Instrumentation: Soprano & Piano
Commission: Amy Johnson
Soprano Amy Johnson, Pianist Kathleen Kelly,
& Director Vincent DeGeorge
Patricia Corbett Theater
Cincinnati College Conservatory
Patterns, a monodrama for soprano and piano, is a setting of the poem of that name by Bostonian Amy Lowell (1874–1925). Lowell broke many of the patterns imposed upon her by society. Although she was not allowed to attend college, she lived her life on her own terms and became a highly regarded poet and author. I have been drawn to her poetry for a long time, and Patterns seemed especially apt when soprano Amy Johnson and I discussed texts for her commission. The societal patterns the narrator rails against range from the garments that imprison her body to the “… pattern called a war…” that catches her fiancé in its maw. She plays wondrously with patterns in the poem, at times with dazzling internal rhymes (“… daffodils/bright blue squills”). But she also breaks patterns. She shifts line lengths, and inserts unexpected repetitions and line breaks. With all this local brilliance she creates a powerful arc that I reflect in my setting. Patterns begins with the narrator walking in her blossoming garden, corseted in stiff brocade, before going on to describe her soft body beneath as she dreams of meeting with her lover, but ends with anguish over his death and abcry against the pattern of war. In this arc, Lowell also celebrates the cycles of nature, from flowers in full bloom, to the asters of fall, to snow.