Every Night and Every Morn

Article excerpt

WOOD, JEFFREY (b. 1954). EVERY NIGHT AND EVERY MORN (William Blake) for tenor and piano. Woodprints Press, Inc., 2000 (CVR 2005). Quasi F# minor; C#^sub 4^-A^sub 5^; Tess: M-mH; regular meters (simple and compound) with changes; * = 44-132; V/D.P/D; 22 pages.

"He who bends to himself a Joy/ Doth the winged life destroy;/ But he who kisses Joy as it flies/ Lives in Eternity's sunrise." So wrote William Blake (1757-1827), English poet and mystic, in the late eighteenth century. Blake began having visions of angels and other mystical beings early in his life and said that "God put his face to the window." The conclusions he reached from his direct experiences with the divine concur with those reached by all mysticsthat all life is one, a unity, that every thought or act has a return consequence in the universal scheme of things, and that attachment and desire bring misery rather than happiness. These themes are contained in the text of this continuous song cycle.

Jeffrey Wood is a pianist and composer on the composition faculty of Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. He has composed in many different mediums, both instrumental and vocal. For this work, Wood has chosen four sections of Blake's long poem, "Auguries of Innocence," and set them in cyclic musical design. Beginning and ending with "To see a World in a Grain of Sand" ("Argument" and "Epilogue"), he also uses these verses to separate the second, third, and fourth songs ("Speaking Wrath," "The World in a Grain of Sand," and "Eternity's Sunrise"), the first couplet between two and three, and the second couplet between three and four. "Speaking Wrath" begins, "A Robin Red breast in a Cage/ Puts all Heaven in a Rage" and ends with "The Lamb misus'd breeds Public strife,/ And yet forgives the Butcher's Knife." "The World in a Grain of Sand" begins, "It is right it should be so;/ Man was made for Joy & Woe;" and ends with "The Bleat, the Bark, Bellow, & Roar/ Are Waves that Beat on Heaven's Shore." "Eternity's Sunrise" begins "Every Night & every Morn/ Some to Misery are Born" and ends with "But does a Human Form Display/ To those who Dwell in Realms of Day."

The composer uses several different pieces of musical material in the piano part, two or three of them derivative from others. These musical figures or motives are expressive of the essence of the text and are developed into accompaniment patterns that both set mood and create background for the declamation of the vocal line.

The opening eight measures serve as a piano prologue, announcing the serious nature of the coming text in a forceful, somewhat jagged chordal motif that softens momentarily into triplets before returning to itself in the cadential measures. At the cadence the voice begins its recitative declamation of "To see a World in a Grain of Sand." The soft chords underlying the text carry a slow melody that foreshadows the musical motif of three delicate arpeggios followed by a snatch of melody in high octaves in the right hand that is a sound picture of the image of "Eternity in an hour." The musical motif for "Speaking Wrath" is a suddenly agitated eighth plus two sixteenth note pattern that is repeated in the right hand throughout the section, alternating somewhat irregularly with a beat or measure of consecutive sixteenth notes. The left hand plays a countermelody that complements the vocal melody. Widely spaced chords in molto ritardando lead back to the reiteration of the connecting text ("To see a World"), followed again by the "eternity" motif that leads to the fourth musical pattern in the piano. At "It is right it should be so,/ Man was made for joy and woe," the pattern changes to pulsing repeated chords in close spacing over a slow bass melody in the lower octaves. The pulsing pattern gives way to flowing triplets over a strong left hand motive at "The Babe is more than swadling Bands" and continues through "Are waves that beat on Heaven's Shore. …