Duration: ca. 20'00"
Instrumentation: bass-baritone and sextet (flute, B-flat clarinet [doubling B-flat bass clarinet], violin, cello, percussion [vibraphone, orchestra bells, medium suspended cymbal, large sizzle cymbal, medium tam tam, low tam tam, 3 graduated, mounted triangles, Mark Tree] and piano).
Commissioned by David Neal and the Arts at Grace series through the New York State Music Fund.
World Premiere: Society for New Music, David Neal, Bass-Baritone, The Arts at Grace series, Cortland, NY, April 20, 2008.
Short Version (For Programs)
The idea for Winter Songs occurred to me after I wrote a short song based on the sixth poem from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens for a group composition project at Cornell University. The original idea was to have each student in the department set a different poem in this work, culminating in an evening long song cycle. There are many compelling settings of Thirteen Ways, so instead of trying to contribute yet another, I decided to compose a song cycle using winter-themed poems by a variety of poets. David Neal, the bass-baritone who sang my initial song, Icicles Filled the Long Window, liked the idea so much that he asked me for a complete cycle. I spent months collecting and reading as many poems about winter as I could find. Winter-themed poems seem to fall into two categories: those that are playful and fun, and those that are quite serious. I chose to set six serious poems, including another one by Wallace Stevens, and one each by Robert Creeley, Richard Wilbur, A.R. Ammons and Billy Collins.
Winter Songs was commissioned by David Neal and The Arts at Grace through the New York State Music Fund and was premiered by David Neal and the Society for New Music in April 2008.
– Robert Paterson