Inspiration from Walden

I keep going back to the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau for words and imagery of nature. It’s particularly compelling for me since Walden Pond is a local landmark and part of our community DNA, less than 15 minute drive from home. I walked there with a friend last week just as I was completing my “Walden at Evening” music for horn, percussion and chorus.

For the first and second movements, I used these words, adapted from the chapter “Sounds”, with some additions of my own to enhance the rhythms. I used them as sounds and phrases, rather than set as text. The phrase about the “stygian lake” didn’t end up fitting the musical flow though.

Delicious Evening   

adapted from Thoreau’s Walden

Delicious evening
cool and cloudy
gentle breezes
ruffling water
fluttering alder
rustling poplar
as bullfrogs usher in the night
    [troonk, troonk]

Whip-poor-wills chant evening vespers
sing like clockwork after sunset
from the stump by the door
from the ridge of the roof
another answers, then another,
echoing, echoing, retelling, echoing

Long after sunset
in the darkness
owl mourns aloud
tearful music
full of melancholy
with ominous foreboding
then wilder than a laughing loon

bullfrogs troonk on through the night
sturdy spirits of ancient bibblers
hoarse and solemn
mocking at mirth
as they try to sing together in their stygian lake

by lakeside, solitude
lap of rippling water
peeping treefrogs
trump of bullfrog
peent of nighthawk
echo of whip-poor-will
trump of bullfrog
tap of passing rain
screech of owl

serene, delicious evening
luscious, peaceful night 
[luscious, luminous, textured, resonant night ]

I struggled with the form of the piece and I didn’t have an ending. I realized I wanted a real, poetic text that the chorus could sing fully. So I went searching and discovered the next poem. The poem finally turned the work onto the road toward being finished. The music became a multi-movement piece, leading me to create the extended “Capriccio Notturno” as the middle movement instead of being a brief interlude. The third and final movement of “Walden at Evening” sets this poem for chorus with horn and vibraphone obbligato.

Low-Anchored Cloud [Mist]

   by Henry David Thoreau

Low-anchored cloud,
Newfoundland air,
Fountain-head and source of rivers,
Dew-cloth, dream-drapery,
And napkin spread by fays;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades;
Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,
Bear only perfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men’s fields!


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