When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd




William Pfaff




Roger Sessions' cantata When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd was composed during the years 1966-70 as a commission from the University of California, Berkeley.[1] The text of the cantata is Walt Whitman's elegy written in the months following Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865. By his dedication of the work to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Sessions reflects the tragic events of his own time. In the following passage compiled from the program notes, Sessions summarizes the structure of the cantata:


The work is scored for soprano, contralto, and baritone soloists, chorus, and large orchestra. It is divided into three sections, which correspond to what seemed to me natural divisions of the poem. The first of these (stanzas 1-4), considerably the shortest of the three, establishes not only the basic mood, but the elements - the spring, with its lilacs blooming in the dooryard, the sinking star in the western sky, the song of the hermit thrush in the deep woods - associated in the poet's mind with the American countryside at the time of Lincoln's assassination and burial . . . (In) the second section (stanzas 5-13) . . . the poet recounts the passage of Lincoln's funeral train, his burial, and the land which he left behind . . . In the last section (stanzas 14-16) the poet once more recalls the countryside, the life of the people in their daily occupations, and the shock which Lincoln's death brought to them. The extended contralto solo interpreting the message of the bird in the wood reflects on death itself.[2]


The movement of the poem, from an initial recollection to the interpretation of the "message of the bird in the wood," is suggested in microcosm in the first four stanzas.[3] The seasonal blooming of the lilac bush, the symbol of life and renewal, triggers a reminiscence that recalls a specific time in the past and initiates the poem's process. The reminiscence stirs feelings of grief. The focus of the poet's mourning is provided at the end of the first stanza with, "thought of him I love." The revelation spawns the next stanza, an intensification of the emotional trajectory of the opening stanza. The exclamations of stanza two reveal the poet paralyzed by his grief for Lincoln, the "powerful western fallen star." The "harsh surrounding cloud that will not free (his) soul" holds the poet "powerless" to create: he is mute.



In stanza three the poet turns from this impasse to contemplate the lilac bush in the present. The exacting description of the living plant produces an adulatory upwelling that parallels the immersion in grief of the first two stanzas. The praise is terminated when the poet unexpectedly breaks a sprig from the lilac bush. The violent action disrupts the progress of the poem. The poet's attention shifts from the lilac, with its power to urge emotion, to the dimming sky and a bird song emanating from the forest. And in doing so,


The complete pattern of the poem is established with the advent of the bird in the fourth section. For here, in the song of the thrush, the lilac and star are united (the bird sings "death's outlet song of life"), and the potentiality of the poet's "thought" is intimated. The song of the bird and the thought of the poet, which also unites life and death, both lay claim to the third place in the "trinity" brought by spring; they are, as it were, the actuality and the possibility of poetic utterance, which reconciles opposite appearances.[4]


The goal of the poem is the "poetic utterance." In stanza four however, only the exposition of conflicting elements is complete. The transformation suggested by the bird song materializes ten stanzas later near the completion of the poem.


With these issues in mind, the "Introduction" to Roger Sessions' cantata When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd is examined as a setting of the first four stanzas of Whitman's poem. The stanza defines the basic musical formal unit, and each stanza is further qualified in terms of its musical function and effect by the instrumental interludes that surround it. The "Introduction" divides into two sections (mm. 1-39, 40-80). The first section subdivides into two periods. In the first period (mm. 1-22), stanza one is set for soprano and baritone. In the second period, stanza two is set for chorus and includes the instrumental interlude (mm. 23-39). The second section also subdivides into two periods. Stanza three is set for baritone (mm. 39-50) and includes the orchestral response (mm. 50-61). The concluding period (stanza four) is set for soprano (mm. 61-77), and includes a brief coda (mm. 78-80).


The opening movement functions as an exposition that establishes the harmonic and melodic material of the cantata. A distinct tension is generated and maintained over the course of the movement by presenting upbeat (anacrusic) phrases that are generally met with a degree of truncation. The material is either molded to reflect the degree of expansion particular to each stanza, or to serve a larger formal effect. The truncated formal units are defined by cadences that are, in their own right, generally undermined. As the movement progresses through its varied moods, the continually truncated phrases and evaded cadences, and the practice of substituting a new texture for a possible confirmation, produce an inventory of unrealized expectations. These manipulations are subtle. The movement is not perceived as halting or developmentally deficient. And the integrity of the overall formal design is not compromised by workings on the level of the phrase.



These phrase procedures establish what constitutes musical continuity for the Introduction. The effect of the climax, and from this bush, a sprig, with its flower, I break, is achieved by engineering the contradiction of the prevailing musical continuity. The musical flow is broken by the largest truncation of the movement. The disruption of the musical line provides a transition to a texture which is unprecedented in the previous music: a recitative. With the musical line destroyed at the break, the bird music is perceived as a puzzling addendum - harmonically and formally - suspended between the inner world of the lilacs and the public statements of the second movement. The recitative places the text of stanza four in high relief and suggests its larger significance in the dramatic design of the cantata. Sessions uses a formal unit traditionally associated with anacrusis to conclude the Introduction. In this way both the poetic and musical ends are served. The new texture conveys an intimacy, a single hermit thrush sings in secluded recessesdeaths outlet song of life. Musically, the vocal arch and sparse orchestration provide a brief repose at the end of the movement, however, because the recitative supplies new material and a new texture, it does not satisfactorily address closure for previous sections. It is possible to hear the final cadence of the Introduction as a primarily local event, and best understood as providing closure for the recitative. The return of the lilac motive in the coda can be heard as a quiet musical reminiscence or, as a reminder that the energy generated in each previous section was left unresolved at every cadence. The recitative is yet another way of attenuating the degree of closure for a formal unit. The final cadence of the movement is deferred and the role of the Introduction as an anacrusis to the second movement is preserved and intensified.



Derivation of Referential Harmonies


When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd is a twelve-tone composition based on the following set (see Example 1).



Example 1: Twelve-tone Row, Prime Form


In the "Introduction" Sessions emphasizes the hexachord as the harmonic unit, and stresses pitch-class content over rigorous use of the ordered set.[5] Characteristically, Sessions uses the twelve-tone system freely and Lilacs is no exception. The theory and practices of the twelve-tone technique inform this analysis, but the hexachordal basis of the music suggests avenues of analytical thought other than the traditional note-count which, with Sessions, cannot always be done thoroughly and with precision.[6]



Example 2: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd mm. 1 - 8

1974 Merion Music, Inc. Used By Permission





Example 2a: Semi-combinatorial Partitioning, mm.1-8



The opening measures are based on a partition of P0 and its semi-combinatorial complement, I5 (see Examples 2 and 2a). The repeated two-measure unit is constructed from seven pitch-classes with B retained as a common tone. In the following discussion, I refer to the harmony of m.1 as "X" and the harmony of m.2 as "Y" (Y is a neighbor note elaboration of X. Later in the phrase the two become less distinct and it becomes possible to refer to the XY complex"). The soprano entrance completes the aggregate. The pitch collection of the soprano part and the string chord of m.5 (verticalization of soprano part) are designated as the "Z" harmony (see Example 3).




Example 3: Referential Harmonies Derived from mm. 1-5


The hexachords of the set can be re-ordered to demonstrate an affinity with a corresponding whole-tone collection. Because of the emphasis that the hexachord receives as the beginning of the movement, and due to the way in which the hexachords will be seen to be employed contextually in the "Introduction," I designate the whole-tone collections as follows (see Example 4).




Example 4: Hexachords Re-Ordered to Show Whole-Tone Affinities


The symmetrical whole-tone sound is an unmistakable reference amid the dense chromaticism of other passages. The implied stability of the symmetrical collection is, however, consistently undermined by its formal placement at phrase beginnings.


The referential hexachords (XY and Z) present the metaphorical content of the poem. The material of the opening measures (i.e. the lilac motive consisting of the tritone, C#-G, in X answered by B-G# in Y see specifically Example 2, and generally, any intervals or chords set in the characteristic iambic rhythmic pattern) is associated with the poetic symbol of the lilacs throughout the cantata. In the "Introduction," the frequent use of the motive also suggests Spring, the season that supports the renewal of all life and, for the poet, evokes memory. The Z harmony is associated with death; the star obscured by darkness and the cloud. The semi-combinatorial derivation strongly suggests this reading. The P0 soprano ascent of the first subphrase (renewal, life, blooming lilac) is balanced by the descent of the inversional form, I5, in the second subphrase ("great star early drooped in the western sky in the night"). The concluding subphrase, in which "I" occurs for the first time, supplies the subject of the sentence and the third element of the "trinity," the poet.



The use of the chamber ensemble (flute I, clarinet I, bassoons I, II, and muted trumpets I, II), makes the opening period a personal statement in contrast to the full orchestra of the chorus entrance. Sessions clearly wants the opening attack to be heard in an upbeat context. The chamber group and subdued dynamics minimize a "downbeat" accent on beat three, m.1. The ensuing pattern of repetition (three statements of the X figure answered by three statements of the Y figure, brought out instrumentally by the alternation of flute and clarinet) propose a metric unit. The exact length, obscured by the rests on beats one and two of m.1 one is clarified by the entrance of bassoon II that places a clear metric accent on the downbeat of m. 2. As might be expected in a neighbor-note elaboration, in which bar two is a neighbor chord (Y) to bar one (X), the stress would be strong-weak. Here though, the metric accent is at variance with the harmonic accent. The soprano entrance on m. 4, beat two, coincides rhythmically with the lilac motive and the entrance on the weak Y harmony is decidedly anacrusic.


The soprano creates a harmonic opposition to the lilac motive by introducing the five remaining pitch classes. Both the accompaniment and the soprano part arrive at a rhetorically poignant and tense moment at the apex of the soprano line. The soprano completes the adverbial clause and the aggregate on "bloom'd" (e"), as the accompaniment places "strong" metric weight on X harmony of the beginning accent. The clause demands textual continuation and the anacrusic accompaniment, intensified by the added pitch material of the soprano, demands a musical response. The expected harmonic continuation, Y, which has normally occurred as an anticipation (beat 11) in the previous groups, is replaced with Z: the pitch collection of the soprano entrance presented as a simultaneity (with e" and bb" transferred down an octave), a sonority that weights WTB and in registral distribution, the 014 trichord. The X harmony of the lilac motive is thus answered with pitch material which, introduced by the soprano in opposition, is transferred to another register to confirm motion away from the static XY complex.


The harmonic accent in m. 5 the winds to the muted strings (excluding contrabasses). The accent is intensified by the dynamic contrast (subito piano) which is a subversion of the pattern established to articulate the musical "adverbial clause" (When lilacs last...). In the lilac motive, dynamics gradually increase in mm. 3 and 4 to place weight on beat three of mm. 4 and 5 respectively. The pattern imparts a slight dynamic accent to the harmony change from X to Y and the overall dynamic shape for the "adverbial clause" is a crescendo from the pianissimo of the opening to the mezzo piano of the vocal entrance, with the flute and voice reaching mezzo forte at the high point of tension in both parts in m. 5. The dynamic contrast of the strings separates their entrance from the lilac motive and vocal entrance. The pitch material of the soprano is retained but presented in a different register in a different timbral guise. These things prevent any linear connection to the lilac motive. The Z harmony is not meant to be heard as a neighbor to the previous XY statements. In response to the adverbial clause that demands continuation, the register transfer and accompanying changes produce the sensation of harmonic motion away from the lilac motive: XY to Z. The octave transfer is the most striking aspect of the string entrance and in defining Z as harmonic motion, the anticipation to m. 6 is jarring.



The event establishes two things that are essential in the syntax of the movement and, more specifically, in extending Po and I5 in the harmonic design of section one. First, the introduction of the soprano pitch material and subsequent octave transfer as a simultaneity in the entrance of the strings establishes the octave transfer of a pitch-class (or simultaneity) as a means of generating harmonic motion.[7] The ear follows the octave transfer and the appearances of a single pitch-class (or simultaneity) in different octaves as participants in different polyphonic strands. The b flat" and e" of the soprano entrance transferred down an octave in the string entrance are then part of different polyphonic strands. Conversely, the displacement of a pitch-class in a specific register by local voice-leading implies a change of octave for the pitch-class.


Secondly, a contextual relationship is established for the harmonic material of the opening measures, XY and Z, where XY (WTA) is associated with a phrase beginning and suggests a degree of stability, and Z (WTB) represents a harmonic opposition. As the formal design of the first section evolves, the established context and function of these harmonic entities is continually reinterpreted. For example, a degree of harmonic motion is secured by transforming the Z harmony from its opposition to XY (m. 5), into the role of a phrase-initial harmony (m. 22). In this way in the first section, a tight network based on P0 and I5 results and this produces a "tonal" reference area for the rest of the movement and ultimately, for the cantata.[8]



P0 Harmonies Extended through Period One: Measures 1-22


The reduction of Example 5 shows how Po and I5 harmonies anchor the first period. The second soprano subphrase (mm. 6-8) is supported by an arpeggiation of the Z harmony. The subphrase arrival on "night" (m. 8, beat 10) is supported by a fusion of the XY harmony (XY heard now as a single event). The concluding subphrase (mm. 9-11) begins with support from Z in m. 9 and concludes with an undermined cadence on the downbeat of m. 11. The accompaniment extends the phrase beyond the soprano cadence to overlap with the baritone entrance in m. 12 (see Example 6).


In the approach to the soprano arrival in m. 8, the Z harmony marks its lowest registral appearance on m. 7, beat nine. As in the analogous place in the previous measure, the whole chord is treated as an anticipation which is tied through beat one of m. 8 and delays the move to XY. The XY complex is ornamented by an upper neighbor harmony that receives durational emphasis. Through the voice exchange, G-A flat, and the subsequent reduction in harmonic rhythm, the XY harmony is positioned to support the articulation of the soprano subphrase ending on B flat ("night").





Example 5: P0 and I5 Harmonies, mm. 1 - 22





Example 6: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd mm. 6 - 12

1974 Merion Music, Inc. Used By Permission



The previous association of B flat with the Z harmony is recalled in the final tetrachord of the soprano part, F-F#-A-B flat, and the pitch gains new emphasis from its isolation by skip. The arrival on B flat strengthens the stability of the pitch originally introduced as the "bass" of the harmony of m. 6, yet by supporting the B flat with a harmonic change (XY) in a new register, the stability of the arrival is undercut. The melodic skip produces the sensation that the soprano went too far, perhaps moving into something other than a cadential register appropriate to the subphrase.


The accompaniment confirms the weakness of this arrival by extending the subphrase to the overlap on the downbeat of m. 9. The beginning of the subphrase receives a slight metric accent from the low register placement of the Z harmony, but this emphasis is partially neutralized because of the return of the Z harmony. The harmonic motion of the phrase summarized in Example 5 shows that the Z harmony, initially responsible for the motion away from XY, actually surrounds the subphrase articulation on XY (m. 8). The Z harmony has replaced XY as the controlling harmony of the phrase.


The avoidance of harmonic contrast in the opening of the subphrase is offset by the thematic accent supplied by the bassoon entrance. The bassoon states a transposition of the tritone lilac motive, F#-C, that confirms the harmonic shift to Z. After its exclusion from the accompaniment descent (which depicts death/star, and not life/lilac), the return of the tritone makes the beginning of the third subphrase in m. 9 parallel to that of the opening subphrase.


The expected motivic continuation (i.e. to the second half of the pairing associated with the original statement of the lilac motive in mm. 1-2, ie., X to Y, or in this case, F#-C balanced by F-C#) is denied by the soprano entrance which recalls the upbeat quality of the opening subphrase. The direction of the line is momentarily unclear. The durational emphasis in the soprano part on "I mourn, and yet shall mourn" is opposite from that of the lilac motive in the accompaniment. Life and death are set against one another. The rhythmic stalemate is broken by the contrabasses and cellos that undermined the arrival in m. 8. Here they continue to a sforzando accent in m. 10 which, in combination with the entrance of the lilac motive in the first violins, provides an accent that evokes the melodic ascent to "ever returning spring" in the soprano part. The soprano's stepwise "mourning" is immediately contrasted by the melodic leap to "spring." The subphrase concludes with an affirmation in the text that is echoed musically by the cadence on the downbeat of m. 11.


The cadence completes a circular formal design. The F-B-E flat of the soprano line and the C#-G emphasis in the accompaniment recall the XY harmony of the opening. Yet, the stability of the soprano arrival is undermined by a harmonization that is not explicitly from either of the referential hexachords (P0A or P0B). The harmony consists of a combination of two whole-tone trichords: B flat-C-F# and C#-D#-F. The WTB trichord is introduced as an anticipation and held over the barline, while the soprano's E flat" is part of the WTA trichord that is placed against WTB on the downbeat. The active, non-referential harmony receives the accent of metric weight and, in combination with the emerging instrumental interlude, provides movement to the new phrase beginning with the baritone entrance (m. 12, beat 7) (see Example 7).




Example 7: Interlude, mm. 11-12


The instrumental interlude executes the octave transfer of the XY harmony to support the baritone entrance. The first violins state the opening lilac motive in register (m. 10, C#-G), and transform the previously static repeating lilac figure into a melodic entity which exceeds the registral boundary established in the opening measures. The oboe and clarinet I retain the C#-G dyad beneath the violin melody through m. 11. One perceives linear and harmonic motion away from the oblique XY reference when the C#-G dyad is replaced by C-F# dyad as part of the Z harmony on the downbeat of m. 12. The violin descent through F# anticipates the definitive move to C-F# (supported by Z) completed by the oboe I and flute I. The Z harmony provides a foil between the two XY expressions. The XY harmony (heard as a single event) is now associated with "ever-returning spring" in a new register and context. It supplies a head-accented phrase initiation.


The baritone phrase divides into two subphrases, mm. 12-15 and mm. 16-19 (see Example 8). The stanza is set so that the greatest textual emphasis aligns with the goal of the musical period. The "lilacs" of the opening are finally connected to "thought of him I love" at the baritone cadence on the downbeat of m. 19. If the soprano and baritone are perceived to be in this relationship, a convincing cadence for the period depends on creating a perceptible linear connection between the two phrases, one that integrates previously established reference points into a renewed drive to cadence. The strategy is immediately suggested by the beginning of the XY phrase which links the baritone with the opening measures, and shows a deep affinity with "ever-returning spring" as the source of poetic and musical impetus.


An explicit connection is made when the eb" of the soprano cadence on "spring" is "passed" via octave transfer to begin the baritone phrase on Eb' (the Eb' is an appoggiatura to the D flat ', and the trumpet picks up the E flat " and retains it as the chord tone). The baritone subphrase begins in the register left and isolated by skip in the soprano part (m. 10, "I mourn, and yet shall mourn") and descends into the register that plays a role in forming the cadence. The tritone, E flat -A (mm. 12-13) in the baritone exclamation moves to D-Bb in m. 14 (the D also receives lower neighbor inflection from the C#, D flat). The B flat, although supported by a non-referential harmony and functioning in a new formal context, recalls the soprano subphrase end on "night." The baritone phrase reactivates the soprano B flat and takes it to the cadential A in m. 19. The linear motion to A is supported by harmonic motion in the phrase from the clear XY harmony of m. 12, to a less obvious Z harmony in m. 18 (see Example 9).



Example 8: Introduction, mm. 12-19

1974 Merion Music, Inc. Used By Permission





Example 9: Reduction of mm. 12 - 22



The use of a non-referential harmony on the downbeat of m. 14 to support the B flat begins to weaken the influence of XY. Despite the reiteration of D-Bb, any stability in the line is further undermined by the mid-phrase harmonic accent (last sixteenth of beat 1, m. 14). The accent is created by the shift in register, vibraphone punctuation, and the sustained notes that contrast the intricate accompaniment motion to the downbeat of m. 14. The harmony of the accent preserves the g'-g#' neighbor-note pair introduced in the second violins (mm. 12-13). The g' of m. 12-13 is transferred back to the register identified with the lilac motive (m. 1-2) and returns the pitch-class G to an active but as yet, undefined role. The accent also serves to introduce a variation of the lilac motive which extends through m. 15 and provides an upbeat to m. 16. The registral shift of the accent in m. 14 focuses full attention on the vocal move from B flat to A (supported by Z) in the subphrase continuation and supplies a mid-phrase foreshadowing of the linear cadential goal.


The eb' vocal return in the vocal subphrase end in m. 15 recalls the beginning of the subphrase and creates a circular progression. The subphrase end provides a breath in the baritone phrase group and postpones the revelation of the meaning of the final stanza. The eb'-d' in subphrase one is echoed by the eb'-db' relationship that extends across the formal division between subphrases one and two. The circular melodic design is reflected in the harmonic structure. The E flat' subphrase ending is supported a passing XY harmony that weights the downbeat of m. 16. XY is transformed into a midphrase upbeat to a non-referential chord that recalls in structure (3+3) the phrase-extension harmony in m. 11. The return of XY places the G-G# dyad in a lower register (horns) and employs it in a voice exchange over the barline into m. 16 (G-G# to G#-G). Despite the inclusion of the familiar dyad, the harmony of m. 16 is heard as non-referential. The vocal entrance on the original lilac motive (DbG, transposed down an octave) enforces a powerful reference to "lilac" in the text, but any reference to its previous context is obscured by the different harmonization. The g natural isolated by skip in the lilac motive is the first baritone G and, the intermediate goal of the low register of the compound line established in mm. 13-15 [(E-F#, F-(G-A)]. As the harmony moves away from XY, the cadential emphasis on A begins to take shape from this lower neighbor, G, which represents the ultimate placement of the pitch-class in the phrase (see Example 10).



Example 10: Baritone Line Reduction, mm. 12-19 [9]



The local destination of the ascending vocal line is the B flat incomplete neighbor to A. The A-B flat, G#-A pairs are kept active in the accompaniment and culminate in the alto flute anticipation of the baritone's cadential A (m. 17). The high D in m. 17, which functions as an elaboration of the low register line, also supplants both E flat and D flat (associated with the phrase beginnings in m. 16). This facilitates the octave transfer of the D#, which is obtained by exceeding the previous registral boundary E (m. 13), and initiates a descent toward D. The vocal D# receives support from a B flat in the bass, and, in turn, the D# provides support for a G# in the vocal line creating a heavily emphasized fourth that will open out into the cadential fifth, D-A (m. 18). The cadence is further strengthened by the reminiscence of the wedge-shaped linear motion of the opening motto, and the chromatic inflection, G-G#-A which provides the definitive articulation. Although the cadential pitches arrive in m. 18, the actual cadential moment occurs on the downbeat of m. 19 (end of the vocal line) with the syncopations in the accompaniment leading precisely there.


The arrival in m. 18 completes the "trinity:" lilac, star, and "thought of him I love." The third element is accentuated by the abrupt cessation of the developed accompaniment texture. The contrabasses absorb the full weight of the metric accent in m. 18 and set the F pedal in the bass. The return of the low register (absent since m. 14) provides support (C#) for the vocal G#. The bass figure echoes the vocal wedge when it expands to F and forces the baritone's G# to A. The baritone A is supported by a fusion of P0 over the F pedal (see Example 11).




Example 11: P0 Fusion


Although scrambled, the harmonies reflect pitch class pairings associated with P0, and, considering the primacy of the baritone arrival, are weighted toward Z in the first harmony (Bb-F#-A-C-D-E). The P0 aggregate alternates between this representation of Z and the variation of XY in a syncopated figure based on the characteristic rhythm of the lilac motive. The syncopated figure defers cadential emphasis to the arrival on "love," which is the downbeat of the period, the moment of rhythmic release. The cadence is weighted by the removal of the F pedal at the anticipation of the cadential harmony D-E-G#/A-C#-G. The whole-tone trichord structure of the harmony recalls the harmony of both m. 16 and m. 11 (associated with opposition and phrase continuation) and, its use in the cadence is a change of context for that harmony. Although C#-G is retained in the cadential harmony (representing XY), the overall motion of the phrase to the Z harmony in m. 18 is, at the last moment, deferred to a "non-aligned" harmony.


The motion to the cadence, while essentially dependent on harmonically supported linear events for its effect, also becomes a search for clarity of harmonic reference. As successive phrases in the period are lengthened, previously established harmonic reference points are therefore separated by a larger span. And in this design, the beginnings and endings of formal units (from subphrases to sections) acquire a larger articulative role by either their employment or their avoidance of a referential harmony. A variety of effects are achieved when the prevailing pattern of contextual employment is violated by the substitution of a non-referential sonority at a moment of formal import.



Example 12: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd mm. 18 - 22

1974 Merion Music, Inc. Used By Permission

Though the cadence on the downbeat of m. 19 is convincing, its role in the section (mm. 1-39) is qualified by both its harmonic structure and the referential harmonies that surround the articulation. While the baritone phrase consists of a move from XY (incipit, m. 12) to Z (m. 18), the structure of the cadential harmony (m. 19) confirms neither. It is poised between XY and Z (3 pitch classes. XY, WTA and 3 pitch classes Z, WTB). The cadential harmony is a critical substitution that recalls the unstable harmony used in the articulation of the downbeat of m. 11 which in that context, forced the phrase onwards. Here the association challenges (but does not offset) the high degree of emphasis conferred by the cadential downbeat and its "accent of weight."[10]


The surrounding referential harmonies reveal that the motion of the phrase from XY (m. 12) to Z (m. 18) is confirmed after the cadence when Z replaces XY in the transposed return of the original lilac motive (m. 19, see Example 12). At this point, however, the Z harmony is part of a formal unit that moves away from the cadence. It provides an upbeat to the XY harmony of m. 20 which is extended through m. 21 and becomes, at the end of the interlude, an upbeat itself. The change in function of the XY complex over the course of the phrase and period represents a process of harmonic reinterpretation which is completed by the clear entrance of the Z phrase in the chorus. By avoiding clarity of harmonic reference at the cadence (the moment of formal and textual emphasis), the structural goal of the network of referential chords is deferred and effectively placed at the beginning of the next period which in turn, as a beginning, offers no stability.


The opening period defines a model for cadence formation in the movement. The three remaining cadential articulations will be examined within this frame of reference: the cadence on the downbeat of m. 34 that concludes the chorus period and Section One, the arrival on the downbeat of m. 50 that articulates "I break" and the final cadence of the movement on the downbeat of m. 77. By means that vary in each case, the compositional strategy is to defer emphasis from cadential repose to the preparation for the onset of the next formal section.



Cadence Formation for Section One: Measures 22-39


While the text of mm. 18-19 contains a revelation of deep resonance, it is the midpoint in the intensification of emotion that concludes with the speaker's acknowledgement that grief, "will not free (his) soul" (m. 34). In stanza two, abject grief is conveyed by a series of assertions. "The exclamatory mode of grief . . . reveals its point in its syntax. There are no verbs, hence there can be no sentences, only clauses. Nothing can be done; there can be no shaping into meaning; only cries of loss, grief, obscurity, helplessness."[11] The "shaping into meaning" implicitly denied by the syntax of the stanza is given an interpretation by the musical setting. The exclamatory fragments of text are directed toward cadence in part by the formal design of the period. Declamatory opening and closing phrases for full chorus (mm. 22-23, mm. 31-34) frame a texture of writing for individual voice parts (mm. 24-30, see Example 13). In conjunction with the overall design, the music is directed to the downbeat of m. 34 by the phrase behavior exhibited by each component. The head-accented chorus entry is extended by the bass line by way of a negative metric accent on the downbeat of m. 24 which evokes the series of end-accented exclamations for the individual voice parts. These exclamations pair with one another and create an internal balance that is offset by the anacrusis in the accompaniment (m. 30). Springing from the downbeat of m. 31, the concluding chorus statement reflects the intervening phrase behavior of the individual voice parts and is now clearly tail-accented. In this way, the phrase structure provides an inexorable push to a conclusion in a potentially diffuse passage of the text.





Example 13: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd mm. 22 - 34

1974 Merion Music Inc. Used By Permission




The chorus period begins from a shared harmonic reference (the Z harmony and tetrachords of P0) and proceeds to a cadence on a harmony outside the P0 referential group. (m. 9) The harmonic motion away from P0 is confirmed in the interlude when the Z harmony returns (m. 35) and moves to a variation (octave transfer) of the m. 34 cadential harmony in m. 39. Therefore, the previous cadential goal (m. 34) is re-interpreted in the modulatory interlude to become an anacrusis to the new harmonic area (I3) of section two (see Example 14.)




Example 14: Overall Graph of Motion, mm. 22-34, 34-39



The cadence of section one is placed within a framework of harmonic reference that has as its goal the opening of section two. The strategy is a parallel expansion of the model established in the treatment of the cadence in m. 19. Yet in this case the demands are greater, since the cadence must close the section without impeding the harmonic plan. To secure a cadence that is meaningful for the section, the periods are fused by linear connections that operate across the formal division (in m. 19). The cadential A (and its harmonic pairing with G#) of m.19 and the low E flat of m. 22 are the source for the principal octave transfers developed to articulate the cadence for the section on the downbeat of m. 34 (see Example 15.)




Example 15: mm. 19-34


Beyond its role as the anacrusis to the chorus entrance in m. 22, the interlude preserves the cadential A natural and contrasts its Z association by placing it in an XY harmonic context in which it provides a secondary rhythmic accent to the violin line. In the chorus entrance the A natural returns as part of the Z harmony. The final and most significant appearance of the A natural occurs on the downbeat of m. 27 in an entirely new harmonization.


The stressed low F natural (m. 18) reserved to call attention to the cadential articulation is brought into a new focus when it moves to the E flat flat (m. 22, sforzando) and functions as the primary rhythmic accent of the interlude. The linear bass creates motion away from the cadence in m. 19 and, the E flat is retained across the formal boundary (m. 22) to provide a literal connection between the periods. Without the accent provided by a change in the bass, the declamation of the interlude and chorus form a larger rhythmic unit. The energy of the interlude and the chorus entrance is directed to the negative metric accent and tempo change on the downbeat of m. 24. The phrase is extended to the downbeat of m. 27 by activating the bass and exploiting the Z tetrachord in the extreme low register (contrabassoon, F#-A-B flat-D).The octave transfer of the A flat in this process to the anticipation in the bass (m. 26) converges with the A arrival in the alto on the downbeat of m. 27. The harmonic arrival represents a completion of the context change for the former cadential A into an active tone paired with D#, and establishes a harmonic reference critical to forging the cadence in m. 34.


The real force behind the cadence in m. 34 is not the similarity of pitch content between m. 27 and m. 34, but rather the reinterpretation of this chord within the phrase structure; occurring first as a mid-phrase overlap in m. 27, it becomes the metric goal of the period in m. 34. In its first guise, the harmony of m. 27 supplies a harmonic accent that works contrapuntally against the formal design. The arrival in the alto on the hard-won and sustained A natural occurs within the phrasal process, and provides a metric accent to introduce the soprano-baritone phrase pair.



The return of the declamation (m. 31) is supported by the E flat transferred down an octave from its original register in m. 22. It is foreshadowed by linear motion in that register. The D in m. 27-28 moves in the contrabassoon (not shown in piano-vocal score). In m. 29-30 the contrabassoon and contrabasses move to F which is inflected by its chromatic lower neighbor, E natural. The F natural is left isolated by skip (beat 8, m. 30) in the anacrusis to m. 31. The F-E flat connection over the barline recalls, in octave transposition, the bass motion of the interlude and first declamation and participates in a double neighbor (D-F-E flat) motion. The return of the E flat delineates the change of harmony; the same group of pitch-classes associated with motion at the beginning of the section are re-instituted by octave transfer. When the declamation begins with a new harmony, the E flat of m. 31 is dissociated from the Z of m. 22. The motion of E flat in m. 31 to A flat in m. 34 is parallel to that of the opening declamation, but the progression is now compressed and intensifies the motion to cadence.


The octave transfers of A-D# and G# are used in support of the strong linear motion that occurs toward the cadential goal, E natural (contralto part). The pitch is weighted by the double-neighbor motion (D#-F-E). The E flat, associated with the entry in the bass (m. 22), is active in both registers inflecting E natural in the contralto, and providing harmonic support to the cadential A flat in the bass (The E flat of m. 31 is transferred from the bass to the contralto in m. 31, while in m. 32, the soprano emphasizes F natural). The harmonic structure of the sectional cadence reflects the cadence of m. 19. The 3+3 configuration is represented as 2+2 in the chorus and on the whole, the sectional cadence is weighted toward WTB and confirms the harmonic motion begun with the Z entry of the chorus.


The closing choral declamation reveals that the poet is trapped by memory. For the poem to continue beyond the emotional impasse, a psychological shift must occur that will alter the poet's frame of reference and allow the formulation of a response. The process is suggested musically when, immediately following the cadence that closes off the exclamations, the lilac motive is quoted (m. 34). Before the cadence can be confirmed, the most vivid motive of the movement is seemingly forced in to ensure a connection across the cadence and to supply associations which oppose challenge the predominance of the arrival.


The appearance of the lilac motive within the cadential ritardando creates momentary confusion since the lilac quote may also be viewed as recalling the cadential texture of mm. 18-19.[12] Despite this association, the thematic accent is supported in ways that mark it as a beginning. Strong linear motion around (and away from) the cadence results when the stressed low D of the chorus period (isolated by skip in m. 33) is displaced by the E flat (m. 34). The semi-tone motion in the bass echoes the D#-E of the cadence. The low E flat (transferred to the bass from the tenor) now resonates as part of the WT-A collection and provides harmonic contrast that sets the motive off from the cadence. The sense of harmonic change is intensified by contrast with the fixed B natural retained from the cadence and the lilac motive entrance is enhanced by the timbre change to woodwinds (English Horn, bass clarinet, and bassoons) that evokes its earlier appearances (see Example 16).The intervallic alteration of the motivic reference (the descending minor third substitutes for the ascending tritone) produces an immediate and powerful effect. With the tritone excluded from the opening of the phrase, the familiar theme is disarmed and cut off from its earlier association with the upbeat lilac motive. The alteration is confirmed with the return of Z on the downbeat of m. 35. The a tempo and melodic turn highlight the harmonic shift, but the harmony once associated with a strident entry (m. 22) now provides the impetus for a lyrical interlude.




Example 16: Interlude, mm 34-39



The interlude offers a direct contrast in character and changes the function of the A flat harmony from the cadential goal (m. 34) to an anacrusis (m. 39). The first step occurs in m. 34 as the D#-A transfer in the bass supersedes the cadential A flat as part of the WT-A harmony used for thematic support. The subsequent octave transfer and return of the A flat in m. 39 as an unstable harmonic tone is prepared by a linear descent from the cadential E octave transfer (reversing the D#-E motion of the cadence in the interlude to E-D-C). The delay of the arrival on the passing tone d' until m. 38 by the employment of D natural in an octave transfer becomes the basis for the lyrical interlude (see Example 17).




Example 17: Reduction of Interlude with D Octave Transfer (D#-E, E-D-C)


The D of the familiar Z harmony (transferred in m. 35 from the choral bass) is transferred two octaves to receive a durational and expressive accent on the downbeat of m. 36. The melodic accent on D is supported by a change of harmony that recalls but destabilizes elements of the cadence in m. 34 (E-F#-C becomes E-F#-C#). Further emphasis on the downbeat of m. 36 is conferred by the interruption of activity in the bass. One is aware that the transfer of d" to d' is completed and that the E has been displaced when the lyrical line drops out at the end of m. 38. The exposed pairing of D with the A flat is distinct from the harmony of m. 34, Z of m 35, and the harmony of m. 36. The octave transfer of the A flat enters as an anticipation in m. 38 and obscures the meter. A negative accent on the downbeat of m. 39 occurs when the clarinet drops out and the unstable d', treated as an appoggiatura to C (the C completes the octave transfer of the cadential harmony of m. 34 which is now unstable), enhances the upbeat, preparatory function of the interlude.



A clear hexachordal orientation emerges at this formal juncture to intensify the local effect and articulate the culmination of the large-scale harmonic motion. The arrival of A flat which represents a variation of the harmony of m. 34 is, in the larger scheme, contained in I3B. This reflects a change of context for the WT-A collection (from the entry in m. 22 to the upbeat) and makes the modulation to the harmonic area of section two unmistakable (see Example 18).



Example 18: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd mm. 38 - 39, Note Count




Section Two, Period One: Measures 39-60


The physical characteristics of the lilac bush inspire stanza three: "In contrast the verse for the lilac swells out, the growing thing stands, and the present participles proclaim its continuous and active life."[13] The stanza is constructed as a chain of participial phrases that are directed in one long breath to the concluding predicate, "(I) break." The external action is a startling turn in the poem that is echoed by a simultaneous musical surprise. The predicate is set so that it receives an unexpectedly strong metric accent which goes beyond depicting the local event. It functions then, as the musical accent of the movement, and severs the carefully extended musical line.[14]


The problem in achieving this compositional effect is that if one hears the period as an upbeat leading precisely to the metric accent, then there is no disjunct event. It simply reflects previous phrase procedures and represents motion to another avoided arrival. To bypass this association, a distinction must be made in the character of the material and in the way phrases are generated. Here the growing plant calls forth a vocal line that also grows, capable of responding in varying degrees to the images of sight and smell evoked in the text. As the period unfolds, the phrase procedure creates its own expectations for continuation and cadence and it is this contrasting development which is then abruptly terminated.




Example 19a: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd mm. 39 - 50

1974 Merion Music Inc. Used By Permission





Example 19b: Reduction of Baritone Period, mm. 39 - 50



The baritone period consists of one phrase (mm. 40-50, anacrusis in m. 39) that divides into two subphrases (mm. 40-44, 45-50) and further subdivides into five groups per subphrase[15] (see Example 19a and b). With the modulation from P0 to I3 confirmed, the movement has earned a degree of repose. The relative stability of the harmonic area is reinforced and extended by the clear trichordal basis of the accompaniment that is set as an augmentation of the lilac rhythm. The new harmonic area is the point of reference against which the setting of the breaking sprig will be measured. In the following example, the trichordal harmony supports the group as the principle unit of melodic construction (see Example 20).




Example 20: Melodic/Harmonic Groups


The first two melodic groups are paired together and supported by the harmony that returns to close off in m. 40. The second group begins with a variation on the 014 trichord in the accompaniment (F#-A-F becomes F#-F-D) that was employed as a neighbor harmony in groups one and two. Instead of closing off with the voice group that ends on the downbeat of m. 42 (with the return of 014, D-F-F#), the accompaniment treats the 014 as an accented neighbor harmony between two expressions of an E-rooted harmony (anacrusis to m. 42). The first three vocal groups generate a rising melody that outlines the fifth E-B, and the E-rooted harmony in m. 42 supplies harmonic support that confirms the relationship (see Example 21).




Example 21: Stability of the Fifth



The ascent of the line to the arrival on B, brought out by the dynamic swell and animando in the anacrusis to m. 42, coincides with the expressive moment when the subject of the participial phrase, lilac bush appears ("stands the lilac bush"). These nuances, and the beginning of a more elaborate accompaniment at this point, prevent a fully supported harmonic arrival on B (with E natural in the bass) from stalling the phrase. The push through the articulation of the B arrival also conceals the parallel relationship that exists between that arrival and the group ending (B in the bass) in m. 40. The E-B is projected as a referential stability without undercutting the motion of the phrase. The stability of E in this context is clearly related to its history as the cadential goal in m. 34, its reinterpretations in the interlude and in m. 39 (the octave transfer into the vocal entrance). By its pairing with B in the subphrase, the resultant fifth supersedes any whole-tone affinity and asserts E as a local tonal center.


The arrival of the b natural in the vocal line begins a further development in the upper register which is then left incomplete by the articulation of the subphrase end. The pitches that signaled motion away from the g natural in m. 41 (g#-a) are reinterpreted in m. 43 to end the subphrase on that pitch (g natural in m. 44). The registral connection and the WT-A harmonization of the arrival make the subphrase into a larger group. (See Example 22.)




Example 22: Subphrase 1


The use of G to connect the goal with the beginning of the subphrase suggests a method of construction that becomes more apparent on the level of the phrase. By utilizing interval groups, successive events are related internally by the recurrence of similar motivic fragments, or particular pitches. In the following example, a portion of the middle of the first subphrase is employed at the beginning of the second subphrase (see Example 23).




Example 23: Internal Repetition


The motivic relationship heard across the subphrase articulation preserves consistency in the tone-painting ("growing"-"rising") and obscures the formal division by suggesting a continuation and developmental variation of the material.


The development of the second subphrase displays another aspect of the internal register connection. (See Example 24.)




Example 24: Internal Registral Connections in Second Subphrase


The baritone phrase closes off on the f natural in m. 46. The f# from the anacrusis to m. 45 returns registrally isolated ("delicate") in the middle of the phrase. In m. 46 it "splits" into e natural and g for the double neighbor embellishment of f. By concluding the melodic activity in that register, the beginning in m. 47, which coincides with the highpoint of emotion in the text, is given maximum registral contrast. The phrase is designed so that both the vocal line and the accompaniment use beat two of m. 47 as a point of departure. In a process that reflects the construction of the baritone line, the accompaniment is crafted to "grow" at a different pace. It unfolds an increasingly complex counterpoint (shared in turn by oboe, clarinet, violin, flute and piccolo) that blurs the vocal articulation in m. 44. In contrast to the baritone part, the accompaniment moves clearly to its apex and utmost registral expansion. The shared forte dynamics and simultaneous attack on beat two of m. 47 reinforce the sense of previously divergent parts now teaming-up to extend the phrase. But the reconciliation is denied fruition by the disintegration of the entire passage into the downbeat of m. 50. The melodic accent of the phrase is channeled into the structural accent of the movement.


The disintegration of the accompaniment (depicted by a reduction in forces), is also weighted by a motivic reinterpretation. The apex recalls the characteristic rhythm of the lilac motive (with its upbeat motion) but in this case, instead of offering impetus to the phrase, it is employed in the close of the brief flourish. The limited duration of the episode is framed by the expressive indications that call for un poco animando and calmando in the space of one measure.


As the accompaniment evaporates, the vocal line (mm. 47-49) supplies material that integrates previously isolated melodic events to weight the arrival of m. 50. In the upper register, a variation on the expressive middle of the subphrase (mm. 43-44) is reinterpreted to articulate the phrase end. The melodic approach expands the subphrase middle to place an intervallic expansion of the previous subphrase end (f'-g) on the downbeat of m. 50 (see Example 25).




Example 25: Parallel Relationship of Subphrase Endings


At that moment, the ear registers the parallel relationship between the subphrase ends. The tritone of "rich green" is echoed by "I break."[16]



The event is reinforced by a linear connection. The carefully prepared stability of the fifth, E-B, at the beginning of the phrase moves into the tritone, F-B, at the end of the phrase and provides maximum harmonic contrast . The linear displacement of the E is first suggested in the compound melody by double neighbor emphasis on f in m. 43. The e' and f#' converge on f which is then isolated by skip. The vocal line is echoed in the bass to weight the arrival on f in the downbeat of m. 44. Finally, in the previously cited midphrase close off (m. 46), it occurs in the right register but without clear cadential support. By m. 46 the e has been replaced by f and the arrival in m. 50 provides, a truncated confirmation of the linear event.


The voice-leading and harmonic structure employed to articulate m. 50 is supported by the emergence of twelve-tone identities in m. 48. In previous instances, the row was employed as the ultimate harmonic reference to clarify a formal arrival. Its effect in m. 48 is different however, since the appearance of P10B violates this precedent. The sudden placement of the timbre change to winds to bring out P10B (and its extension by voice exchange) is unexpected. The orchestrally reinforced hexachordal clarity (amid the freely chromatic writing of the phrase) is not restored and is instead thoroughly unstable. Its association with phrase beginnings and phrase endings is turned upside down to halt the phrase. The hexachord confirms the dissociation of the E and B by placing F-B (and F#) in a harmonic relationship. (See Example 26.)




Example 26: E Dissociated From F by Explicit Hexachordal Statement, P10


In the anacrusis to m. 50 the baritone begins an explicit row statement that recalls m. 4 (in the soprano) and m. 44 (not serially but in contour and function). Both references are incorporated into what becomes not an outgrowth or development, but an ending mirroring the closing off that occurs with the lilac motive in the accompaniment in mm. 47-48. The segment concludes in mid-row, "broken" on order number nine. The more familiar reference prepares this event, but the event itself requires particular treatment: the interruption in m. 50 is intensified by the introduction of a partition that moves beyond the hexachordal polarities and relates the beginning of the phrase with the events in m. 49. The persistent C#-D# associated to some degree with stability (WT-A) is now unstable in its pairing with B flat and D (see Example 27).In spite of the harmonic accent, the vocal phrase ends unsupported on the downbeat of m. 50. The silence that follows intensifies the finality of the interruption.




Example 27: Harmonic Motion of the Phrase


For the first time, the orchestra responds directly to the singer instead of overlapping vocal articulations in a polyphonic web. The orchestra response is a stark, one-part gesture consists of a variation of the lilac rhythm Parallels with earlier material are evident in the orchestra response The emphasis on neighbor-note motion and the pitch pairings( D flat -C, F-E flat, A flat -G) recall mm. 1-2, but given the context, these P0 associations are heard as maximum harmonic contrast. To reinforce the break in continuity, the orchestral response picks up the register that was previously cut off and instead of reinstating activity there, the contrasting material descends rapidly to the downbeat of m. 52. The energy of the vocal arrival on the downbeat of m. 50 and the heavily-accented answer is rapidly liquidated in the following transitional interlude. The passage is unlike the previous interludes in the way in which it negates development and transforms the head-accented orchestral outburst into an upbeat to m. 61. (See Example 28.) The interlude is based on two register transfers of a harmony based on the WTA collection (see Example 29).




Example 29: Register Transfer of WTA


The WTA collection dominates in the background while a WTA melody is stressed in the foreground.[17] The design ensures that the octave transfers of the harmony do not, as in earlier instances, participate in different polyphonic strands. Linear development is negated in each register.




Example 28: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd mm. 49 - 61

1974 Merion Music, Inc. Used By Permission



A contrast is perceived on the downbeat of m. 52, but this effect is defeated by the melodic emphasis on C#-D#. The neighbor-note pair denies melodic development and despite the rhythmic augmentation, is heard as a parallel statement to m. 50 (recalling AB). By preserving six common-tones, the octave transfer of the harmony supports the perception of a parallel event simply moved to a lower register. The forward momentum is further depleted in the C#-D# figure by substituting rhythmic squareness for potential development.


The passing harmony (m. 53) and melodic skip to A natural provide a metric accent on the downbeat of m. 54, but this is supported by the second octave transfer of the WTA harmony (which contains the C#-D# transferred to the bass). The scoring emphasis on the A natural (fl., alto fl., ob. I+II, eng. hrn., E flat cl., B flat cl., marimba) is neutralized by the harmonic and melodic expressions of WTA. The harmony gained by the second octave transfer is retained beneath the A-G linear motion in m. 54. The repeated E-G (English horn, oboes, and at the outset, clarinets) dissipates the energy further.


This harmonic and relative melodic stasis is partially relieved and subsequently directed by the emergence of a linear statement of R8 in mm. 56-60. The appearance of the row is consistent with its employment at other formal junctures in the movement as a tool for gauging harmonic "distances." The statement is supported by the bass that works toward the WTA harmony of m. 60 (G#-G-F#-G#-A in one voice, A-B flat (A#)-B in the lowest voice) and the bass motion provides leading tone emphasis to the B natural that has been present in that register since m. 58. However, even with the dynamic accent (decrescendo from ff to pp) and the leading-tone inflection, the motion to B natural is relatively weak. By emphasizing the pitch with chromatic neighbor-notes as opposed to a directed bass line, the harmonic arrival in m. 60 does not create an overt rhythmic accent.


As the interlude unfolds, each register transfer represents an opportunity for harmonic contrast. Each time contrast is denied, expectations for such contrast increase. The search for harmonic contrast is heightened by the row statement that contributes melodic direction to the anacrusic passage. As in earlier phrase constructions, one is led to expect that harmonic change will coincide with, and provide impetus for, the upcoming entry. Since the arrival in m. 61 is preceded by the same chord as an upbeat, this phrase opening is deprived of this particular at type of metric accent.


The denial of contrast here functions in a larger role because of the way it uses established harmonic references. Throughout the movement the WTA collection has been employed in the role of phrase opening or as an upbeat. Even with the context switched (as in m. 50, where WTA serves as the goal of the phrase), factors already cited make the WTA an unstable arrival. In the interlude the instability of the collection is intensified by the refusal to develop and the refusal to proceed to a harmonic contrast. By denying harmonic contrast on the downbeat of m. 61, the unresolved energy and accumulated expectations of the previous material and events are suspended. The infused tension is maintained throughout the final period.



Conclusions: Soprano Recitative, Measures 61-80



The beginning of the final passage effectively captures the moment of arrest experienced by the poet when the bird's song, "in the swamp, in secluded recesses," reaches out to penetrate his inner world of grief. The text is placed in high relief and transformed into a poetic island by its setting as a self-contained passage. After the truncation and highly charged response of m. 50 and the insistent but harmonically languid interlude, the closing period is further stripped of song, orchestral forces and even pulse. All that remains is the bird call. The piccolo and flute (from behind the stage) muted trumpet, celesta and marimba present the call of the hermit thrush with harmonic support from a solo cello and a solo contrabass. The literal quote of the thrush is unexpected and confirms that the musical line is indeed severed: the bird sings freely while the singer (poet) can only speak.


The denied contrast on the downbeat of m. 61 is extended to form a harmonic block that controls the entire recitative. The WTA harmony (I11) and subsequent expectations are frozen into a static configuration by the entrance of the WTB bird call. The registrally exclusive collections behave like poles of two magnets and repel each other while the soprano completes the aggregate. The pitch material of the soprano, the shifting harmonies and the bird call all give up a pitch-class or two intermittently, reacting to one another, but maintain the locked stasis. The underlying WTA collection in the accompaniment is embellished with neighbor-notes, voice exchanges, and the 014 trichord (recall other instances of the 014 functioning between whole-tone expressions). Any harmonic contrast in the period serves to extend WTA. The prolongation does not establish a pulse; it shifts unpredictably. The suspension of pulse in the accompaniment means that the surface rhythm is restricted to that of the soprano's natural speech inflections. The bird call is also without pulse and enters at will over the course of the passage. The general length of the call (with slight variations) works contrapuntally to provide cross-accents against the soprano and accompaniment. The soprano entrance relegates the bird call to the role of embellishment. (See Example 30.) The cadence that concludes the recitative can be considered independently from previous cadence formations. Without the resource of harmonic motion as employed in all other cadential articulations, the recitative relies on alternate means to generate directed motion to the final cadence on the downbeat of m. 77. Amid the saturated WTA harmonic structure, the shape of the vocal "melody" is largely responsible for a convincing arrival.


The soprano recitative consists of one phrase (mm. 61-77), a formal arch, that subdivides at the registral climax in m. 72. The opening of the soprano "melody" (mm. 62-64) differs from the characteristic expanding interval construction. Here the third (spelled as a diminished fourth, C#-F) is contracted to a major second as the measures unfold. The contrasting procedure generates tension that gives rise to the movement away from the fixed register at the point of the Db(C#) octave transfer in m. 64. As it approaches the climax, "song of life," the melodic character reflects a brief manifestation of the lyrical impulse.


The melody is based largely on the WT-A collection, and because there is little tension between the harmonic basis of melody and the harmonic basis of the accompaniment, the urgency of the earlier writing is absent from the recitative. This is reflected in the melodic accentuation of the period. The climax in the vocal line, A, is achieved without any kind of semi-tone inflection (that is, a chromaticism with regard to the WTA collection). It is simply a continuation of the WTA melodic activity in that register. The expressive accent on the A is not articulated by a change of harmony that makes the apex stand out against the prevailing WTA background. A slight inflection of the WTA harmony occurs on the downbeat of m. 72 with the D-C# appoggiatura (C# is WTA). The one harmonic change that does occur (m. 73) happens between two expressions of WTA and points away from the soprano climax to set up the concluding segment of the text. (See Example 31.)





Example 30: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd mm. 61 - 80

1974 Merion Music, Inc. Used By Permission




Example 31: Reduction of mm. 61 - 80



The soprano arch is set against an accompaniment structure that subdivides, mm. 61-67 and mm. 68-77. The prominent B harmony (B-G-A) of mm. 60-63 returns on the downbeat of m. 68he accompaniment (muted strings, English Horn, French horn) reflects the developing lyrical impulse in the vocal line and pulls through any articulation of the harmonic return to provide a metric accent in support of the soprano arrival on F in m. 69. As part of the WTB harmony in m. 68, the D functions as an upper neighbor to C# which returns to B (WTA) in m. 69. The D-C#-B is repeated with harmonic intensification in m. 70. In its final appearance, the D, beginning as the appoggiatura on the downbeat of m. 72, descends through C# to C and the metrically accented WTB harmony (m. 73). The B in m. 73 returns in an altered harmonization and is treated as a passing tone in the line that continues through the B flat to the A (and the return of WTA). In conjunction with the DA bass descent, the concluding text installment is set in the soprano as a descent from A (octave transfer implied) to D in m. 74 (see Example 32).




Example 32a: Linear Cadential Structure


The vocal melody of mm. 75-76 prolongs D and delays the cadential arrival, C#. The cadence is a variation on the treatment of the registral climax. (See Example 32b)




Example 32b: D-A emphasis



Harmonic contrast is not employed to accent the structural downbeat. The arrival of the cadential harmony (WTA), anticipates the cadence by two measures. The sole rhythmic emphasis on the cadential downbeat is supplied by the soprano C# (and the bird call is altered to participate in the structure and supply an afterbeat flourish). In addition, the cadence is not qualified, as in the earlier cadence formations, by the presence of the fifth which transcends the symmetrical collection. The effect of this cadence, in which some of the elements are deliberately placed out of synchronization with the metric arrival, is that the phrase simply stops. The music "dies." A concerted drive to cadence is not a condition that can or should be met within the limitations of this particular recitative. The cadence on C# clearly relates to the opening C# (m. 62), and this makes it difficult to extend the relevance of the cadence beyond the boundaries of the final period.


The stability of the vocal cadence on C# is immediately challenged however, by the coda. The pitch is displaced by the vibraphone echo, E-C natural. The intervallic expansion (E-C# to E-C) is a return to the characteristic motivic procedure previously associated with harmonic change. The E-C dyad also anticipates the final harmonic move to Z and provides a foil for the entrance of the WTA lilac motive. The A natural in the bass, part of WTA in the recitative, is retained and cast in a contrasting harmonization when it becomes part of the 014 (Z) trichord with the addition of Bb-F# on the downbeat of m. 78. These pitch-classes represent a striking registral and contextual addition since their employment in the passage was restricted to the bird call.


The quotation of the lilac motive provides a recapitulation of the WTA harmony of the recitative and confirms the WTA cadence, but because it is placed in a new harmonic context by its entrance over the Z trichord, it is subservient to the motion to Z begun with the E-C of m. 78. While the return of musical symbols in the coda confirms the "trinity" (life, death, and the thought of the poet) the extended WTA recitative, explicitly linked to life by the return of the WTA lilac motive, defers to death and obscurity in the final Z chord. The song of the thrush represents the "possibility of poetic utterance," but here this truth remains impalpable, concealed by the "harsh surrounding cloud."


The lilac motive picks up the b' natural left by skip in the vocal line and moves it to a' (m. 79). The octave transfer of the AF# from the bass coincides with the arrival of Z as a consequence of local voice leading, and the marimba is used to punctuate the attack. The final Z chord is also weighted by the return of the tutti cellos and contrabasses. The alto flute and clarinet recall the original motivic alteration, and the return of alto flute frames the coda. The fifth in the outer voices brings an aspect of the previous cadential formations to bear on the final chord by adding stability to the Z harmony.[18] As the coda opposes the cadential pitch of m. 77, it confirms the D-A emphasis that was part of the cadence formation and, recalls the Z appearances of m. 5, m. 19 and m. 22. The goal of the first period suggests the motion of the movement: m. 19 is confirmed in m. 80.


The Z orientation of the coda anticipates the opening of the second movement. By retaining the common tones D-A (in register), the second movement begins from the tonal anchor established in the Introduction. The persistent upbeat quality of the Introduction gives way to an incipit accent that conveys the weight of the lumbering funeral train. The downbeat of the second movement starts a journey distinct from reminiscence. The funeral train harmony that begins the second movement controls a considerable time-span; it returns fifty-four measures later to link the train to the bells perpetual clang.


The closing recitative texture of the Introduction arises in response to, and a result of, the severed musical line. Its historical association with introduction and its unexpected formal placement as the close of the movement maintains the anacrusis generated by the preceding music. The "Introduction" is, ironically, concluded by an introduction and the purpose of the cadence and the coda, and the purpose of the movement as a whole is not to resolve accumulated tension but rather to perpetually direct it into the beginning of the second movement.






Cone, Edward T. "In Defense of Song: The Contribution of Roger Sessions." In Music a View

from Delft, ed. Robert P. Morgan, 303-322. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 1989.


. "Conversation with Roger Sessions." In Perspectives on American Composers,

eds. Benjamin Boretz and Edward T. Cone, 90-107. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1971.


Feidelson, Charles Jr. "Symbolism in When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd.." In Critics

on Whitman, ed. Richard H. Rupp, 66-67. Miami: University of Miami Press, 1972.


Imbrie, Andrew. "In Honor of His Sixty-fifth Birthday." In Perspectives on American Composers,

eds. Benjamin Boretz and Edward T. Cone, 59-89. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1971.


. "The Symphonies of Roger Sessions." Tempo, 103 (December 1972), 24-32.


Kinkead-Weekes, Mark. "Walt Whitman Passes the Full-Stop by..." In Nineteenth-century

American Poetry, ed. Robert A. Lee, 43-60. London; Totowa NJ: Vision; Barnes and Noble,1985..


Mackey, Steven. The Thirteenth Note. Ph.D. diss., Brandeis University, 1985.


Merryman, Marjorie Aspects of Phrasing and Pitch Usage in Roger Sessions' Piano Sonata

No. 3. Ph.D. diss. Brandeis University, 1981.

Olmstead, Andrea Roger Sessions and His Music. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research


. Conversations with Roger Sessions. Boston: Northeastern University Press,1987.


Powers, Harold S. "Current Chronicle." The Musical Quarterly, 58 (April 1972), 300, 302, 304.


Sessions, Roger. Harmonic Practice. New York, Burlingame: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc.,1951.



. Roger Sessions on Music, Collected Essays. Edited by Edward T. Cone.

Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1979.