Joyful Noise (2006)

Performance: SUNY-New Paltz Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Edward Lundergan, Artistic Director; Gary Palmieri, piano


Grasshoppers.mp3  2:25

Sap's rising  
  Ground's warming
Grasshoppers are Grasshoppers are
hatching out hatching out
Autumn-laid eggs  
Young stepping  
  into spring
Grasshoppers Grasshoppers
hopping hopping
Grassjumpers Grassjumpers
jumping jumping
Vaulting from  
leaf to leaf  
stem to stem leaf to leaf
plant to plant stem to stem
leapers leapers
bounders bounders
springers springers
soarers soarers
Leapfrogging Leapfrogging
longjumping longjumping
grasshoppers grasshoppers.


Fireflies.mp3  3:57

Light Light
  is the ink we use
Night Night
is our parchment  
fireflies flickering
glimmering fireflies
Insect calligraphers Insect calligraphers
practicing penmanship  
  coping sentences
Six-legged scribblers Six-legged scribblers
of vanishing messages,  
  fleeting graffiti
Fine artists in flight Fine artists in flight
adding dabs of light  
  bright brush strokes
Signing the June nights Signing the June nights
as if they were paintings as if they were paintings
flickering fireflies
fireflies flickering
fireflies. fireflies.

Water Striders

WaterStriders.mp3  1:26

Whenever we're asked Whenever we're asked
if we walk upon water if we walk upon water
we answer we answer
  Of course.
To be sure.  
  It's quite true.
Whenever we're asked Whenever we're asked
if we walk on it often if we walk on it often
we answer we answer
Quite often.  
  Each day.
All day through.  
Should we be questioned Should we be questioned
on whether it's easy on whether it's easy
we answer we answer
  Quite easy.
A snap.  
  It's a cinch.
Should we be told Should we be told
that it's surely a miracle that it's surely a miracle
we reply we reply
Whenever we're asked Whenever we're asked
for instructions for instructions
we always say we always say
  Come to the pond's edge
and do as we do.  
  Put down one foot
and then put down another.  
  resting upon the thin film
  on the surface.
Believe me, there's no call  
at all to be nervous  
  as long as you're reasonably
  mindful that you -
But by that time our student But by that time our student
no matter how prudent  
has usually has usually
  don't ask me why
sunk from view sunk from view.

The Moth's Serenade

MothSerenade.mp3  1:17

Porch                                                    Porch

light,                                                     light,

hear my plight!                                      hear my plight!

I drink your light

like nectar                                             like nectar

                                                            Dream of you

by day                                                  by day

Gaze in your eyes

all  night                                                all night

Porch light!                                            Porch light!

                                                            Bright paradise!

I am                                                     I am

your seeking

circling                                                  seeking

sighing                                                  circling

lovesick                                                 sighing


You are                                                 You are           

                                                            my soul’s

my soul’s                                              desire

desire                                                   my prize

my prize                                               my eye’s


Porch light!                                            Porch light!

My shining star!

                                                            My compass needle’s North!

“Keep back,” they say                            “Keep back,” they say

I can’t!

“Don’t touch,” they say                           “Don’t touch,” they say                        

                                                            I must!

Porch light!                                            Porch light!

Let’s clasp                                             Let’s kiss

Let’s kiss                                               Let’s clasp

Let’s marry for a trice!                            Let’s marry for a trice!

Porch light!                                            Porch light!

Let’s meet                                             Let’s merge

Let’s merge                                           Let’s meet

Let’s live for love!

For light!                                                For light!


Cicadas.mp3  3:00

Afternoon, mid-August  
Two cicadas singing Two cicadas singing
  Air kiln-hot, lead-heavy
Five cicadas humming Five cicadas humming
Thunderheads northwestward  
Twelve cicadas buzzing Twelve cicadas buzzing
  Up and down the street
the mighty choir's the mighty choir's
assembling assembling
Shrill cica-  
das Ci-
droning cadas
  in the elms
Three years Three years
spent underground  
  among the roots
in darkness in darkness
Now they're breaking ground  
  and climbing up
  the tree trunks
splitting skins  
and singing and singing
rejoicing cicadas
  pouring out their
fervent praise fervent praise
  for heat and light
their hymn their hymn
sung to the sun  
Cicadas Cicadas
ing ci-
ring ci-
chanting from the treetops chanting from the treetops
forth their sending
booming forth their
boisterous booming
joyful noise! joyful noise!

Poems are reprinted, with permission of the author, from Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, copyright 1988 by Paul Fleischman

Joyful Noise is based on Paul Fleischman’s excellent book, Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices.  Written as a children’s book about the insect world (but widely appreciated by adults), the poems in this book were designed to be read aloud by two readers at once, sometimes by one voice alone, sometimes by both in unison, sometimes with two different lines read simultaneously. Although I am writing for four (and occasionally more) different voice parts, and occasionally venture into overlapping polyphony, I have attempted to stay true to the “two readers” concept, by dividing the poems into Soprano/Alto and Tenor/Bass statements. I vary the texture of the music with the polyphony already mentioned and sometimes by using only one or the other of the male or female voice parts.

Although Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices consists of fourteen verses, I have written music for only five of the poems: Grasshoppers, Fireflies, Water Striders, The Moth’s Serenade (which was first composed as a piece for soprano, tenor, cello and piano) and Cicadas. I have such a fondness for these verses that I envision extending this set of pieces at some time in the future. With Paul Fleishman’s generous permission, the five set poems are reprinted here. I urge anyone who is interested to view the poems in their original setting, with the lovely and humorous illustrations by Eric Beddows.

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