Waltzing with the Moon

Published by Roger Dean Publishing Company 
Catalog # 15/2589R

Treble unison/piano
Secular text in English by Vachel Lindsay
Difficulty rating (1-5): 2
Duration: 5 minutes

I. The Moon's the North Wind's Cooky
II. Euclid
III. What the Rattlesnake Said


This piece is based on charming texts by one of my favorite oddball poets, early twentieth century Illinoisan Vachel Lindsay. I have used three of his "moon texts" and made them all into waltzes. Oh, who doesn't love a good Johann Strauss waltz, or the Rosenkavalier waltzes, or Ravels'  La Valse or his Valse Noble et Sentimentale [based on Schubert of course], or Satie's solo piano waltzes? Yes I can go on and on in praise of this delightfully hedonistic form!  Lindsay wrote a fair number of musings upon what various people or animules see when they peer up at the moon or reflect upon the moon. It was hard to pick just three to make a simple set as they are all quite interesting and quirky.

This is my first unison piece, and I'm happy that I stuck to that decision. I have written a few in the past, but always had someone coax me into fleshing the unison vocal part into two or three parts. This time I made sure to stick to the plan- write a simple piece with comfy vocal ranges for young choirs with plenty of musicality, creativity, a neato piano part, and of course the most important thing- great texts! A special thanks to Roger Dean editor Scott Foss and series editor Janet Galvan for understanding what I was trying to do here.

#1 The Moon's the North Wind's Cooky

The setting here was somewhat influenced by various BBC TV show theme music scores- the odd little dissonances that make my ears prick up in a way that no American TV show theme ever will. I wish I could actually name the one particular  BBC theme that really stuck ion my head and influenced this piece!

#2 Euclid (What the Little Girl Saw)

The setting here reflects the refreshing simplicity of the little girl's mind- things only get gnarly (and dissonant as harmonies clash over a pedal tone) when the mathematicians are arguing over their theories. The end of the poem is genius in its most simple form- the little girl sees the sheer essence of their mathematical debates as pretty pictures in the sand. Maybe she is the genius and not them?

#3 What the Rattlesnake Said

This is a jazz waltz (well, yes it does fudge around in 5/4 too!) with lotsa crazy jazz chords- piles of altered 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, 13ths here and there, similar to my Alley Cat Love Song piano part) . This require a pretty adept pianist, but I just had to write this part this way. Using part of the choir to whisper along with the pitched notes gives the piece a very fun "snakey" texture. This is an effect I picked up from Bob Chilcott at one of the Oxford summer institutes we worked at together.


The Moon's the North Wind's cooky.
He bites it, day by day,
Until there's but a rim of scraps
That crumble all away.

The South Wind is a baker.
He kneads clouds in his den,
And bakes a crisp new moon that . . . greedy 
North . . . Wind . . . eats . . . again!
OLD Euclid drew a circle 
On a sand-beach long ago. 
He bounded and enclosed it 
With angles thus and so. 
His set of solemn greybeards 
Nodded and argued much 
Of arc and circumference, 
Diameter and such. 
A silent child stood by them 
From morning until noon 
Because they drew such charming 
Round pictures of the moon.
The moon's a little prairie-dog.
He shivers through the night.
He sits upon his hill and cries
For fear that I will bite.

The sun's a broncho. He's afraid
Like every other thing,
And trembles, morning, noon and night,
Lest I should spring, and sting. 



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