Colors of Feelings

A song cycle for Soprano and Piano

Duration: 16′

Premiere: 2008: Alice Tully Hall, New York: Susanna Phillips, soprano and Craig Terry, piano
Commissioned by Susanna Phillips

4 songs on the poems of Tennesseean poet Wynelle Ann Carson:

  1. Death of the Muse

  2. Dream

  3. You Sing for Me

  4. When Our Hearts Were Young

Philip lasser writes:

“The poetry of words and the poetry of music make for a strange alchemy. Words in a poem can juxtapose different images, tone and meaning much more rapidly than the more river-like flow of music. Right angles in thoughts and sudden shifts of style are much more natural in the world of poetry than in the world of sound. Music must evolve more slowly to evoke a color, an emotion or a mood.

Such was the challenge I felt when Susanna Phillips asked me to look at the poems of Wynelle Ann Carson, for a possible set of songs. This remarkable woman who through her tragically short life sought a poetic world having little to do with her own personal struggles and pain. “A modern day Emily Dickinson” I thought after reading her poems. 

There could not be for me a more difficult poetic language to set. Short, intense poems flitting rapidly through vivid images, emotional states and tone. Each poem traveling exceedingly far in surprisingly few words. Each poem, like a perfume, an intense distillation of a complex life made up of inner optimism, depth and power.

The challenge of setting these poems of Wynelle Ann Carson soon became an obsession for me; then a profound learning experience. My musical language slowly transformed itself to adapt to her rhythm, her ideas, her voice. I witnessed a change in what I could hear as possible. What a rare experience to discover a new sound to one’s own voice through the power of the poetic talent of another. When setting poetry to music, for me the poem reigns supreme. It is my hope that in my music,  Wynelle Carson’s words have found their musical twin and in so doing, that the words of her poetry live comfortably in the poetry of my music.”