Feature Friday: To a Stranger

To a Stranger is another piece that is close to my heart. This is the first art song I wrote. I stumbled upon the text by Walt Whitman many years ago in a John Green novel. (Paper Towns). But I forgot about it. Fast forward to just a few months ago when I was about to try my hand at art songs. My friend Jessica suggested I look at poetry in the public domain and I once again fell in love with this poem. I knew I wanted to write for a bass singer because I absolutely love the range of the bass. I coupled this text with a haunting melody passed among the piano, cello, and voice.

The piece opens with a chillingly beautiful motif in the cello, which is then emulated in the right hand of the piano, and finally in the voice. I wanted the music to represent the sort of nostalgic feeling of the text. I also wanted to give the feeling of time slowly passing. By using repeated octaves in the left hand of the piano, I created a sort of tolling bell. I used changes in rhythm to create a feeling of movement. In the second stanza, I used text painting, by using quickly moving notes on phrases like “flit by each other” and long notes on phrases like “fluid, affectionate…”

Finally, after a section of intense tension and movement, the piano and cello fade and the voice rings out on the word “alone.” The end of the piece is reminiscent of the beginning with the hollow open octaves in the piano. This signifies that the remembering of the dream has ended and real life has begun again.

With its constant changing tempi, To a Stranger gives the listener a sense of longing and a bittersweet sort of feeling.




Author: lizzielou0320

Composer, performer, teacher, and arranger in the Ottawa area.

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