by Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 5:45)
There Will Come Soft Rains was commissioned by the Kent County (Delaware) Music Educators Association for the KCMEA 2016 High School Honor Band Festival. The work is inspired by a poem of the same title written by American poet Sara Teasdale:
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
Written in 1920, in the aftermath of The Great War (World War I), the poem reflects Teasdale’s musings about the passage of time after a global cataclysm. In the near future, nature rights itself and returns to normal after suffering the ravages of war. But Teasdale extends her imagination much further into the far-distant future when the whole of mankind is but a memory. And nature remains blissfully unaware of our ever having existed. The music is not intended as a line-by-line sonic representation of the poem, but rather is my attempt to convey my general impressions of the overall impact of Teasdale’s words. There are, however, some direct parallels between the poem and the music: the violent entrances of the snares combined with fanfare-like passages in the introduction allude to war; the high woodwind and trumpet line at measure 45 refer to singing birds; and the final section (measure 106 to the end) refers to the peaceful awakening of Spring. In a larger sense, the music is simply a means to convey my impression of Sara Teasdale’s view of what the world was – and might become – in the wake of “The War to End All Wars”.
Patrick J. Burns