Now Say Nay was composed for Ensemble 61 and is a setting of the poem by Dylan Thomas. The poem is split into five stanzas, each beginning with the phrase “Now, say nay,” and composed of (basically) four lines of iambic pentameter. Each refrain is set in almost the exact same way, same notes, same rhythms, with very few exceptions, and I chose to carry this idea across other recurrent words and patterns as well. For instance, the poem exhibits numerous half-rhymes throughout, such as “anchor” and “anger,” or “answer” and “handsaw,” which I decided to set in similar ways to bring out this relationship. Elsewhere, recurrent words such as “fire,” “death,” “mystic,” are all set with the same notes and melodic contour. Never had I used such obvious musical parallels to a text—I would have felt almost ashamed of it had I not thought that this strategy made the most sense.
The instrumentation for this piece posed an interesting challenge for me (no violin, how to deal with the guitar, what percussion to use). Often times I formed two groups out of the instrumentation, one for the low range (guitar, piano and cello), and one for the upper range (winds, piano, percussion). This would leave a significant gap in the middle through which the singer could be heard. Other times, the instruments come together in unison to intone the singer’s pitch (luckily, all the instruments had a significant common range, making such passages easy to accomplish).
PARTS ARE AVAILABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE COMPOSER.