Monday, November 26, 2012

Poetry Monday: A Wind Has Blown the Rain Away

ee cummings' work has got to be among the most difficult to set to music.  It's strongly visual in its placement. It's complex rhythmically, and has such a strong, innate musicality that doesn't rely on the traditional rhyme but instead through sound and structure, and the confounding of traditional syntax. Nevertheless, Ellen Mandel has such a deep understanding of the work that she's managed to enhance and support it through her 15 compositions on a wind has blown the rain away. I've featured her CD the first of all my dreams in an earlier blog post, and one of the things I mentioned was that Cummings was the star of that CD.  In a wind has blown the rain away it's all Cummings. The music is so apt - mimicking the motion and themes of the work without ever detracting from it.  Todd Almond's voice is sublime too. The title song is one of my favourites. I've reprinted the entire poem, a Shakepearean sonnet, below, and you can listen to it by clicking onto Ellen's website here (just scroll down - it's the 10th song):

a wind has blown the rain away and blown
the sky away and all the leaves away,
and the trees stand.  I think i too have known
autumn too long

                  (and what have you to say,
wind wind wind—did you love somebody
and have you the petal of somewhere in your heart
pinched from dumb summer?
                            O crazy daddy
of death dance cruelly for us and start

the last leaf whirling in the final brain
of air!)Let us as we have seen see
doom’s integration………a wind has blown the rain

away and the leaves and the sky and the
trees stand:
             the trees stand.  The trees,
suddenly wait against the moon’s face.


  1. At last I've had a moment to come over here and have a listen! Fascinating to hear e.e. cumming as (convincing) cabaret. Mandel strikes me as within the same song tradition as Ned Rorem. Is that plausible, or no connection? (Now listening to Gray Room. Wonder what Stevens would think of this!)

    1. I think Stevens would have appreciated the rendition of Gray Room - the smile in the voice and the repetition of the final line. I especially liked the way the song ends on an intake of breath. This reply is from Mandel (who asked me to put it in for her):

      Dear Prufrocksdilemma, Thanks for listening!! These songs are within the same art song tradition as Ned Rorem's. Glad you listened to "Gray Room" too! I don't know whether you know the Henry James novella "Washington Square" or the play adapted from it---"The Heiress"-----The poem and song are like a portrait of the heroine at the end of the play. I wonder whether Wallace Stevens knew the story-----Best----Ellen Mandel

  2. e.e. cummings, with an "s," it should have been. My eyes do have more trouble these days with these small boxes! I know how furiously your heart is beating . . . priceless.