Monday, October 18, 2010


Musical Monday is upon us once again, & this time around we have our Alice in Wonder Band song of the month. 

When the Alice in Wonder Band started out, most of our repertoire was written by Eberle—actually, as I believe I’ve written in previous posts, our decision to move more toward covering old standards & away from original material was probably a mistake: Eberle is an excellent composer, & she had a knack of writing material that would bring out band members’ strengths & steer clear of their weaknesses.

Another feature of the early Alice in Wonder Band songs was that several involved Eberle composing musical settings for poems by women poets.  She wrote music for poems by H.D., Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson & Joanne Kyger.  In fact, her setting for “Lethe” actually was part of the music she wrote for a high school production of Antigone that was staged in December 2001; that production led directly to the formation of the Alice in Wonder Band, since the original five instrumentalists in the Wonder Band were also the Antigone “orchestra,” & Kati Sheldon, the band’s original vocalist, was a featured member of the cast.  Kati is singing the song in this recording, which was made at the Alpine Playhouse in September 2002.

The line-up in addition to Kati was: Lois Fry, violin; Art Troutner, oboe; Eberle Umbach, marimba; Barb Dixon, drum & percussion; & yours truly on electric guitar.  I have no idea why the electric guitar sounds so strange in this recording!  There actually weren’t any odd settings on the amp—it was played “clean.”  But the recording was done on a minidisk thru a small condenser mic, & the quality is not all it might be. 

The images accompanying the music in the slideshow are all some form of waterway in the area of southwestern Idaho & southeastern Oregon.  Obviously, “Lethe” refers to the river in the Classical Greek underworld whose waters erase the memory of the shades. 

I’ve included the poem for your added enjoyment.  Hope you like the music!


Nor skin nor hide nor fleece
     Shall cover you,
Nor curtain of crimson nor fine
Shelter of cedar-wood be over you,
     Nor the fir-tree
     Nor the pine.

Nor sight of whin nor gorse
     Nor river-yew,
Nor fragrance of flowering bush,
Nor wailing of reed-bird to waken you,
     Nor of linnet,
     Nor of thrush.

Nor word nor touch nor sight
     Of lover, you
Shall long through the night but for this:
The roll of the full tide to cover you
     Without question,
     Without kiss.


Pic is of the poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), taken c. 1921


  1. Very interesting! I can definitely see this as part of the incidental music for a production of Antigone. And I'd never heard of H.D. before this, so I learned something new, too. Thanks!

  2. Gorgeous poem! The word Lethe and its meaning is beautiful, too. Lovely accompaniment to my morning coffee.

    By the way, Alice in Wonder Band is a marvelous name!

  3. I love how the music has the feel of a procession, accompanying someone into oblivion, and a gentle haunting quality. It also brings out the rhythms in the poem so well.

    And the last two lines in Doolittle's poem especially make me shiver. A quiet finality to them.

  4. Hi Roy, Nana Jop & HKatz

    Roy: Thank you--glad you liked this. Eberle wrote just killer music for Antigone, tho a far amount of it was in odd meters like this--7/8.

    Nana Jo: Glad you liked the band name. It was Eberle's brainchild. Eberle, Lois (the violin player) & I first played music together for a High School production of Alice in Wonderland! & yes--that is a beautiful poem indeed.

    HKatz: If my memory serves me, I do believe it served as a procession in the play--I think it was sung while Antigone was being led to her entombment. As I mentioned to Roy, the music is in a somewhat odd time signature that gives it a bit of a lurching quality. As far as the poem goes--it definitely is one for shivers & raised hair--real poetry.

  5. I was a bit uncertain about this for the first verse, but by the third verse, I was completely hooked. Quite mesmeric, perfect for the subject matter. Loved that oboe bit in the middle! And the poem is terrific - those second line rhymes, cover you, river-yew, lover, you are quite incredible.
    And that is not at all like I pictured Idaho / Oregon - its so untidy it could be Ireland (and I mean that as a compliment)

  6. Hi Peter: First, thanks for following here--much appreciated. Glad you liked the music. Yes, Idaho is quite rag-tag in many spots, especially in the rangeland & desert areas.


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