Counting The Beats (for mezzo-soprano)

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1.Counting the Beats 2.Reproach 3.She Tells Her Love While Half Asleep 4.Song: The Far Side of Your Moon

This set of four songs was composed in 1984 with permission of the poet, Robert Graves. It was premiered at the Royston Arts Festival by Amanda Simpson (mezzo soprano) and the composer (piano), on 11th May 1984.

The first song, which shares its title with the set as a whole, is, for the most part, in a gentle, intimate mood. It starts in the dorian mode, centred on E, and works its way to finish in a rather ambiguous, inconclusive A Major.

The song uses a four- or five-note descending motif, which occurs about 24 times, as well as several inversions of it.

The second song, Reproach, centres around an F minor mode, with a persistent flattened fifth note, which occurs in several places, notably at two of the cadences, giving an unusual feel.

The diminished fifth (diabolus in musica) interval helps to produce an unsettled effect, to word-paint all the more poignantly.

The third song has just three musical lines for the soloist. The piano contributes a significant part to this dialogue, in a freely adapted dorian mode, centred on F sharp.

Its yearning quality is achieved with a mixture of upwardly-reaching melodic lines, chromaticism, and modulation to remote keys. The song concludes with a reference to the predominant motif of the first song, but this time in contrary-motion with the piano.

The final song is a confident peroration in an overall mixolydian mode, centred on the note E. Joyous piano arpeggios and chord clusters join forces with extrovert vocal lines which re-employ several motifs from the first movement, unifying the set still further.

To consolidate this, the piano restates the earlier 'Counting the beats' theme, providing a jubilant coda before the climactic conclusion, which is also left to the piano.

Counting the Beats has also been transcribed for baritone by the composer, as Op.8a.

Score ID
Difficult (Grades 7+)
9 minutes
Voice + keyboard
Classical music

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