In the Desert

Programme Note

In the Desert is a set of five short songs on the poetry of the late nineteenth-century American writer Stephen Crane. Crane is perhaps best known for his novel The Red Badge of Courage, but he is also the author of two volumes of poetry. It is from the first of these volumes, The Black Riders and Other Lines, published when Crane was only 23, that the poems set in In the Desert were taken. The first, third and fifth poems set are love poems, and they are set to extremely delicate and introverted music. The second and fourth songs are much more light-hearted, and are characterised by Crane’s slightly bizarre humour. The poems share repeated imagery of bleak places: ‘a place of blackness’ in the first song; ‘limitless night’ in the third; ‘mile upon mile of snow, ice, burning sand’ in the fifth; and, in the second song, ‘In the desert’, a phrase which doubles as the title of the piece. The poems all share a directness and a vividness of imagery which attracted me greatly. It is this vividness – and indeed simplicity – that I attempted to capture in the music.



1st March 2016
Ossian Ensemble, Anna Dennis (Soprano), Darren Bloom (Conductor)
The Octagon, Queen Mary University of London

Year: 2013
Duration: 7′
Instrumentation: Soprano, Ensemble (fl(=picc+afl).cl(=bcl) – pno –

1 – Places among the stars
2 – In the desert I saw a creature
3 – Should the wide world roll away
4 – Mystic Shadow, bending near me
5 – There was, before me