Sky Songs

Solo mezzo-soprano and piano

Premiered at my graduate composition recital, December 7, 2009, Harris Theater, George Mason University; Leigh Ann Hinton, soprano, and Raffi Kasparian, piano

  1. High Flight
  2. I Look Into the Stars
  3. When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
First movement
Second movement
Third movement

This is my one and only piece to date composed for solo voice. Mark Camphouse (one of my teachers in graduate school, and a composer most well-known for writing works for band) told me he couldn’t in good conscience let me leave with a masters degree in composition without writing a song cycle. He was, of course, right.

The first step was to find appropriate text, and I started with ‘High Flight,’ a poem well-known in military aviator circles. Once that was selected, it was only natural to gravitate toward other poems that celebrate or express wonder at the sky.

I wish I could find more information on Jane Draper, the poet who wrote the text of the second movement, ‘I Look Into the Stars.’ I’m particularly proud of this movement, since it’s the first time I’ve “let go of the reins” and incorporated some aleatoric technique to my composition.

The last movement is a setting of Walt Whitman, whose poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” paints a portrait of a daydreamer who doesn’t exactly find a haughty academic’s view of the universe as compelling as the teacher might hope.