Well I have arrived at the end of poem 4, but not without struggles. But this is not unusual for me as I usually struggle with endings. This poem was particularly a challenge for several reasons.
The first reason was length. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was halfway through the poem after about a minute of music. I thought when I transitioned to the new meter and slower tempo, that length would not be a problem, but I was wrong. When I finished setting the words the timing was just over two minutes. I was planning to recapitulate the beginning in just the instruments which brought the timing to an appropriate length of 3'20"and the setting of the poem itself was balanced nicely. But after listening to the four poems together, "The Road Not Taken" seemed anti-climatic. That is when I realized that "Annabel Lee" makes a better ending poem than "The Road Not Taken", so poem 3 and 4 are now reversed.
The second problem I had was getting the right mood for the recapitulation. This is the music that is used for the first two verses of the poem which express indecision and doubt. But now I wanted the music to expressive confidence in traveling the road not taken. I started by putting the vocal line first in the flute and then in the piano. For the section where the flute has the vocal line, I developed the line with more activity and put some of the previous flute fills in the left hand of the piano. When the piano took over the vocal line I had the choice of harmonizing it, doubling it in octaves, or creating a canon between both hands. I chose the canon approach. I then worked on the ending itself. I wanted things to quiet down and then end with an ascending figure expressing optimism in the choice. After doing this, things still did not feel right. The piece seem to end to abruptly. After listening over and over, I came to the conclusion that things were too complex throughout this section. I solved this by making the three part canon used in the beginning interlude into a two part canon for piano alone. I also made the last canon (4 parts in the beginning) into a two -part canon as well between flute and piano left hand. Then I simplified the canonic treatment of the vocal line to a combination between canon and supportive harmony. All these simplifications helped me get the correct mood of confidence rather than struggle.
The other challenge I faced in working with this poem was incorporating the audience participation. My original plan was for the audience to say the last three lines. What I came up with was the recitative section at measure 65 leading into the audience speaking only the last line.
It is nice to arrive at the end of the piece. Every time I reach this point, I feel as if I have given birth! It is a long gestation period from initial idea to the last note and I am very emotional involved in the entire experience. At least I didn't have morning sickness! But my work is not over. There are the final refinements and proofreading to get the piece to its printed stage. I'll be talking about that process in next post.
To see and hear what is discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/fourpoemsblog.html