Songs of Henry Cowell


Mary Ann Hart, mezzo-soprano

Robert Osborne, bass-baritone

Jeanne Golan, pianist


Henry Cowell (1897-1965) wrote songs for the half century spanning 1914-1964. They constitute a central part of his compositional profile; he wrote more than 180 songs among his 966 known compositions. His songs are a vital, if unknown, part of the rich American art song tradition and represent many of the most forward-looking and adventurous aspects of American song, the legacy of which has been continued by countless other composers. His songs elucidate the several periods in his stylistic evolution - the naive, youthful works; the early avant-garde and "ultramodernist" works; the folk and modally-influenced music; and the late works synthesizing these earlier styles. Most of Cowell's songs, however, have remained under-performed and virtually unknown, for they exist only as manuscripts (in the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library); to date, only sixteen of Cowell's songs for voice and piano have been published.

During his lifetime, Cowell's songs were premiered by such illustrious singers as Roland Hayes, Eva Gauthier, Radiana Pazmor, Charles Holland, and Theodor Uppman. The decrease in performances of his songs after his death can be attributed to their lack of publication. Most often he wrote single songs rather than groups or cycles of songs, several exceptions being the sets by Catherine Riegger, Mother Goose, Padraic Colum and Langston Hughes recorded here. As editor of the ground-breaking New Music Editions, Cowell selflessly advanced the songs of many other composers, most notably publishing Ives's 34 Songs and 19 Songs which helped put Ives's songs before the public and has secured his position as the dean of American art song. Cowell also oversaw, in New Music Editions, the first publication of songs by Aaron Copland, Charles Seeger, Vivian Fine, Paul Bowles, Elie Siegmeister, Ernst Bacon, Leo Ornstein, Otto Luening, and Ben Weber. He published only two of his own songs in New Music.

Cowell composed St. Agnes' Morning (1914) while baby-sitting for Maxwell and Margaret Anderson's son, Quentin. Cowell set the poem by Anderson (1888-1959) from a manuscript copy prior to its publication in the New Republic in 1921; the mistake that appears in the published version of the song ("flowing" instead of Anderson's "flaming" in stanza 2, line 1, of the poem) was probably the result of misread handwriting. There was a belief that a virgin who fasted and neither spoke nor looked about before going to bed on St. Agnes' Eve (20 January) would have a vision of her future husband in a dream. The most famous literary reference to this popular superstition is John Keats's The Eve of St. Agnes. Anderson shifts the setting of his poem to what would seem to be the morning after. The song was dedicated to the black tenor Charles Holland (b. 1909), who sang the belated premiere in 1947 at a fiftieth birthday celebration for Cowell; he was accompanied by Cowell's wife, Sidney Robertson Cowell.

The Dream-Bridge (1915) and The Morning Pool (1918) are among six settings Cowell made of verse by the California poet Clark Ashton Smith. These poems are drawn from The Star-Treader and Other Poems (1912), a volume published when Smith was nineteen which created a stir in California literary circles. Smith (1893-1961) was instantly hailed as a "boy genius" akin to Keats, Shelley, and Swinburne although his later work received little recognition outside science fiction and fantasy readerships. Three of Cowell's Smith settings have been lost. Some years after their composition, Cowell copied out The Dream-Bridge and The Morning Pool for Roland Hayes's use in recital. Hayes (1887-1977) was a famous black tenor to whom The Dream-Bridge wasdedicated.

April (1918) is the sole setting Cowell made of poetry of Ezra Pound (1885-1972). The poem bears the Latin inscription "Nympharum membra disjecta" which means "the scattered limbs of the nymphs." This is most likely a reference to Ovid's Metamorphoses III: 274 where the Theban King Pentheus, representative of law and order, is torn apart and his limbs scattered by the intoxicated Bacchantes. Pound, who called Arthur Golding's 1567 translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses "the most beautiful book in the language," was well acquainted with Ovid in the original. In a free verse translation of Ovid by David Slavitt, Pentheus' trunk is described as follows: "...his arms have been pulled now from their leaves from a tree in a fall gale are stripped and strewn in a single night, the bits of his body are scattered about..." In his own poem, Pound obliquely equates the olive boughs stripped upon the ground after a passing winter to limbs scattered after the carnage of a primordial battle. (Although Charles Ives and Cowell did not meet until 1927, April, with its swirling arpeggios and trance-like, repetitive motives, is strikingly similar to Ives's 1921 setting of Byron, from the "Incantation").

Song in the Songless (1921) is the only setting Cowell made of verse by the English novelist and poet George Meredith (1828-1909). Music When Soft Voices Die (1922) is the last of five settings Cowell made of poetry by Shelley (1792-1822). Only the manuscripts of this song and To a Skylark remain; the other three, Dirge, Weep for the World's Woe, and Love's Philosophy, are lost. This poem has also been set to music by Quincy Porter, Samuel Barber, and David Diamond.

Angus Og (The Spirit of Youth) (1917) is one of seventeen solo songs, choruses, and instrumental works by Cowell inspired by the poetry of John Osborne Varian. Cowell collaborated with Varian from 1913 to 1931; the most intensive period was during the creation of an Irish mythological pageant-opera, The Building of Bamba, which was performed in 1917 by the Halcyon, California, theosophist cult. Varian was a surrogate father figure for Cowell during this period, Cowell's own father having drifted away from home when Cowell was four. Varian, of Irish heritage like Cowell's father, was a charismatic leader at the Halcyon community. He was instrumental in encouraging Cowell to investigate his own Irish heritage, which led to his many Irish-tinged jigs and his settings of the Irish writers Colum, Yeats, and George William Russell. Angus Og is the god of eternal youth in Irish mythology, charged with renewing the youth of the gods by the tones of his trumpet. In 1924, Cowell wrote a piano piece called The Trumpet of Angus Og which is quite different in tone from this song.

In Manaunaun's Birthing (1924) Cowell again turns to Irish mythology and the god of motion and of the waves of the sea, who had appeared in The Tides of Manaunaun, the introduction for piano solo to The Building of Bamba, his 1917 operatic collaboration with Varian. The textures represent "with massive chord clusters the waters and all matter rolling through boundless space ahead of Manaunaun's powerful sweeps." In a recording of Cowell playing his piano works he says in his introductory remarks: "In Irish mythology, Manaunaun was the god of motion and of the waves of the sea. And according to the mythology, at the time when the universe was being built, Manaunaun swayed all of the materials out of which the universe was being built with fine particles which were distributed everywhere through Cosmos. And he kept these moving in rhythmical tides so that they should remain fresh when the time came for their use in the building of the universe." In 1944 Cowell arranged this song for orchestra and band - presumably to be played on radio - but the score was lost and no records have been found to confirm the radio broadcast. This song is dedicated to "B.W.W.," Blanche Wetherill Walton (1871-1963), Cowell's foremost patron and adherent over the years. Cowell dedicated five other works to her between 1924 and 1961: Ensemble, How Come?, Euphoria, Merry Christmas for Blanche, and Birthday Melody for Blanche.

Where She Lies (1924), Cowell's only setting of the American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), is said to have been written in memory of Edna Smith: Cowell intended to marry her, but she died in an automobile accident. The published song bears a dedication to Ursula Greville, wife of the publisher Kenneth Curwen, whose firm put out the song in 1925. (Curwen was also the editor and publisher of the music journal The Sackbut for which Cowell wrote several articles). Cowell sent two songs, Where She Lies and The Gift of Being, to the distinguished mezzo-soprano, Eva Gauthier (1885-1958), an ardent champion of many contemporary composers through her performances, commissions, and patronage. In the 21 April 1927 edition of The Musical Leader, Gauthier wrote: "Of all the songs submitted to me recently by young Americans, two by Henry Cowell stand out. First, the voice is treated as a voice [not as an instrument] with a beautiful melodic line, and he has used the piano to show off his own particular technic." Cowell wrote thanking Gauthier on 11 May 1927: "I am delighted that you are interested in the songs and should like to write one specially for you, if I might? Your mention of the songs is really of most indispensable value to me." Gauthier soon thereafter sang the premieres of both songs accompanied by pianist Celius Dougherty at Town Hall in New York on 29 December 1927. An unsympathetic review of the published song from Musical Times (1926) states: "The music of this song ... demands a full page of explanation of symbols for tone-clusters, sympathetic vibrations, fists and forearms; and as no relevant result emerges from all the effort, one is inclined to feel it out of proportion. The music may mean something to some people. My ears are not attuned to it, and to me it means nothing."

At some time in 1930 or early 1931, Cowell returned to a successful piano work, The Aeolian Harp (1923), and refashioned it as How Old is Song? He wrote a melody for one of his father's free-verse poems, using the piano work as an harmonic background. Cowell often referred to The Aeolian Harp as his first piano string piece, and though this may or may not be true, it is among his most famous and beautiful. In Cowell's "piano string" pieces, the player strokes, plucks and otherwise sounds the piano strings directly - in this instance suggesting the gentle, murmuring tones of an aeolian harp, or wind harp, set in vibration by the breeze. The poem muses on what the first music might have been while the string piano evokes whispering winds, the sound of harps, and "wild prehistoric melodies." The composer Colin McPhee reviewed the accompaniment as follows: "the piano part offers something of an obstacle, since it requires the special technic of brushing the strings... the result compensates for the effort [and] is delicate and imaginative." The premiere of the song was given by soprano Judith Litante, accompanied by Cowell, in Town Hall on 9 March 1931 in a recital that also included performances of Where She Lies and Manaunaun's Birthing. In 1942, Cowell returned to How Old is Song?, arranging it as a violin and piano work for the violinist Joseph Szigeti who championed it in his recitals thereafter. This is not the only instance where Cowell set his father's poetry; he wrote songs to seven other of his poems as well as setting seventeen by his mother, Clarissa Dixon.

The miniature Mother Goose Rhymes (1937) are among the handful of vocal works which Cowell wrote during his incarceration at San Quentin. The manuscript is crowded and scarcely legible, as if Cowell were trying to minimize the amount of precious manuscript paper he used to notate the songs. Michael Hicks has written in "The Imprisonment of Henry Cowell": "San Quentin... had been rated the second worst [prison] in the nation... Cells were badly overcrowded, the dungeon was still in use, beatings continued, food and water bred disease, medical care was poor, and visits and letter writing were stiffly regulated... Radios were forbidden and neither musical scores nor journals could be brought or sent in (except directly from publishers). [Cowell had] almost no access to a piano and, with neither desk nor table in his cell, could compose only on score paper laid on a book." Although these nursery rhymes can be taken strictly at face value, they have an historical foundation. Several references can use some clarification: Gotham, a village near Nottingham, has been considered a town of fools since the 14th century. King John planned to pass through the town; this simple act would have made the road upon which he passed a public highway thereafter. The villagers were opposed to this. To convince the king's outriders that everyone in Gotham was mad, and that the king should take a different route, the villagers all played the fool - some tried to drown an eel in a pond, others tried to trap a cuckoo (and so have perpetual summer) by building a hedge around it, and several "went to sea in a bowl." Doctor Foster probably describes an incident that actually happened to Edward I in his travels. The king's horse stuck so deep in the mud of a Gloucester street that planks had to be laid on the ground before the animal could regain its footing. Edward, furious, vowed never to visit the city again. In Goosey, Goosey, Gander, the "old man who would not say his prayers" is said to be Cardinal Beaton, who, refusing to accord with the reformed doctrines of the Covenanters, was indeed thrown down stairs. Stabbed to death on reaching its foot, the cardinal's bleeding body was then hung from the ramparts of his castle at St. Andrews.

Catherine Riegger, who provided the texts for Sunset and Rest (1933), was the daughter of Cowell's good friend, the composer Wallingford Riegger. The first noted performance was given by the contralto Radiana Pazmor (b. 1892) in a program of modern songs presented on 26 September 1933 at the studio of Doris Barr in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Sunset, which is dedicated to Pazmor, was described in a review of the concert as "rich in dramatic effect." Rest was described as having a "melody of interesting design - the vocal score suggesting concentric curves. It was written ... in Persian and Arabian folk idioms." Rest makes telling use of glissandi and graphic notation in the vocal line. In 1934, Rest was broadcast by radio to Moscow along with works by Ives, MacDowell, Gershwin, Copland, Gruenberg, and Piston. These songs were the only songs of his own which Cowell published in New Music (1938).

Cowell wrote three settings of Robert Frost (1874-1963), the two solo songs recorded here and a choral setting of "Fire and Ice" for men's voices and band. On New Year's Eve of 1944 the Cowells were celebrating at home in Shady, New York. Cowell disappeared for three quarters of an hour during the festivities and returned with a newly composed song, The Pasture. Sidney sang it for their guests. The Pasture was formally premiered in a concert of contemporary music presented by the Common Council for American Unity in New York; Cowell accompanied the soprano Rose Walter. There is also a setting of this poem by Charles Naginski. In Spring Pools (1958) Cowell divides Frost's poem into three sections, the central being distinguished by dark, cluster-like chords which are totally unrelated to the vocal line whereas the outer sections are clear, cold, and spare in both the vocal line and accompaniment.

The Donkey (1946) was written for Roland Hayes and was premiered at Kutztown State Teachers' College in Pennsylvania by Hayes and pianist Reginald Boardman on 21 October 1946. Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was an English writer. The song was reviewed as an "intensely chromatic setting, an extremely difficult song ... also a fascinating one."

Cowell set only two poems of William Blake (1757-1827), though their innocence and childlike tone would seem to make them a perfect complement to his music. Daybreak (1946) was written for the bass Noël Sullivan, who sang its first performance accompanied by Stephanie Shchatovich at the San Francisco Museum of Art on 11 September 1947. The song is extremely low in its original version as recorded here. Cowell wrote an alternative line on the manuscript, rather than transposing it to another key, suggesting the song be sung two octaves higher for a treble voice; it is in this form that the song was published. Composer William Flanagan praised Daybreak for its "appealing modesty;" other reviewers called it "exceedingly simple and possessed of considerable dignity" as well as noteworthy for its "rhythmic suppleness ... and ... transparency of texture." Cowell wrote The Little Black Boy (1952) for Roland Hayes, Cowell's friend since 1924. Cowell wrote four songs expressly for Hayes, Desert Song for Hayes, Mountain Dells, The Donkey, and The Little Black Boy; the first two were lost. Hayes found a few of Blake's allusions to race in "The Little Black Boy" too indelicate for him to perform; so in 1954, Hayes and the Cowells changed the text, omitting both the first stanza and the final two stanzas. Cowell then made the necessary musical alterations. Hayes sang the premiere at Town Hall on 20 November 1954 accompanied by Reginald Boardman. There is also a 1951 setting of the complete poem by Virgil Thomson.

Although Cowell wrote Three Songs on Poems of Langston Hughes (1964), which are scored for mezzo-soprano, flute, clarinet and cello, for the Town Hall debut of the singer Georgia Davis, there is no record of such a recital taking place. The first performance was given by Elaine Bonazzi and the Da Capo Chamber Players at Carnegie Recital Hall on 11 April 1986. Hughes (1902-1967) is considered the key figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement. The poems selected by Cowell, however, are all pastoral rather than jazzy and urban; one even refers to Carmel and the Pacific Ocean - the geography of Cowell's childhood.

In 1940, Cowell was released on parole from San Quentin with assurances of employment under the Australian composer and pianist Percy Grainger who as then living in White Plains, New York. Grainger employed Cowell to act as his musical secretary, an arrangement that benefited both for a year. Cowell was not to receive a full pardon by the Governor of California until 1942. Ella, Percy's wife, provided a whimsical poem which Cowell set as Mice Lament (1940) using "a new way of piano strings." This new way is similar to the tremolo on a guitar or ukelele, the fingers sweeping back and forth across the strings ("let the nail be heard"), which are stopped at the proper intervals by fingers of the other hand. The following year Cowell set another of Ella Grainger's poems in Raven's Meat; the manuscript of this song has been lost.*

Because the Cat (1951-55?) is a miniature setting of a poem by Barbara Allan Davis, a student in Cowell's Saturday class at Adelphi College, Long Island, in the early 1950's. There is an additional verse jotted down on the margin of the manuscript: Yankee Doodle is no poodle/She's a cat!/Remember that!

Three Songs on Poems of Padraic Colum (1956) were dedicated to Cowell's stepmother, Olive Cowell, his father's third wife. Cowell chose three poems with references to different birds by the Irish-born poet and playwright Padraic Colum (1881-1972). Even though Colum settled in the United States, living in New York and Connecticut after 1939, his verse was rooted in Irish rural life. According to Sidney Cowell, the settings Cowell wrote of Colum's verse never achieved circulation, despite their quality, because of conflict between the two performing rights societies: ASCAP (Colum) and BMI (Cowell). The earliest documented performance of the three songs was that by Margaret Ahrens, soprano, and Paul Alan Levi, pianist, at Merkin Hall on 12 May 1983. I Heard in the Night is an example of Cowell's flexible scoring principles in that it can be performed as a duet for voice with either piano, viola, or clarinet accompaniment.

The tenor Joseph McCall studied "Theory of Composition" under Cowell at the Peabody Conservatory in the late 1950's. Some years later, when pursuing doctoral studies at the Eastman School of Music, McCall encountered Cowell over a meal in his dormitory. When McCall bemoaned the fact that the composers at Eastman were reluctant to write songs, Cowell offered to write one for McCall if he would provide a few favorite poems. McCall gave Cowell several poems culled out of various anthologies, including Music I Heard by Conrad Aiken (1889-1973). The resultant song, which McCall describes as "a very expressive song from the simplest of means" was premiered by McCall on 31 July 1961 at a noontime recital. Sidney Cowell wrote in 1963: "Aiken proved to be an ASCAP member and as Henry's membership in ACA (and their contract with BMI as well as his own) prevents any publication except with BMI publishers, nothing could be done with this song." There are settings of this poem by Richard Hageman, Paul Nordhoff, and Leonard Bernstein.

Firelight and Lamp (1962) was written for the baritone Theodor Uppman (b. 1920), whose wife, Jean Seward Uppman, was the daughter of one of Cowell's mentors and teachers, Samuel Seward. A professor of English at Stanford University, Seward was responsible for overseeing Cowell's finances when he was not yet of age. Seward also edited New Musical Resources, Cowell's vanguard treatise on musical theory and experimentation. In 1922 Cowell wrote a piano piece, Seven and One Fourth Pounds (L. 362), dedicated to the Sewards on the birth of their daughter, Jean. Forty years later, Cowell offered to write a song for Theodor Uppman if Uppman would provide a poem he liked. Jean Uppman describes the ensuing process as follows: "When my mother came for a visit from California we saw Henry, and spoke of the difficulties of finding good poetry for songs. On her flight home, she came across the Gene Baro poem in the New Yorker, and thought it might be right, so called and told us to look at it. Ted liked it, Henry liked it, and thus it turned into Firelight and Lamp." Theodor Uppman sang the premiere, accompanied by Allen Rogers, on 11 March 1963 in Severna Park, Maryland, as part of a recital tour. Gene Baro wrote to Cowell upon hearing the song: "It is difficult indeed to convey my feelings upon understanding how exquisitely you have read the intention of the poem. What I liked particularly was the directness and masculinity of the music, its willingness to give itself up to emotion, without loss of strength."

© 1996 by Robert Osborne

* On 6/12/09 DRAM was informed by Mr. Barry Peter Ould of the Percy Grainger Society that he had found this manuscript at the Grainger House in White Plains, NY.

We would like to express our gratitude to the following individuals and organizations who have made this recording possible: the Aaron Copland Fund for Music: 1996 Recording Program, H. Wiley Hitchcock, the late Sidney Robertson Cowell, Bill Lichtenwanger, Theodor Uppman and Jean Seward Uppman, Joseph McCall, David Nicholls, Stewart Manville and the International Percy Grainger Society, Larry Polansky, David Mahler, Peter Garland, the late Rita Mead, Michael Hicks, Steven Johnson, Wayne Shirley and the Library of Congress, George Boziwick and the New York Public Library, Linda LoSchiavo and the Fordham University Library, Richard Teitelbaum, Christopher Whent, Sean and Leslie Harnett, and Joel Sachs.

Mezzo-soprano Mary Ann Hart made her New York Philharmonic debut under Kurt Masur, and has appeared with the New York Chamber Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, American Composer's Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, American Symphony Orchestra, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Fe Symphony, Boston Baroque, and has been a Guest Artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. A champion of song repertoire, Ms. Hart won First Prize in the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, Second Prize in the Carnegie Hall International American Music Competition, and was awarded the prestigious Solo Recitalist Grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. Recital appearances have taken her to 26 American states, Austria, Germany, Romania, Canada, and the Virgin Islands. She has been featured on the Great Singers Series at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y's Schubertiade and the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series in Chicago. Ms. Hart has a solo CD of American songs, Permit Me Voyage, on the Albany label, and was one of four singers who recorded the complete songs of Charles Ives, also for Albany. She appeared in the US tour of the Philip Glass opera Hydrogen Jukebox, and recorded that work for Nonesuch. She is also a featured soloist in two recordings of Stravinsky, the Mass and the Cantata, conducted by Robert Craft and released on Music Masterworks. She is a member of the faculty of Vassar College and the Mannes School of Music.

Bass-baritoneRobert Osborne has sung extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Russia, and Asia under such distinguished conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, John Williams, Seiji Ozawa, and Dennis Russell Davies. His television appearances have been on the BBC Omnibus Series, Soviet Arts Television, and on the PBS Great Performances broadcast of the Bernstein at 70! Gala from Tanglewood as well as in Musical Outsiders: An American Legacy which premiered at the Louvre and has subsequently been aired on PBS, German and Austrian television. His operatic recordings include Meredith Monk's Atlas on ECM, Victor Ullmann's The Emperor of Atlantis on Arabesque, Hindemith's Hin und zurück on Albany, and Stewart Wallace's Kaballah on Koch International. His solo recording, My Love Unspoken: Songs of Leo Sowerby, was released on Albany. His operatic repertoire includes over thirty roles in operas by Bernstein, Blitzstein, Britten, Cimarosa, Copland, Donizetti, Menotti, Mozart, Purcell, Puccini, Rameau, Rossini, and Weill which he has sung in Berlin, Paris, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh, and Santa Fe. Mr. Osborne's extensive concert repertoires have taken him to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, London's Royal Albert Hall, and Moscow's Tchaikovsky Hall appearing with the Boston, New World, Singapore, Tanglewood, Schleswig-Holstein, and Racine Symphony Orchestras. Mr. Osborne has appeared with the Tanglewood, SchleswigHolstein, Nakamichi, USArts/Berlin, Redwoods, Cape May, Aspen and Marlboro Festivals. He holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from Yale University and is on the faculty of Vassar College.

Pianist Jeanne Golanhas become known for her performances of 20th-century music and for her innovative programming that combines classical and contemporary works in unique ways. Her New York Recital Debut, The Lyrical Piano: Vocal Composers at the Keyboard was one such typically-atypical project. Another is her solo compact disc, Time Tracks (Albany: TROY211), described by Stereo Reviewas "one of the nicest surprises of the season." Ms. Golan has worked with the Philip Glass Ensemble on Einstein on the Beach and with the Friends and Enemies of New Music. Her extensive work with singers includes being prominently featured in the premiere of Jorgé Martin's Beast and Superbeast with the American Chamber Opera Company. As a chamber musician, Ms. Golan has collaborated with the Lark, the Cavani, and the Harrington Quartets and with members of the Boston Symphony and Metropolitan Opera Orchestras. As a soloist, she has appeared with the American Symphony Chamber Orchestra, the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra and the Hunter Symphony. Ms. Golan received her MM and DMA from the Eastman School of Music where she worked extensively in the studios of the Cleveland Quartet and of the late Jan DeGaetani. She earned her BA from Yale University graduating with Distinction in Music. Her guiding forces at the piano have been Patricia Zander and Claude Frank. A gifted and dedicated teacher, Ms. Golan has served on many faculties, including Bard College, Hunter College, The New School and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College.

St. Agnes' Morning (L. 152), 1914 [Maxwell Anderson]

Between the dawn and the sun's rising

She could not sleep, so the blood stirred in her;

She could not sleep, and in the cold morning

Woke with the white curtains' stir.

Between the dawn and the river's flaming

She folded a curtain toward the sea,

And, bending, lifted silks together

In the cold light, dubiously.

In the cold air, pulsing the curtain,

She lifted silks; and let them fall.

In the wind she bent above them

Hearing their rustling musical.

Between the dawn and the silver morning

She could not sleep, so the blood dinned

With the river's silver and the sea's silence

And the wind.


The Dream-Bridge (L. 175), 1915 [Clark Ashton Smith]

All drear and barren seemed the hours,

That passed rain-swept and tempest-blown.

The dead leaves fell like brownish notes

Within the rain's grey monotone.

There came a lapse between the showers;

The clouds grew rich with sunset gleams;

Then o'er the sky a rainbow sprang -

A bridge unto the Land of Dreams.


The Morning Pool (L. 244), 1918 [Clark Ashton Smith]

All night the pool held mysteries,

Vague depths of night that lay in dream,

Where phantoms of the pale-white stars

Wandered, with darkness-tangled gleam.

And now it holds the limpid light

And shadeless azure of the skies,

Wherein, like some enclaspèd gem,

The morning's golden glamour lies.


April (L. 250), 1918 [Ezra Pound]

Nympharum membra disjecta

Three spirits came to me

And drew me apart

To where the olive boughs

Lay stripped upon the ground:

Pale carnage beneath bright mist.

Ezra Pound: Personae. Copyright © 1926 Ezra Pound.

Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing



Song in the Songless (L. 330), 1921 [George Meredith]

They have no song, the sedges dry,

And still they sing.

It is within my breast they sing,

As I pass by.

Within my breast they touch a string,

They wake a sigh.

There is but the sound of sedges dry;

In me they sing.


Music When Soft Voices Die

(L. 358), 1922 [Percy Bysshe Shelley]

Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory

Odours, when sweet violets sicken,

Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,

Are heaped for the beloved's bed;

And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,

Love itself shall slumber on.

printed by permission: W.W. Norton & Company


Agnus Og (The Spirit of Youth) (L. 228), 1917

[John O. Varian]

I am the spirit of youth

I am here!

I am making the grass grow feet

I am making the buds sprout upon the branches of the trees

I am making the fern fronds open,

Here in the shade.

Let my spirit be waking deep in your hearts,

Let my song be singing high in your minds

I am the spirit of growth

With my mantle of green

Listen to my song singing upon the hill and the plain.


Manaunaun's Birthing (L. 387), 1924

[John O. Varian]

Sleep into growth in my measureless waste;

Sleep into power in waters non est.

Grow where the unuttered word has its way,

Fill naught with thy power, give vacancy force,

Bring space in the void,

Put time in the deep,

Put shine in the light.

Come to thy birthing Manaunaun Mac Lir!

Come to thy birthing Manaunaun the Might!


Where She Lies (L. 400), 1924

[Edna St. Vincent Millay]

Heap not on this mound

Roses that she loved so well;

Why bewilder her with roses,

That she cannot see or smell?

She is happy where she lies

With the dust upon her eyes.


How Old is Song? (L. 477), 1931

[Harry Cowell]

Before a man had sung a note

Or a song bird warbled in its throat,

The winds were whispering through the trees

Wild prehistoric melodies

Prophetic of the days to come

When man would make him harps to strum

The halls of heaven with music rang

The morning stars together sang,

Prophetic of the voice of him

Who chants of choiring Seraphin

From chaos the orchestral seas

Were forming polyharmonies.

No song is new, Man sings and rings

Times changes in eternal things;

His voice prophetic of a long

Lone silence to succeed his song.


Mother Goose Rhymes (L. 538), 1937

[Mother Goose]


Curly-locks, Curly-locks wilt thou be mine?

Thou shalt not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine;

But sit on a cushion, and sew a fine seam,

And feed upon strawberries, sugar, and cream.

Three Wise Men

Three wise men of Gotham

Went to sea in a bowl;

And if the bowl had been stronger

My song would have been longer.


Doctor Foster Went to Gloucester

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester

In a shower of rain;

He stepped in a puddle, up to his middle,

And never went there again.



Goosey, goosey, gander,

Where shall I wander?

Upstairs, downstairs

And in my lady's chamber.

There I met an old man

Who would not say his prayers;

I took him by the left leg

And threw him downstairs.

Tommy Trot

Tommy Trot, a man of law,

Sold his bed and lay on straw,

Sold the straw and slept on the grass,

To buy his wife a looking glass.


Two Songs on Poems of Catherine Riegger (L. 492), 1933


The hour of ruin is begun

In glimmer of the western tide.

The golden lava of the sun

Floods down the cloudy mountain side.

And brings a death of fire and pain

Those ancient cities have not known

Who perished underneath a rain

Of hissing rock and molten stone.

Death coursing with a swift delight

Shall overtake me as I stand

Before the coming of the night

Upon the burning Western Land.



Anchor your flight o winging birds,

To summer's many nested trees.

And stars, throw down the silver cords

That bind you deeply to the seas.

There may be then one low-built shore

Where our unquiet minds find rest

Such as the star knows in the deep

And the sleeping bird in the nest.

The Pasture (L. 665), 1944 [Robert Frost]

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;

I'll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may)

I sha'n't be gone long. You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf

That's standing by the mother. It's so young

It totters when she licks it with her tongue.

I sha'n't be gone long. You come too.

Copyright 1928, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Co.,

© 1956 by Robert Frost. Reproduced by permission

of Henry Holt and Co. and the estate of Robert Frost.


Spring Pools (L. 864), 1958 [Robert Frost]

These pools that, though in forest, still reflect

The total sky almost without defect,

And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,

Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,

And yet not out by any brook or river,

But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.

The trees that have it in their pent-up buds

To darken nature and be summer woods —

Let them think twice before they use their powers

To blot out and drink up and sweep away

These flowery waters and these watery flowers

From snow that melted only yesterday.

Copyright 1928, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Co.,

© 1956 by Robert Frost. Reproduced by permission of Henry Holt and Co. and the estate of Robert Frost.


The Donkey (L. 695), 1946 [G.K. Chesterton]

When fishes flew and forests walked

And figs grew upon thorn,

Some moment when the moon was blood

Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry

And ears like errant wings,

The devil's walking parody

On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,

Of ancient crooked will;

Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,

I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;

One far fierce hour and sweet:

There was a shout about my ears,

And palms before my feet.


Daybreak (L. 694), 1946 [William Blake]

To find the western path

Right thro the gates of Wrath

I urge my way

Sweet Mercy leads me on

With soft repentant moan

I see the break of day

The war of swords & spears

Melted by dewy tears

Exhales on high

The Sun is freed from fears

And with soft grateful tears

Ascends the sky


The Little Black Boy (L. 783), 1952 [William Blake]

My mother taught me underneath a tree

And sitting down before the heat of day,

She took me on her lap and kissed me,

And pointing to the east began to say.

Look on the rising sun: there God does live

And gives his light, and gives his heat away,

And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive

Comfort in morning joy in the noon day.

And we are put on earth a little space,

That we may learn to bear the beams of love,

And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face

Are but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear,

The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice.

Saying: come out from the grove my love & care,

And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.


Three Songs on Poems of Langston Hughes (L. 935), 1964



Dear dream of utter aliveness —

Touching my body of utter death —

Tell me, O quickly! dream of aliveness,

The flaming source of your bright breath.

Tell me, O dream of utter aliveness —

Knowing so well the wind and the sun —

Where is this light

Your eyes see forever

And what is this wind

You touch when you run?


Moonlight Night: Carmel

Tonight the waves march

In long ranks

Cutting the darkness

With their silver shanks,

Cutting the darkness

And kissing the moon

And beating the land's

Edge into a swoon.



The earth-meaning

Like the sky-meaning

Was fulfilled.

We got up

And went to the river,

Touched silver water,

Laughed and bathed

In the sunshine.


Became a bright ball of light

For us to play with,


A yellow curtain,


A velvet screen.

The moon,

Like an old grandmother,

Blessed us with a kiss

And sleep

Took us both in


from Collected Poems by Langston Hughes

© 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes

Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.


Mice Lament (L. 604), 1940 [Ella Grainger]

Oh, humans are such stingy beasts

They won't allow us any feasts!

Their larders are so full of traps

That it's most trying for us chaps.

We have an appetite, maybe

It's somewhat big for such as we;

But that's no valid reason why

They should cut off our food supply

If we survive against such odds

It seems it is the will of gods,

Yet we remain poor common mice,

Whom no one ever will think nice!

printed by permission: Estate of Percy & Ella Grainger


Because the Cat (L. 820), 1951-55? [Barbara Allan Davis]

In our house there is no mouse,

Because the cat takes care of that!


Three Songs on Poems of Padraic Colum, 1956


Crane (L. 825)

I know you, Crane:

I, too, have waited,

Waited until my heart

Melted to little pools around my feet!

Comer in the morning ere the crows,


Searcher —

Find something for me!

The pennies that were laid upon the eyes

Of old, wise men I knew.


I Heard in the Night (L. 826)

I heard in the night the pigeons

Stirring within their nest:

The wild pigeons' stir was tender,

Like a child's hand at the breast.

I cried “O stir no more!

(My breast was touched with tears).

O pigeons, make no stir —

A childless woman hears.”


Night-Fliers (L. 827)

The birds that soar break space

Like heavy bodies hurled!

Not so the birds of night —

They move as in a sphere

On which they touch always —

How patterned their flight!

The owl, the whippoorwill!

And like volcano's ash

His plumes — all cinderous,

Black mirrors are his eyes

(The owl's). They'll fill with light

What time will come the cries

As from tongues taut with dews

(The whippoorwill's). What sounds

Are in their day-lost world,

What motions and what hues!

Copyright by Devin-Adair, Publishers, Inc.,

Old Greenwich Connecticut, 06870. Permission granted to reprint.

All rights reserved.


Music I Heard (L. 891), 1961 [Conrad Aiken]

Music I heard with you was more than music,

And bread I broke with you was more than bread;

Now that I am without you, all is desolate;

All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,

And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.

These things do not remember you, belovèd,

And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them,

And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;

And in my heart they will remember always,

They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.


Firelight and Lamp (L. 910), 1962 [Gene Baro]

Now we have closed the door against the cold,

shot home the bolt, drawn the curtains tight,

puffed on the kindling till the flame took hold,

we are prepared to know the winter night.

Outdoors, the ranting wind is in a rage,

the shutters cry, the branches rap and creak;

we lift our heads from fire-gazing or the page;

our eyes meet; we have no need to speak.

Quickly, the hearth is warmed, iron and stone

the fire has gone to embers from a spark.

The lamps we've lit, we'll snuff them, one by one,

and climb the stairs to winter and the dark.

printed by permission: Text by Gene Baro. © 1962, 1990

The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.


Publishers of songs of Henry Cowell

St. Agnes' Morning, The Donkey (Theodore Presser)

Manaunaun's Birthing, Where She Lies (J. Curwen)

How Old is Song? (Ernest S. Williams)

Sunset, Rest (New Music Edition)

The Pasture (Edward B. Marks Music Corporation)

Daybreak (Peer Music Corporation)

The Little Black Boy, Firelight & Lamp (C.F. Peters)

Produced by Daron Hagen

Engineered by David W. Smith, Triton Sound • Edited by Joel Gordon

Steinway Piano

Recorded 21, 22 & 23 August, 7 & 9 October, and 9 November 1996 at Town Hall, New York City

Photos of Henry Cowell by Sidney Robertson Cowell



Mary Ann Hart, mezzo-soprano • Robert Osborne, bass-baritone

Jeanne Golan, pianist

Sheryl Henze, flute • Les Scott, clarinet • Maureen Hynes, cello

1. St. Agnes' Morning (L. 152), 1914 [Maxwell Anderson] (3:03)

2. The Dream-Bridge (L. 175), 1915 [Clark Ashton Smith] (1:48)

3. The Morning Pool (L. 244), 1918 [Clark Ashton Smith] (1:37)

4. April (L. 250), 1918 [Ezra Pound] (1:35)

5. Song in the Songless (L. 330), 1921 [George Meredith] (1:59)

6. Music When Soft Voices Die (L. 358), 1922 [Percy Bysshe Shelley] (1:59)

7. Angus Og (The Spirit of Youth) (L. 228), 1917 [John O. Varian] (1:04)

8. Manaunaun's Birthing (L. 387), 1924 [John O. Varian] (2:27)

9. Where She Lies (L. 400), 1924 [Edna St. Vincent Millay] (2:18)

10. How Old is Song? (L. 477), 1931 [Harry Cowell] (3:37)

Mother Goose Rhymes (L. 538), 1937 [Mother Goose]

11. Curly-Locks (:50)

12. Three Wise Men of Gotham (:25)

13. Dr. Foster went to Gloucester (:15)

14. Goosey, Goosey, Gander (:23)

15. Tommy Trot (:21)

Two Songs on Poems of Catherine Riegger (L. 492), 1933

16. Sunset (2:06)

17. Rest (3:28)

18. The Pasture (L. 665), 1944 [Robert Frost] (1:22)

19. Spring Pools (L. 864), 1958 [Robert Frost] (1:27)

20. The Donkey (L. 695), 1946 [G. K. Chesterton] (2:45)

21. Daybreak (L. 694), 1946 [William Blake] (1:44)

22. The Little Black Boy (L. 783), 1952 [William Blake] (3:14)

Three Songs on Poems of Langston Hughes (L. 935), 1964

23. Demand (1:35)

24. Moonlight Night: Carmel (1:12)

25. Fulfillment (1:25)

26. Mice Lament (L. 604), 1940 [Ella Grainger] (1:58)

27. Because the Cat (L. 820), 1951-55? [Barbara Davis] (:29)

Three Songs on Poems of Padraic Colum (L. 825-827), 1956

28. Crane (1:41)

29. I Heard in the Night (1:46)

30. Night-Fliers (2:13)

31. Music I Heard (L. 891), 1961 [Conrad Aiken] (2:50)

32. Firelight and Lamp (L. 910), 1962 [Gene Baro] (2:27)

TOTAL TIME = 57:38