Four Songs

for voice and piano

Bushra El-Turk

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for voice and piano

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Composer Bushra El-Turk
Year of Composition 2006
Duration ca.7'
Instrumentation Piano, Voice
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-bet1fs1


Tik Tak, You’d better learn your alphabet, dear, La Souris Couine & Les Chevaux de Bois for voice and piano. All four songs were written as part of my Masters Program at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2006.

Tik Tak is a highly rhythmic piece with minimal motivic elements and the words are based on a children’s poem by the late Lebanese bishop Gregoire Heddad.

You’d better learn your alphabet, dear is a children’s song. Irony is that all these absurd things will happen to this child while the mother’s sings on monotones a major 2nd above the tonal centre until a descending demonic augmented fourth. This shows a sense of nonchalance in the mother’s attitude towards her child but also quite an evil tone. The dance (Bolero, I think) is also used to soften the blow of the scary words she sings to the child.

La Souris Couine was inspired by a newspaper article I read on October 31st, 2005 about scientists’ findings that the utterances of the male mice are actually songs. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“In the literature, there’s a hierarchy of different definitions for what qualifies as a song, but there are usually two main properties,” says lead author Timothy E. Holy, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy. “One is that there should be some
syllabic diversity—recognisably distinct categories of sound, instead of just one sound repeated over and over. And there should be some temporal regularity—motifs and themes that recur from time to time, like the melodic hook in a catchy tune.” The new
study shows that mouse song has both qualities, although Holy notes that the ability of lab mice to craft motifs and themes isn’t quite on a par with that of master songsmiths like birds.

So, I based this piece on just the three words, ‘La Souris Couine’ and play on these words over a repeating Hungarian-like folk tune in the piano.

Les Chevaux de Bois is based on a poem by Paul Verlaine. The hobby-horse is the wooden horse of the merry-go-round. Those “chevaux de bois” to which Verlaine dedicates one of his most sinister poems, makes the roundabout a symbol of the obsessiveness with which men nail themselves to the cross of their own destinies, inspiring me to write a song that could have been a lullaby, hence predominantly in 6/8 which is marred by a representation of something hypnotic and demonic, especially picking up onto the waltz, a dance that traditionally goes round and round, which you often hear on carousels.