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since feeling is first (1993)


available from the composer

duration ca. 7:00



solo male voice and mixed choir


since feeling is first

by e. e. cummings

since feeling is first 
who pays any attention to the syntax of things 
will never wholly kiss you:

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

and death I think is no parenthesis

Innovative American poet e. e. cummings (1864-1962) is known for his unusual lack of capitalizations, distorted syntax and missing punctuation. These devices are employed in the service of emphasizing the sound of the words as much, and perhaps more than in the service of their meaning. At heart, though, cummings is a Romantic, and since feeling is first may well be his most traditionally Romantic poem. My setting is for baritone soloist, who presents the text in a straightforward manner through conventional pitch and rhythmic notation; accompanied by a chorus who sings isolated consonants and vowels taken from the sound material of the poem. The piece is dedicated to my loving wife, Lorrie.

since feeling is first was premiered by Christopher Denney, baritone, with the Hong Kong Baptist College Contemporary Music Workshop conducted by Christopher Coleman on  ​May 14, 1993 at Hong Kong Baptist College.  This recording is of the Shepherd Singers; Thomas Jaber, conductor; James Jirtle, baritone; February 11, 2006; Edythe Bates Old Recital Hall; Rice University, Houston, TX.

since feeling is first from COMPLETE POEMS, 1904-1962, by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage, is used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright (c) 1926, 1954, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust.

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