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4| Nature's Bequest: A Two-Voice Canon

Claudia Gary


A Note on the Music

"Nature's Bequest" is a very brief vocal setting of lines 3 and 4 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 4. I wrote this two-voice canon in 1981 while taking a course in musical composition. The course's goal was to create a foundation for composing polyphonic music.

This particular assignment, based on one of the lessons J.S. Bach taught to his students, was to choose a short excerpt from any Shakespeare sonnet and create a two-part canon. An additional goal was that the music be meaningfully related to the poem. I chose to do this by using the word "lend" (in Sonnet 4, line 3) as a takeoff point for Voice 2 of the canon. The word acquires an extra layer of meaning as it describes the process of a musical canon, in which one voice branches to become two or more.

In this notation and recording of the canon, the second voice has several notes transposed upward by an octave to enable a soprano to sing both lines. The two vocal lines are otherwise basically equivalent.

Claudia Gary writes, edits, sings, and composes (tonally) near Washington DC. A 2014 finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, 2013 semifinalist for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, and Pushcart Prize nominee, she is author of Humor Me (David Robert Books 2006) and several chapbooks. Her poems appear in anthologies such as Forgetting Home (Barefoot Muse Press 2013) and Villanelles (Everyman Press 2012), as well as in journals published in the USA, UK, Canada, and Amsterdam. She also writes articles on health for The VVA Veteran, VFW, and other magazines. In 2014 she will offer poetry workshops through The Writer's Center ( Brave souls can hear some of Claudia's other music, including a vocal/instrumental trio setting of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 and settings of several contemporary poems, in rough recordings on her two YouTube channels: "cygneify" and "cygneify1." She suggests you try to ignore the visuals that accompany them.

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