Old Addresses

Song Collection

Old Addresses, a cycle of baritone and piano, sets the poetry of several different American male writers, as well as one poem (translated into English) of Egyptian poet C.P. Cavafy.

Date: 2002Composer: William BolcomText: Mark Doty, Langston Hughes, Kenneth Koch, Ezra Pound, A.D. Winans, Arnold Weinstein

Print vitals & song text


Old Addresses

Program Notes for Old Addresses, written by William Bolcom:

When Stephen Salters won the Naumburg and I was requested to write a cycle for him, I decided to give him seven poets’ work that, together, would create a panoramic “fan” of songs. All the fans’ vanes had to fit together well; one of the most difficult challenges in this cycle was finding the right set of poetic weights and shapes to accomplish this. So many wonderful options were considered and rejected, and I was surprised at how hard it would be to select this set of poems. But I think this group fits together in some probably inexplicable way.

“Lady Death” brings back the direct verbal wallop I sometimes felt at North Beach poetry readings during my college days in the Bay Area (I imagine I might even have heard A.D. Winans reading at one, or at KPFA), but there’s also something almost French in the art-brut, in-your-face inexorability of this poem. C.P. Cavafy, the great Cairene poet of a century ago (here translated by Rae Dalvan), contributes an elegant vignette from his homoerotic prowls, “The Next Table,” full of the urbane, rueful humor so typical of him–unfortunately the very sort of thing that might land him in jail in today’s Egypt. Ezra Pound’s early “Histrion” (the Greek word for actor) wonders at the departed spirits of the great that seem to replace Pound’s own within him, so deeply that his own soul seems sometimes effaced.

As with William Blake, one senses that so many of Langston Hughes’ poems seem to have an implicit tune the poet might even have composed and thrown away; I find “Ballad of the Landlord” definitely in this vein. The Provincetown poet Mark Doty’s “The Embrace” heartbreakingly chronicles a dream visit from a lover who has died. The Black Panther George Jackson’s wonderful letters from Soledad Prison contain this ecstatic portrait, “Africa,” here faithfully reworked by Arnold Weinstein into a lyric. With a very New York boulevard poem reminiscent of French surrealistic humor, Kenneth Koch’s “To My Old Addresses” completes the set.

(Note: The second song of the cycle, “The Next Table” by C.P. Cavafy, is not included in the database, as Cavafy is not an American poet/writer.)


Sheet Music

Old Addresses

Composer(s): William Bolcom

Song(s): 1. Lady Death
2. Histrion
3. Ballad of the Landlord
4. The Embrace
5. Africa
6. To My Old Addresses

Buy via Sheet Music Plus

Support us and help us grow

Dear friends, Thank you for helping us build a comprehensive online archive of American song. Your gift is greatly appreciated.