Charles Shere: Stein Songs soprano, violin, bass clarinet, and piano
1983, 1989, 1997
scores: see below: available from Frog Peak Music
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Dirt and not Copper The White Hunter Peeled Pencil. Choke. A Carafe
Suppose an Eyes Rhubarb Red Roses It Was Black, Black Took
Gertrude Stein’s book Tender Buttons was published in 1914. It was her first appearance in print. It comprises three sections: generally short prose-poems, under the headings of Objects and Food, and a long prose meditation called Room. The shorter pieces are often lyric celebrations of the romance of daily life as it was then first being shared by Stein and Alice Toklas. The composition was also, for Stein, a disciplined project in the conscious evolution of a style which was increasingly characterized by a liberation of nouns from their familiar referents — a prose style quite deliberately following the similar evolution at the time in the painting of her friends Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. The poems are hermetic but not meaningless, and lots of fun to read aloud and to set as songs.
My setting of Tender Buttons is a leisurely ongoing project. Two poems, Dirt and not Copper and The White Hunter, were set in the early 1970s. Scored for tenor, bassoon, and trombone, they were premiered in 1976, by John Duykers. A Carafe and Suppose an Eyes are from 1983, and Rhubarb was added in 1989 to make a little set for Judy Hubbell, whose lyric soprano, always impeccable in intonation, took on just the right mischievous inflections often suggested by Stein’s poetry. This selection was premiered by her, with Roy Malan and Marvin Tartak, in San Francisco, on April 27, 1989.
Two other songs for soprano, violin, bass clarinet, and piano are set to Tender Buttons: Red Roses and It Was Black, Black Took. They are available from Frog Peak Music as Three More Stein Songs.
All six songs, as well as the chamber cantata Dates and the operas Ladies Voices and I Like It to Be a Play, are available as recordings from Vibedeck
Listen to "Rhubarb"(680 kb MP3)
from Three Stein Songs (1972), ©Charles Shere. Available from Frog Peak Music.
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