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Six Songs and An Interlude

Alice Through the Looking-Glass


(for soprano, baritone, and piano)



1. General Information

These songs are taken from my opera Alice Through the Looking-Glass.   A video score of the full orchestration of the complete opera along with a piano score and the orchestral parts is here


The material for the songs was composed around 1976 except for “Little Fishes” which was composed in 1983.  William was studying with George Crumb at the time so these songs bear his influence—the use of 8ths as beat units so that the extra ligatures better illustrate the music, the long afterglow ending, the emulation of sounds of nature, the postmodern neo-romanticism, the musical quotations, and the pervasive sense that there’s something magical about music, that it’s an incantation to lead us to other worlds.

Lewis Carroll first told the story when he took Alice and her sisters for a boat ride down the Thames, hence the reoccurring quote from Chopin’s Barcarole (the left-hand figure beginning with open fifths,) the hint of Tristan in the final song (that virtually no one will catch,) the allusions to the dreamworld of Das Lied von der Erde. 

We were living in a ghetto in Philadelphia at the time. A woman (also a student) was stabbed to death right in front of our row house apartment, but we still lived in a world of hopes and dreams that students so often have. A nurse who was a neighbor regularly fed the birds in her back yard which led to a daily chorus of song right out our window. The interlude in the first song and “The Garden of Live Flowers” are pretty much literal quotations of those bird songs which reoccur throughout the cycle.

So many composers have approached the Alice books by highlighting their absurdity, but William’s goal was to capture the way the books are a portrait of Lewis Carroll himself, and above all his love for children. The composition faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1970s, where George Crumb was a member, was the first to strongly advocate a break from serialism and a return to tonality. William had been writing 12-tone music, but through George’s influence wrote these largely tonal songs. The lyricism seemed better suited to capture Lewis Carroll’s much overlooked neo-romanticism, his sense of wonder, and devotion to children.

The titles of the six songs included in this cycle are below and hyperlinked to where they begin in the video. 


1. Child of the Pure Unclouded Brow (baritone.)

2. The Jabberwocky (soprano)

3. The Garden of Live Flowers (piano interlude)

4. In Winter (duo)

5. Little Fishes (baritone)

6. A-Sitting On A Gate (baritone)

7. A Boat Beneath A Sunny Sky (duo)


2. Score

You can download a PDF score of the songs in English here.  The size is 9x12 concert paper.  It should be printed on tabloid and A3 paper and trimed to size.  (Letter and A4 paper work, but the print will be smaller.)


3. Video Score

Here is a video score of the cycle with a piano outlining the vocal parts.  A desktop monitor is necessary to see the full size.  See above for links to specific songs.