Aftermath is a song cycle by Ned Rorem for medium voice, violin, cello, and piano. The work was commissioned by the Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, Illinois, to commemorate the inaugural season of the Ravinia Festival Streans Institute for Young Artist's Vocal Chamber Music Program-Welz Kauffman, President and CEO.
Aftermath sets the poetry of John Scott of Amwell, William Blake, John Marston, A. E. Housman, Richard Eberhart, John Hollander, Shakespeare, Walter Savage Landor, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jorge Luis Borges, Randall Jarrell, and Muriel Rukeyser.
In the wake of the September 11th shock, I asked what a thousand other composers must have asked: what is the point of music now? But it soon grew clear that music was the only point. Indeed, the future will judge us, as it always judges the past, by our art more than by our armies—by construction more than by destruction. The art, no matter its theme or language, by definition reflects the time: a waltz in a moment of tragedy, or a dirge during prosperity, may come into focus only a century later.
My need though, as I pondered this instantly and forever changed world—with the Twin Towers in ruins and the Middle East in sorrow—was to reflect the immediate through the choice of texts to be used for this project for Ravinia. A week earlier I might have opted for a whole different slant.
As a Quaker I was raised to believe that there is no alternative to peace. Perhaps it's wrong, perhaps right, but I am not ashamed of this belief. As with war, so with love. Seven decades of observation has shown that love has as many definitions as there are definers. Having lost a great love three years ago, my mood at the close of my life is one of quizzical melancholy. As to whether that mood seems reflected in these songs is not for me to say here in words. Music speaks for itself.
New York, Nantucket
(Source: Boosey & Hawkes Website)
1. The Drum | Text: John Scott of Amwell
2. Tygers of Wrath | Text: William Blake, John Marston, A. E. Housman, and Matthew Arnold
3. The Fury of the Aerial Bombardment | Text: Richard Eberhart
4. The Park | Text: John Hollander
5. Sonnet LXIV | Text: William Shakespeare
6. On his Seventy-Fifth Birthday | Text: Walter Savage Landor
7. Grief | Text: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
8. Remorse for Any Death | Text: Jorge Luis Borges
9. Losses | Text: Randall Jarrell
10. Then | Text: Muriel Rukeyser