aspire when creating to the same bravery, honesty and vulnerability that the singer must aspire to when he performs. I turn again and again to the creation of vocal works, especially to art song, because I sense that the genre brngs out the best in me. Factor in a fierce love of the written word and the belief that an instant or emotion captured well in words and music has been immortalized, and it is a wonder that I compose anything but song.
I met Paul Kreider in June of 1992. At the Gala Reopening of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and at the invitation of House Beautiful, I accompanied Paul and Carolann Page in selections from my opera, Shining Brow. I learned from rehearsing with Paul that he had somehow a truer, more dead-on sense of exactly what I was after when I notated my vocal music that anyone with whom I had ever worked. If I could be a real singer, I would want to have a voice just like his.
Exactly seven years later, from June 12-14, 1999, Paul and I recorded the songs on this CD in the cavernous quiet of the haunting, empty Ham Concert hall on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus. The sessions were an inspiration. I had never worked with someone more willing to risk everything as an artist in performance in an effort to capture the truth in a song or role. Paul's range of expression (vocal, psychological, and emotional) seemed limitless during the sessions, as did his commitment to the material and his willingness to "go for it" as an artist. Kreider seemed fearless. He charged the bull!
Two of the cycles, The Heart of the Stranger and Love in a Life (both dedicated to Paul) are collections of songs written over a period of nineteen years. Assembling the cycles required the revisiting of songs I had not looked at for a long time, as well as the composition of new songs in order to flesh the cycles out. Included also on the CD are the Muldoon Songs (commissioned by tenor Paul Sperry), the arietta And Her Scent, Was it Musk? from Shining Brow and Kane's Seduction Scene from Bandanna. Despite the fact that the material on the CD covers so many years and includes not just song but opera, there is a unifying theme - love.
Perhaps the best way to provide context for songs which cover two decades is to simply give a few shreds of anecdotal information about each, letting them stand or fall by themselves as music. The title of each song is followed by the poet, the date on which it was completed, and the place it was written.
Muldoon Songs (1989)
The first performance of these songs as a cycle took place on February 12, 1992 on a Friends & Enemies of Contemporary Music Concert at the Greenwich Music House in New York City. Paul Sperry was accompanied by the composer.
1. The Waking Father (11/28/89 Cassis, France) I had met Paul Muldoon at the MacDowell Colony two months before and had resolved to write a cycle based on his poems. (Little did I know that, over the next ten years, we would also write three operas together!). This song was writen at the Cargo Foundation, where I was the recipient of a residency, specifically to serve as a "big opener" for the set.
2. Thrush (8/1/89 MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire) I first sang and played this song, as well as Bran, as part of a joint presentation of work with Muldoon at the artist colony.
3. Blemish (11/24/89 Cassis) The song is bi-tonal, with one hand in a "blue" key and the other in a "brown" key.
4. Mink (11/28/89 Cassis) Composed specifically to counter balance the brevity of Blemish.
5. Bran (7/26/89 MacDowell) Muldoon, a marvelous reader, recited this poem just before I performed my setting of it, explaining that "Bran" was the name of the Labrador in the poem.
6. Holy Thursday (11/26/89 Cassis) The recurring two-bar pattern is based on the two bar bridge from the Gershwin song "The Man I Love." Years later, I used the music of this song to underpin part of the "Workmen's Chorus" in the seocnd scene of Shining Brow. It is my favorite song.
Love in a Life (1998)
These songs were arranged into a cycle for this CD. As the title suggests, they all concern themselves in some way with love.
1. Love in a Life - Robert Browning (11/2/81 Philadelphia) The first song I wrote as a student of Ned Rorem's at the Curtis Institute. I recall this one going through many drafts.
2. Youth, Day, Old Age, and Night - Walt Whitman (12/2/81 Philadelphia) The second. Ned often asked us to set poems that he himself had set. In this case, I made a setting that contrasted sharply with his. I recall that it was Ned's idea to sling the voice low on the word "darkness."
3. Congedo - Nuar Alsadir (8/24/98 Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York) When I first met this poem's author at Yaddo and asked to read her work, she gave me this poem to read at breakfast. I was so moved by it that I spent the day setting it and performed the result for her after dinner.
4. Ample Make This Bed - Emily Dickinson (3/13/89 New York City) Dedicated to Robert La Rue, this song was written in the course of an hour on a baby grand piano that I recall was manhandled up five stories of winding stairs to a strange attic aprtment in which I then lived on St. Mark's Place in the East Village.
5. The Waking - Theodore Roethke (9/23/93 Annandale-on-Hudson, New York) My favorite poem. The phrase "this shaking keeps me steady" alludes to the melody to which Norman Stumpf set the same words when we were students at the Curtis Institute a decade earlier. The song is dedicated to his memory and was written between lessons at Bard College where, for nine years, I taught.
6. The Green for Pamela - Roland Flint (5/30/85 MacDowell Colony) My reaction to this prose poem, when Roland gave it to me to read at the MacDowell Colony, was so violent that setting it to music was the only way I could come to terms with it. More of a scena than an art song, the singer moves back and forth between nostalgia and "thinking out loud." The song is dedicated to Roland.
7. Just Once - Anne Sexton (10/18/81 New York City) Written on the train from Phildelphia to New York on way to a lesson with Ned and dedicated to Michaela Paetsch.
8. Love - Thomas Lodge (10/30/81 Philadelphia) Dedicated to Margaret Bergamini, by oldest friend and marked "passionate, yet rueful."
And Her Scent, Was it Musk? from Shining Brow (1992)
This little arietta is the first private moment we have as an audience with architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He is singing about Mamah Cheney, a client to whom he has just pitched plans for a new home. During it's course, his wife Catherine enters, overhears. One of the reasons I love working with Paul Muldoon is that his libretto ultimately does have Wright figuring out the scent, late in the second act - it is that of the "plain pine box" in which she is to be buried.
The Heart of the Stranger (1999)
1. Symmetry - Andrei Codrescu (4/16/99 New York City) Newly-written to open the cycle. The vocal part is marked "agreeably."
2. Evening Twilight - Charles Baudelaire (2/23/89) New York City) Written to precede the Verlaine poem which follows and dedicated to the artist Rosamund Casey who earlier that month had given me a painting.
3. It Weeps in My Heart - Paul Verlaine (2/22/89 New York City) Paul Kreider's high G in this track knocks me out. I recall that it was raining out when I wrote this song.
4. To Nobodaddy - William Blake (6/16/99 New York City) Written as a musical greeting to Emerson Rhoads, my godson, on the day of his birth.
5. Dawlish Fair - John Keats (8/8/90 New York City) One of Keats' Elizabethan poems. I recall that this setting came very quickly, easily in one swoop, before having dinner with composer Paul Moravec, to whom it is dedicated.
6. Under the Night Sky - Kim Roberts (7/26/91 Sweet Briar, Virginia) Another "colony song" - this one written at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and dedicated to composer David Del Tredici, who was also there at the time. Kim read the poem after dinner one night.
7. O, When I Was in Love With You - A. E. Houseman (1/18/80, New Berlin, Wisconsin) Written for (and dedicated to ) my brother Kevin, with whom I performed the premiere a few weeks later on a recital in the Morphy Recital Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
8. An Irony - Gwen Hagen (5/16/99 New York City) The poem was written in 1951 by my mother, who died in 1984. Periodically, I set some of her verse as a way of reconnecting with her. Assembling this cycle presented such an opportunity, since I was looking for "another take" on love and her poem seemed well-suited. It is dedicated to tenor Barry Busse.
9. Speciman Case - Walt Whitman (9/27/83 Philadelphia) Another piece of text assigned to me when I was a student by Ned, who had used it in his cycle War Scenes. I recall setting it in the Barber-Menotti studio at Curstis just before a lesson. A decade later, I recycled the piano part as the accompaniment to Frank Lloyd Wright's final aria in Shining Brow.
10. Song - Theodore Roethke (5/18/99 New York City) Newly-written to close the cycle, highlighting Paul's lower register. I have always found the poem to be very disturbing.
Seduction Scene from Bandanna (1998)
Paul Muldoon and I wrote the role of James Kane, a morally bankrupt labor orgainizer from Chicago, especially for Paul Kreider. The Seduction Scene from Bandanna is set after closing time in an empty cantina somewhere near the Texas-Mexico border. Kane is alone with a Young Girl of sixteen who waits tables there.