To The Cicada, for soprano and piano (2021)
(Music starts at 2:15)
Written for Dena Goodman.
Music written by Daniel Despins; text written by Meleager of Gadara, with translation by William Allingham.
Premiered on June 29, 2022, at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London; featuring Dena Goodman (soprano) and Marc Verter (piano).
In the summer of 2021, the variety of cicadas known as Brood X emerged in the eastern United States after being underground for nearly 17 years, filling the air with their iconic buzzing chorus. The sound of thousands of cicadas singing together is an incredible phenomenon of nature - it is no wonder that artists throughout the ages have created tributes to these creatures, including the Syrian-Greek poet Meleager of Gadara. Meleager’s touching ode to the insect serves as the foundation of this song, which is my own contribution to the anthology of artworks dedicated to these awe-inspiring creatures.
Cicada, drunk with drops of dew,
What musician equals you
In the rural solitude?
On your perch within the wood,
Scraping to your heart’s desire
Dusky sides with notchy feet
Thrilling, shrilling, fast and sweet,
Like the music of a lyre.
Dear Cicada, I entreat,
Sing the wood-nymphs something new,
So that from his arboured seat
Pan himself may answer you,
Till every inmost glade rejoices
With your loud alternate voices.
And if I may listen, and forget
All the thorns, the doubts and fears,
Love in this sad heart hath set —
Listen, and forget them all;
And so, with music in mine ears,
Where the plane-tree-shadows steep
The ground with coolness, softly fall
Into a noontide sleep.
Meleager of Gadara (1st Century BCE)
Translation by William Allingham