They Have No Song

Composed by Mary Goetze
Voicing: SA
Instrumentation: piano and pipes
Catalog number: AMP 0442
Price: $1.90


The effect I look for in the pipes and wind sounds is that of wind blowing through rushes and reeds.

I recommend cutting 1/2" PVC pipes into the following lengths:

          5 3/16" = high d         10" = low d
                                             6 1/2" = high c          11 7/16" = low c

The pipes can be tuned by shortening them very slightly to raise the pitch, so I recommend cutting them a tiny bit long and shortening them as needed. You may block one end with tape. The open ends should be blown across, like the hole of a flute. A breathy sound is fine as long as the pitches are perceivable. Any number can be used, but the effect should be quiet and natural, with gentle random unarticulated attacks (i.e., without tonguing) .At the end, each one should fade and stop producing pitch, but just blowing enough to get a "wind" sound that can fade to nothing. Tenor and alto.recorders, blown gently and without vibrato, can be used as well.

Wind sounds should be made by choir members "sizzling" on "'ss" or "sh" ad libitum during the introduction and at the end. They should start almost inaudibly and ease into a steady flow in the background.

My thanks to Ruth Boshkoff, the current director of the Indiana University Children's Choir (IUCC) that I founded in 1980, for inviting me to write this piece and suggesting the haunting text. She requested a song that would accommodate the multiple levels in the children's choir program. While the piece could be sung by a single choir, I recommended that the more advanced choir of the IUCC sing all parts and be joined by the beginning levels in singing the theme that is presented in the A section and returns in the middle and the end.

Sedges are grasses that grow along shorelines and the poet tells us that he hears music when the wind browse over them. “They have no song and yet [in the perceiver] they sing"”to me is a lovely testimonial to the glorious sounds that abound in nature which we can choose or allow ourselves to experience as music! His message can lead to interesting discussions about the role of the listener in music, or the broader question, “What is music and what is not?”

                         Mary Goetze
                         January 2002

Click here to see a sample.

Click here to listen to a recording (MP3).

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