James Joyce wrote the cycle of thirty-six poems entitled Chamber Music in 1907. They tell the story of a love affair from innocence to experience, and then finally to dissolution. This setting is of the first poem in the cycle, and I plan to follow it with a setting of the final poem, I Hear an Army.
I found it interesting that the poem isn’t set in the first person, and used this in my setting to create a sense of detachment between the tenor and the piano. Particularly at the opening of the song, it seems as though the tenor has more of a narrative role – watching and describing the scene rather than participating in it. The piano however, conjures up the ‘music’ described in the poem, and brings across the sensual, otherworldly atmosphere of the words.
Although there are three verses, I envisaged the song as one continuous evolution of material. Ideas do return, however they are always different, and the music constantly unfolds over the course of the piece.