I composed ’The Blue Bird‘ in 2018 for The Gesualdo Six. The text—a beloved poem by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge—evokes “blueness” not just in its title; every image is blue: the lake, the bird’s wings, the sky above and beneath. Far from being monochromatic, though, this poetic meditation reveals a multiplicity within the narrow spectrum we label ”blue.” Royal. Navy. Cobalt. Tiffany. Sky. Midnight. All of these flash, but only briefly, as our winged protagonist catches his fleeting reflection in the lake's glassy surface. Blue, then, is the subject and substance of my musical setting. Harmonically, the piece hovers, as the bird does, in what feels to me like a cool, gentle, blue sound—little variations and reflections on the wings and water here and there, but the piece attempts to remain “blue in blue” (or what Miles Davis might have called “Kind of Blue”) and, after not too long, disappears, as the birds shifts, glides, and vanishes. Melodically, this bird nods to another: to William Byrd, one of the great composers of the English Renaissance, whose contrapuntal inventiveness inspires me. And—I couldn't help myself—my setting alludes to Joni Mitchell's song “Blue,” but I leave it to you to locate the reference.
L’Oiseau Bleu (The Blue Bird)
by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
The lake lay blue below the hill.
O’er it, as I looked, there flew
Across the waters, cold and still,
A bird whose wings were palest blue.
The sky above was blue at last,
The sky beneath me blue in blue.
A moment, ere the bird had passed,
It caught his image as he flew.