Stupidity Street - (2008)
for medium or low voice and piano
I saw with open eyes
Singing birds sweet
Sold in the shops
For the people to eat,
Sold in the shops of
I saw in vision
The worm in the wheat,
And in the shops nothing
For people to eat;
Nothing for sale in
from The New Poetry: An Anthology (1917), Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936)
[ 4 pages, circa 1' 30" ]
Ralph Hodgson (1871-1962) was a poet and illustrator, born in Yorkshire, in the north of England. He became a journalist in London and editor of Fry's Magazine, and a member of the group of poets known as the ‘Georgians.’ He is best known for three volumes of poems with the recurring theme of nature and England: The Last Blackbird (1907), Eve (1913), and Poems (1917). He lectured in Japan (1924–38), then made his home in Ohio, USA. In 1914 Hodgson won the Polignac prize for his short poem, "The Song of Honour," and in 1939 Japan awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun. He was recognized for distinguished achievement by the American Academy and the British National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1946, and received the Queen's gold medal for poetry in 1954. Throughout his life, Hodgson numbered many other writers and poets of the day among his friends, including T. S. Eliot, Siegfried Sassoon, W. H. Davies, Samuel Koteliansky and Walter de la Mare. An anthology of his works appeared as The Skylark and Other Poems (1958).
Written for a limited vocal range, the setting jostles between triple and duple meters, though notated wholly in the triple. "Pick up" beats stretch and offset the vocal line while the bass gesture simply rocks up and down in an unchanging three. As with the various political machinations which so often upset economies -- from war to command economic measures -- there are times when mankind experiences manmade scarcity and even manmade famine. The notion of "singing birds" sold as food, and visions of spoiled grain tell a tale of "Stupidity Street," wherein the stupidity is caused by man himself. The song is therefore aggressive in scope.
When governments cause "nothing for people to eat," there is an appropriate rage which should always be directed to the governance, for markets seem work well enough without direction. What is it then which creates "nothing for people to eat?" Inept governance, and little more than that.
The score for Stupidity Street is available in medium and low keys as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.