Two Songs on Poems by William Blake

Medium Voice

texts by William Blake
Duration: 4:00
Date of Composition: 1968

PROGRAM NOTES: Composed in the early 1960s, the Two Songs on Poems by William Blake were among my first serious efforts at setting words.  My prompt was Virgil Thomson’s statement that Blake was peculiarly difficult to set.  Actually, I remember finding Blake’s stunning images of morning and evening made for music; probably beginners’ luck in the poems I chose.  It seems that, at the time, I was blithely unaware (or uncaring) of up-to-date style and idiom.  The settings are tonal – with a twist, perhaps.  The opening theme of the first song is introduced at strategic points in the second, a structural conceit, no doubt, indicating that the sun will soon arise again.  Be that as it may, I am still taken today with their sweetness and clarity. -James Sellars