Year
1969, revised 1974
Duration
23'
Category
Voice & Orchestra
Instrumentation
Folk Group: 2s.sax, mandolin, banjo, accordion Orchestra: 2(= picc).2.2(II=Ebcl).2-4.4.4.4-timp.perc(5):high bongo dr/tgl/glsp/claves;SD/small susp.cym/xyl/wdbl/tamb/glass wind chimes;TD/large susp cym/marimba/tp.bl/vib;tam-t/tpl.bl/BD/t.bells-2 harps-cel-strings
Premiere
April 13, 1975
Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY
Susan Davenny Wyner, soprano / Buffalo Philharmonic / Michael Tilson Thomas
Commission
Commissioned by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra with the assistance of the New York State Council on the Arts
Dedication
Dedicated to Michael Tilson Thomas
Texts

Texts from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll; "Speak Gently" attributed to David Bates

Contained In
An Alice Symphony for soprano (amplified), folk group, and orchestra (1969, revised 1976)
Tags
Alice Work
Parts
  • I.The Pool of Tears
  • II.The Mouse's Tale
Buy Score
Boosey & Hawkes

"Since 'The Pool of Tears' and 'The Mouse's Tale' are from adjacent chapters of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I have connected them with narration, sketching the events occurring in between. The two songs, then, form one complete 'adventure' from the book. All of the narration is pure Carroll; I have only, in certain instances, abridged the text.

" 'The Pool of Tears' is a parody of a poem of Isaac Watts (1975-1748, English theologian and hymn writer) entitled, 'Against Idleness and Mischief.' It is set side by side with Carroll's skillful parody, which begins, 'How doth the little crocodile...'

"In the first part of my setting, I alternate every two lines of the Carroll parody with the four lines of the Watts original. The music is as contrasting as possible: the former being a slow moving, widely spaced, sostenuto melody, played by the orchestra; the latter a fast patter song of stepwise intervals played by the folk group.

"The second part of the setting combines the two musics, quodlibet style, one atop the other. Much of the orchestral texture and color of the song is meant to evoke the glistening, splashing water and was inspired by the line: 'And pours the waters of the Nile/One every golden scale!'

" 'The Mouse's Tale' is perhaps the best-known example in English of emblematic or figured verse: poems printed in such a way that they resemble something related to their subject matter. In the original manuscript of the book, an entirely different poem appears as the tale, in a way a more appropriate one, for it fulfills the mouse's promise to explain why he dislikes cats and dogs, whereas the tale as it appears in the published edition contains no reference to cats.

"My inspiration for setting 'The Mouse's Tale' was the idea of writing music which actually looked on the page like a tail, just as the Carroll text does in the book. As one reads the poem with a special awareness because of its shape, so too, a glance at my score might similarly surprise. It is only a pity that there is really no sound equivalent of a Mouse's tail; the loss being similar to, say, hearing the poem read over the radio.

" 'The Mouse's Tale' is a perpetuo mobile marked prestissimo possible throughout. Though there is a good deal of humor in the text, I wanted the music to suggest as well an implacable inhuman rodent-world of constant ceaseless motion. After all, it is a mouse talking about mouse emotions!

"The movement is in four connected parts: Tale I (the original poem); Tale II (the published poem); Tale III (the original poem); Coda. It is a compendium of canonic, contrapuntal devices ? though they may not be noticed as such at this frantic, breathless pace."

Like Del Tredici's other 'Alice' pieces, it is a wonderfully imaginative setting of Carroll's poetry.
...written with keen originality and a sense of humor.