COMPOSER 1945–2013

Opus 73

Nightstone (1979)

for Voice and Piano

Text from Song of Songs

  • Ballad
  • Evocation
  • Serenade

Duration: 13 min.

Recording: Albany TROY163

Premiere: 1980; E. Lasar; A. Rosner; Staten Island, NY

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Hundreds of composers have been moved to set parts of the Song of Songs, but on reading all its beautiful and gentle but seductive poetry, I am frankly amazed that there are still thousands who haven’t! I was attracted to these verses in the early 60s but could never seem to get started on a setting until 1979, when a certain unrequited interest of the heart provided the necessary energy. I have used parts of chapters 4, 2, and 7 respectively.

The unifying technical quirk is the importance of 5/8 meter, which pervades the outer movements and even the rapid middle section of the second. There is, I think, a certain lilt in 5/8 (and also 7/8, for that matter), and I often find these signatures lend themselves to the rhythm of English words. In any case, perhaps this gives some complexity which may be welcome, as I tried to keep the choice of pitches extremely graceful, and perhaps even affectionate. Of course, actual tonal harmonic connections are virtually non-existent in any of my music, even when the chords and melodies themselves are consonant and fairly simple.

I have often been asked to explain the title Nightstone. One interpretation is the Night’s Tone—the temperament or mood of evening. A second is the Stone—or gem or jewel—of the night. Another interpretation suggests a cryptic, secret message directed at some individual whose beauty and personality may have contributed to my impulse in writing the piece. Having presented these possibilities, I will decline further comment. (Notes by Arnold Rosner)