The Brook, 1891. Edward MacDowell, 1860-1908. MacDowell Collection, box 17, folder 5. Music Division, Library of Congress.
Slumber Song, 1891. Edward MacDowell, 1860-1908. MacDowell Collection, box 17, folder 5. Music Division, Library of Congress.
These two brief unaccompanied works, from MacDowell's first period of choral writing during his Boston years, are similar to his accompanied solo songs. Delightfully tuneful melodies are employed within regular phrase groups in a somewhat adventuresome harmonic framework. The textures are mostly homophonic with some polyphonic interest.
No. 1, The Brook
The text of The Brook, written by MacDowell, uses the idea of a stream to illustrate life and love. It runs through light and shadow, field and forest, on to the ocean where both love and life end. The burble of a stream is illustrated in the 6/8 rolling effect, moving from F major to D major and, at the highest dynamic and dramatic moment, returning to F Major via the dominant for the final line, "Ends our life of emotion, Ah!"
No. 2, Slumber Song
Setting his own text, MacDowell describes a winter scene: "Frozen is the ground, / The stream's ice bound, / Softly the north wind croons, softly croons." In the final stanza, a "flaxen head," perhaps a child's, rests on the poet's shoulder while it snows outside. The text and melody are carried by the soprano while the lower three voices hum. Harmony is chromatic and tonalities explore major and minor, all in eight-measure phrases.