Opus number: op. 99

Title: Spring: In the Pendulum of My Body, a song cycle for baritone and harpsichord

Text: Elizabeth Kirschner

Texts: click here 


Listen to the tender ears of darkness
warm as cupped peaches—
do not cry! The breezes
mill through the wall, knowing
the door is always open. Refresh
your joy in the pendulum
of my body, its grave, golden weight.
Sweet love, it’s spring—
sleep with the windows open!


In darkness. I toss blossoms
into a brook while standing in
a red gazebo. I face pain
and my soul drifts into the murmuring
waters. Moody spring comes
wild with green waste: why
does love cling to me when I’m least
alive? Why do I retire from ecstasy?
O green stems! O flowery boughs!
May the goddess of spring paint
silken watercolors upon my despair
even though bird chirp begins
and ends in me. Marooned in gloom,
dark clouds are dead asleep, clouds
which could be broken like shared bread.
This is what that goddess says:
do not donate your music to the gods.
And so every fallen blossom is a tiny elegy.
And so a mass of manic crows
fly out, fly out from the wounds in trees
while airy spirits abandon me.


I thought I saw a butterfly
mazed in March wind,
Black wings, black wings
flew through the hips of God
like a blown kiss amidst
endless spring, endless you


In the branches of cherry trees
sweet wine foams from spring-to-spring.
You are vernal. You open the gates
behind which the sky flies.
Your smile keeps death at bay
and pearly seeds glow in darkness
quiet as an infant sung to sleep.
When we are together
the luminous water
fills the flask. In the glory
of clouds, we are enwrapped, enraptured.
How else could we keep standing
hand-in-hand, encased in invisible blossoms?


I love you all the more
when fish shed their golden scales—
lick one from the tip of my rosy finger
and you will taste at least a dozen of my souls. A certain tingle of light mingles in your hair.Without the melting diademy
of musicwhere would we be?
The poetry inside
sleeping buds lulls me to sleep when
I lie next to you. I have been writing
to you all my life. You are my spring apparition, returned. I cannot make a song without you. I cannot embrace the dawn unless
you embrace it from the other side.
Aren’t we borne away upon the same
breast of a blushing bird? Flesh
unto flesh, a thin shimmer of being
surrounds us. Inside a silver box
a ballerina sighs a love cry.
She sighs it for you. She sighs it for me.
O happy, happy love!

Written for: Philip Lima

Length: seventeen minutes

Date written: 2009

Premiere performance: May 19, 2010, Philip Lima, baritone, Paul Cienniwa, harpsichordist, Brown Hall at New England Conservatory.

Subsequent performances: January 16, 2012, Philip Lima, baritone, Paul Cienniwa, harpsichordist, First Church Boston

Program notes: These song cycles represent my four-part work called The Seasons, op. 101. Each of the four song cycles contains five songs and can be performed on its own. Fall: Autumnal Raptures, written in 2006 for tenor and harp, was especially conceived for Thomas Gregg and Emily Laurance. Winter: Exaltations of Snowy Stars is for mezzo-soprano and piano and was written for and first performed by D’Anna Fortunato and myself in January of 2008; here it is sung by Bethany Tammaro Condon. Spring: In a Garden of Dreamers, was written for Phillip Lima in the fall of 2009 and is scored for baritone and harpsichord. The final set Summer: The Fragrant Pathway of Eternity, is scored for soprano and guitar.

The most important element uniting these works is their common poet, Elizabeth Kirschner. Elizabeth’s poetry inspired each song in ways that I cannot consciously explain–nor would I wish to if I could. The poems are profoundly intimate, refreshingly free of pessimism, and vividly imagistic. Most importantly, perhaps, is that they clearly originate from a determining artistic personality that feels perfectly suited to my own.

Recording: Philip Lima and Paul Cienniwa, Larry Bell: In a Garden of Dreamers, Albany Records (1308/1309)