Nathan Jones: I Would Live in Your Love

Context

The lyrics from Nathan Jones’ choral work I Would Live in Your Love are taken from
Sara Teasdale’s poem of the same name. The poem was originally featured in Teasdale’s collection of poetry Helen of Troy of Other Poems, which was published in 1911. I Would Live in Your Love is a great example of Teasdale’s development as a poet in the 20th century. Many of her poems aimed to bridge the gap between Victorian traditions and 20th century free verse.

Whilst the poem does use elements of rhyme and meter, the text is uneven and the end of stanzas don’t always meet neatly. There is no sense of couplets either, giving an uneasy feel throughout. The poem speaks of profound beauty that reveals a woman who wished to shunt Victorian tradition and marry for true love. 

 

The Lyrics

I would live in your love as the sea-grasses live in the sea,

Borne up by each wave as it passes, drawn down by each wave that recedes;

I would empty my soul of the dreams that have gathered in me,

I would beat with your heart as it beats, I would follow your soul as it leads.

 

The Music

Jones explained his choice in using this poem and how he approached setting it to music:

 

“I chose to set the text using rich harmonic language and a thick texture to reflect the poet’s desire to be completely consumed by love. The first stanza of the poem draws a metaphor between sea-grass surrounded by ocean waves and the poet surrounded by love.  Throughout the piece, the pervasive melodic content is a minor third (G – B-flat) filled in by the middle note (A). This motive symbolizes the ocean surrounding the grass and, ultimately, the feeling of being consumed by love.  

I incorporated my love for the music of Robert Schumann at the climax of the piece by referencing the first movement of his Op. 17, for piano which he wrote for Clara Wieck.  Here, he uses a recurring theme that signifies, “Clara;” a descending 5-note scale. At the climax, on the words, “your soul”, I use this motive that cascades through the voices.  The piece should be performed with sensitivity and flexibility, allowing punctuation to guide phrasing and breathing.”

 

Jones’ way of building each set of voices up to create these rich textures starts from the very beginning. The staggered entries coupled with the rich harmonic movement from the lower voices adds to the ethereal atmosphere. There is a feeling of being completely consumed by the voices, which means that Jones makes his point effectively. 

The cluster chords add sparkling dissonance throughout, with the top voices especially bringing out some of that magic. The dissonances are largely subtle, which adds to the elegance of the piece. For some of the piece the voices are in conversation with one another, which makes the texture even richer. When the voices unite it packs even more of a punch as a wall of sound has been effectively built by Jones.

The song ends with the voice coming together to sing the last line in quietly before delicately trailing off into silence. 

 

Final Thoughts

Nathan Jones’ setting of Sara Teasdale’s poem I Would Live in Your Love is full of harmonic and textural delights. Jones’ intelligent and creative style in how he writes for voices leaves you wanting more!

 

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Eric Whitacre: i carry your heart

 

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