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Text & Program Notes


Shut your eyes then
And let us slip
Out of the city rain
Into a special ship,
Call her The Pilgrim,
Set sail and go
Over the world's rim
To where Rousseau
Discovered a jungle
Of indigo trees,
A marvelous tangle:
precise oranges,
Tigers with dreaming eyes,
Larger and larger flowers,
Leaves of gigantic size−
Wander for hours
Under a crimson sun
In a pale milky sky
With a vermillion
Lizard near by,
And over it all
The strangeness that hovers
Like a green pall,
Envelopes and covers
In a warm still suspense
All of the landscape
Like a sixth sense−
Till there is no escape,
Till in the grasses
(Two people Rousseau
Saw through his glasses
And wanted to know)
You who have shut your eyes
And I who brought you here
Are to our great surprise
Part of the atmosphere,
Part of the painter's dream,
Of his most intent seeing
In a place where things seem
Instead of being,
No longer living, no longer mortal,
Fabulous ladies,
Unreal, immortal−
Shut then your open eyes
Let us go softly home,
Back to the sleeping ship
Over the emerald foam,
Over the edge and slip
Out of the Rousseau world
Into the world of men,
Sails all bound up and furled:
Open your eyes again.


- May Sarton


I came upon May Sarton’s wonderful poem quite by accident – I was admiring a portrait of Sarton on display in Harvard’s Fogg Museum, and posted on the wall next to it was the complete text to Sarton’s poem “Nursery Rhyme.” The poem completely captured my imagination, and by the time I got to the end of it, I already knew that I must set this poem to music. In the poem, the reader is invited along on an imaginary voyage into the dream- like realm of a Rousseau painting. The vivid colors and shapes in Rousseau’s jungle paintings inspired my choice of colorful harmonies that are sometimes bold, sometimes subtle. I “painted” certain words by adding melismas (long stretches of changing notes on a single syllable), for instance on the word “atmosphere.” I hope that my music does justice to this exquisite poem.


- Lauren Bernofsky



As the tide rises, the closed mollusc

Opens a fraction to the ocean's food,

Bathed in its riches. Do not ask

What force would do, or if force could.


A knife is of no use against a fortress.

You might break it to pieces as gulls do.

No, only the rising tide and its slow progress

Opens the shell. Lovers, I tell you true.


You who have held yourselves closed hard

Against warm sun and wind, shelled up in fears

And hostile to a touch or tender word—

The ocean rises, salt as unshed tears.


Now you are floated on this gentle flood

That cannot force or be forced, welcome food

Salt as your tears, the rich ocean's blood,

Eat, rest, be nourished on the tide of love.


- May Sarton

While I was a doctoral student at Boston University, a classmate asked me to set May Sarton’s poem “Of Molluscs” to music. I had never heard of the poet up to that point, and I found the poem captivating and a natural choice for setting to music, because it stays with one metaphor, that of a mollusc in the ocean. At this point, I don’t recall if the choice of instrumentation was mine or the singer’s, but the single oboe as accompaniment lends itself well to evoking the rising and falling of the waves. The use of a single instrument lends a decidedly intimate quality to the piece, which is completely appropriate to the intimate character of this love poem. After presenting the score to the singer, she told me that it wasn’t appropriate for her voice. Not offering to work with me to tailor the piece to her particular voice, I decided to instead share the piece with others. This exquisite recording constitutes the third recording of this piece, the two others being versions for voice with trumpet and voice with horn. The version with oboe, however, is the original version of the work.


- Lauren Bernofsky



Be music, night,

That her sleep may go

Where angels have their pale tall choirs


Be a hand, sea,

That her dreams may watch

Thy guidesman touching the green flesh of the world


Be a voice, sky,

That her beauties may be counted

And the stars will tilt their quiet faces

Into the mirror of her loveliness


Be a road, earth,

That her walking may take thee

Where the towns of heaven lift their breathing spires


O be a world and a throne, God,

That her living may find its weather

And the souls of ancient bells in a child’s book

Shall lead her into Thy wondrous house


- Kenneth Patchen


"Be Music", Night is based on a poem by American poet and novelist Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972). My initial springboard of inspiration to set this text stemmed from my own interpretation of the poem – that this is a tender wish for a beloved person. The mellifluous quality of the words and the beautiful, vibrant imagery they instill lent themselves well to music. In this text I found a wondrous world, which I enjoyed exploring through my own musical voice.


- Carrie Magin



Lesson Learned in Quarantine with a Doomed Relationship


A falling feather

Does not pick up speed as it falls

It glides to and from

and kisses the ground


Ours was a slow descent

Broken on soft impact


After a fall so gradual

It was mistaken for flight


- Ricki Rothchild


Though the title of Ricki Rothchild’s poem is “Lesson Learned in Quarantine with a Doomed Relationship”, I’ve titled this composition “Softly Broken” as a way of highlighting what I see as the two main aspects of this text, the softness and the brokenness within. The composition also seeks to portray contrasts – steady versus disjunct, uniting versus separating, and struggling versus resolution.


Softly Broken was commissioned in the fall of 2021 by Kara Dugan for a project titled “In a New York Minute”. In this project, five female composers were commissioned to set texts created by NYC poets. The project resulted in a collection of five one-minute pieces that aim to promote female voices while endeavoring to represent our collective experience of transitioning out of pandemic life.


- Carrie Magin



I fold my hands. No, I have

an eraser. I am made of shavings now. 

No. I fold myself into a bow. 

He is still speaking. I let him.


It is always easier to let him.

I fold myself down. What waits 

for me, in the basement of my heart?

Does he? No. I know it. I fold down. 

I fold down further, I—


- Brittany Cavallaro


"Complicity" was created as a collaboration between Brittany Cavallaro, poet; Laura Osgood Brown, soprano; and myself. 


The three of us co-taught a collaborative course in 2018-2019 at the Interlochen Arts Academy. Over the course of the year, we worked with students on creating text, setting it to music all the while working with performers.  When the project was launched, we decided to model the collaborative process for our students and enjoy the opportunity to work together ourselves.  This work is the result.


Brittany, Laura and I discussed what the topic of our collaboration should be about together.  We wanted to comment on something that was important to all of us— that had impacted all of us.  We chose the idea of women who have been 'talked over' in some situations.  The idea of not being heard, seen, or acknowledged was something we had/have all experienced and have felt lesser than because of it. 


- Cynthia Van Maanen



Take off my gown, let down my fiery hair,

do with me what you’ve wanted, have your will.

Nothing will change though you possess me whole.

All you engender in me time will kill.

Time the assassin shadow at the door

that sniggered as you entered, time the sill

on which you set your watch just now, the wall

you lean against, the ceiling and the floor.

Time is the house you’re born in and it’s here

We’ll burn to the bittersweetened end, my dear.

The rafters are lit already, see the fire

lick at the sheets I lie inside. Don’t fear,

the flames won’t touch you, we’ve been through this before

night after night. You know my name, remember?


- Todd Hearon


In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne was the mother of the muses and the goddess of memory. This evocative poem reflects on the transient nature of memory – the way memory is continuously consumed, something that cannot live on into the future because of its impermanence. Each line of this sonnet ends with a masculine ending – except the final line (“remember”), which fittingly leaves the poem unresolved. In setting this text to music, I was captivated by the themes of power/powerlessness, fire and flames alluding to the phoenix, and the monotony, repetition, and destructiveness of time.


The poem “Mnemosyne” was first published in the The Cincinnati Review, and the musical setting was later commissioned by the publication.


- Carrie Magin



Spring: First Question


And how will you answer your children

who will need me to answer their own thirsts,

who will ask the question you all must carry:

what did you do with your precious water?


- Anne-Marie Oomen


Anne-Marie Oomen is an extraordinary writer I have been privileged to work with on several occasions.  Her collection of poems entitled "I, Water" is compelling. The first poem in this collection is "Spring: First Question" which is the basis for my composition. 


Through the music, I worked to capture the soothing voice of water that Anne-Marie gives her words but with the urgency and fear that is also present (at least in my interpretation).  The interwoven voice and English horn are meant to represent our interaction with water, our need for it. 


- Cynthia Van Maanen


[8], [9], [10]  ALL ELSE ABOVE

I Said to Love


I said to Love,

“It is not now as in old days

When men adored thee and thy ways

      All else above;

Named thee the Boy, the Bright, the One

Who spread a heaven beneath the sun,”

      I said to Love.


      I said to him,

“We now know more of thee than then;

We were but weak in judgment when,

      With hearts abrim,

We clamoured thee that thou would’st please

Inflict on us thine agonies,”

      I said to him.


      I said to Love,

“Thou art not young, thou art not fair,

No faery darts, no cherub air,

      Nor swan, nor dove

Are thine; but features pitiless,

And iron daggers of distress,”

      I said to Love.


      “Depart then, Love! . . .

—Man’s race shall end, dost threaten thou?

The age to come the man of now

      Know nothing of?—

We fear not such a threat from thee;

We are too old in apathy!

Mankind shall cease.—So let it be,”

      I said to Love.





If but some vengeful god would call to me

From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,

Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,

That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting!” 


Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,

Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;

Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I

Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.


But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,

And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?

—Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,

And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. . . .

These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown

Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.



Between Us Now


Between us now and here -

   Two thrown together

Who are not wont to wear

   Life’s flushest feather -

Who see the scenes slide past,

The daytimes dimming fast,

Let there be truth at last,

   Even if despair.


So thoroughly and long

   Have you now known me,

So real in faith and strong

   Have I now shown me,

That nothing needs disguise

Further in any wise,

Or asks or justifies

   A guarded tongue.


Face unto face, then, say,

   Eyes mine own meeting,

Is your heart far away,

   Or with mine beating?

When false things are brought low,

And swift things have grown slow,

Feigning like froth shall go,

   Faith be for aye.


- Thomas Hardy


The poetry of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) has been captivating for me to set, because I’m intrigued and moved by the depth of language and meaning in his work. As a composer, I’m inspired by texts that are both rich with imagery and sonically pleasing – and for me, Hardy’s poetry balances these qualities in a delightfully eloquent way.


All Else Above is a setting of three Thomas Hardy poems, each of which revolves around love. “I Said to Love” questions love: considering how love has changed over time, the disillusionment of love, and eventually the denial of love. My setting of “Hap” expresses a cold and abrasive tone as the text conveys the pain of lost love and how unjust the randomness of life is. “Between Us Now” is the culminating movement of the cycle, voicing a hopeful view of love, connection, and fulfillment.


- Carrie Magin




Oil on Canvas

47” x 49”


I scraped this surface clean and wiped away everything that came before five, maybe six times.  Everything I painted felt of little consequence.  I deposited each of those paintings at the top of my canvas - a testament to emptiness. 


Then I thought of my father when I was young, pointing his reckless finger towards the heavens. 


I peered through his dusty old telescope earlier this winter at the moons of Jupiter – drifting at unimaginable speeds through an endless expanse. 


What a fragile thing it is to be alive. 



- Conor Fagan

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