Two Early Songs
for SATB and piano (1971)
by Ron Hannah

  1. An Immorality (words by Ezra Pound) (Duration: 2'50")
  2. from Song of Solomon, (words Biblical) (Duration: 3'20")
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        These are the first pieces I acknowledge, and they were written together in the summer

        

        

        
    of 1971. I was a student, filled with new learnings and eager to try out what I knew from my harmony classes. As I wrote, I tried first to make the pieces as rich and beautiful as the texts, and also to break systematically each rule I had learned. I was in my rebellious stage and was delighted to find that the songs worked!

        They are both tonal and chromatic, suitable for an amateur choir and full of romantic gestures and harmonies. An Immorality is in G-, while from Song of Solomon is in A+. They were premiered, or rather broadcast on CFRN television, in 1973 by the Edmonton Symphony Chorus, under John Pauls, have been performed several times since.

         Below is my personal interpretation of what I have written. Some may find it offensive and for that I am sorry, nevertheless it is what I think. If you would like to ignore me and treat the pieces simply as lush music, that would please me too.

         I look for texts that are irreverent and sensual. The first speaks of valuing "love and idleness" over doing "high deeds in Hungary" even though "rose-leaves die of grieving". In typical Ezra Pound fashion, the reference to rose-leaves could well be a religious gibe, since the rose is a common symbol of the Virgin. Take it as you will, the school of which Pound was a prominent member was not called "Imagist" for nothing - and this poem certainly fills the 'irreverent' slot.

         The second, sensual, text may be found in Song of Solomon (V: 2-8). It tells a tale of two lovers who almost meet by night. He knocks at her door, she hesitates, he leaves. In her search for him she is overtaken by the city guards who beat her and take her cloak. Still, she seems more concerned that her lover be found, and she adjures the daughters of Jerusalem, through her grief, to tell him she is "sick with love". Whatever else the Bible is, it is an earthy and very human book. One translation describes the young man not as knocking at the door, but inserting two fingers through an opening, trying to undo the latch; and the young lady's reaction is portrayed not as "my heart was thrilled within me", but as feeling her bowels move within her. I went with the more vanilla translation.

         Clicking on the "Text & Listen" buttons above will enable you to hear the music and read the words for each piece. I used to give away the score on this site, asking only that those who might have performed the piece let me know so that I can keep my Performances page up-to-date. I know that it has been listened to and downloaded many times, but no one has ever said a word to me. So, sadly, I offer only the first few pages of each movement here. If you wish to obtain the full score, please send me an email or visit the Canadian Music Centre.


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