Wilde Colours (2020)
Soprano & Celesta (5-octave) or Soprano & Vibraphone
Texts by Oscar Wilde
Total duration ca. 9'45"
I. Red, White, Yellow, Gold
II. Grey, Black, Brown
III. Blue, Gold, Grey, Ochre, Yellow
Purchase this score from
Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $10
After working with her on multiple projects, I was honored when soprano Arianna Arnold reached out to me about creating some new text settings for her to sing. Inclined towards Gothic poetry, she suggested several options of poems by Edgar Allan Poe. I began setting Poe’s The Valley of Unrest, but lost control of the piece and ended up composing a work for mixed chorus! While that work is also, rightfully dedicated to Arianna, I still had the mission of completing a solo text setting she could sing in front of me. Staying in a similar dramatic register, I decided on three Gothic, sensual, atmospheric poems by Oscar Wilde, that seemed to capture a similar ethos to Poe’s poems. Unlike in The Valley of Unrest, humans are present in these panoramas, but we only glimpse them and speculate on their stories. In an analogy to James Whistler’s tonalist paintings, these texts are about evocation, not argument. Each poem explores a different vista: a pastoral, coastal, and urban landscape respectively, with the piece progressing from morning to evening back around to morning again. I hope that these contrasts bring a sense of forward movement to this song set of suspended moments. While the texts are compact, they are luxuriations in the hues of Wilde’s pen. They are dedicated to Arianna with gratitude and apology.
Note: The work was conceived for soprano and five-octave celesta. Since access to any may be rare, the piece can also be performed with vibraphone. Least ideally, it may be performed with piano, though the more mysterious timbres of either other option are preferable.
Texts Le Reveillon, Impressions du Matin, and Les Silhouettes by Oscar Wilde are in the public domain.