What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
In the middle of Covid, my friend Sarah Farr commissioned a setting of this poem for her trio. Recently, the amazing, young mezzo, Deanna Eberhart, was getting ready for her Masters recital. She asked me if I had written anything for mezzo. I gave her this piece, and she gave a stunning performance of it last week.
I personally think it may be my best art song. The ending after the volta in the text is an experiment that I think turned out to be extremely delicate and poignant. I basically wrote a jazz standard for the final sestet, and then I exploded the accompaniment by only letting the piano and clarinet play single pitches that are rhythmically randomized through my own secret devices. It makes my tear up every time I hear it.