Songs of Ecstasy

for Soprano with Percussion and Tape

Ralph Shapey

Duration: 00:20:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

The text was taken from four sources: the Book of Genesis from the Bible; Ulysses by James Joyce; ?this is My Beloved? by Walter Benton; and As You Like It by William Shakespeare. The choice and handling of the text is a paean to the joy of union between man and woman.

The work is so composed that the percussion instruments and tape are handled by both the soprano and pianist.

Movement I ? ?Of One.? This movement expresses the Biblical concept ?and they shall be one flesh.? The text is divided between the actual words and sound syllables taken from the workds themselves. It is in this movement that cymbals and gong are used to create a sumptuous sound image against the melodic contours of the voice and piano.

Movement II ? ?Of Yes.? ?And then I asked him with my eyes? etc.?James Joyce. The piano presents a series of designs which are handled as a cantus firmus reiteration. The tape is a pre-recorded recitation of the text which results in a contrapuntal play of words as the soprano sings sings against herself; while at the same time she strikes the low ?A? of the piano with a timpani mallet in a group of punctuating rhythms. The movement ends as the soprano and tape speak and sing in a final contrapuntal affirmation of ?yes, I said yes I will, yes.? There is a direct segue in to Movement III ? ?My Beloved.?

Movement III ? ?My Beloved.? ?He covers, enters, bursts inside like a screaming rocket ? turns God,? ? Benton, - is between tape and soprano. The tape is a pre-recorded 50? gong. Unisg, again, both text and sound syllables from the words, the two express the intense, voluptuous coming together of man and woman.

Movement IV ? ? O Wonderful.? ?O wonderful, wonderful and most wonderful,? etc. ? Shakespeare ? for soprano and piano gives expression to the final joy of life.?

Additional Information

Composition Date 1967
Premiere 23rd May, 1969. Neva Pilgrim, Soprano, Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Chicago, Mandel Hall, Chicago.


I. Of One
II. Of Yes
III. My Beloved
IV. O Wonderful