The Music Corner for Piano Lovers

Last Hours of Summer: A Different Kind of Song

14 Sep 2014 News

 A couple of nights ago, my husband and I attended a concert that included Beethoven's Ninth with its famous Ode to Joy theme. In the final movement, Beethoven has the cellos play the theme, which is then taken up by the woodwinds, and then the violins, and finally the entire orchestra. Then, a baritone begins singing, and before long an entire choir of singers raise their voices in praise of the "daughter of Elysium."

Concluding a symphony with voices was quite a novelty when the piece premiered in 1824 in Vienna. Whoever heard of voices within a symphonic movement? But, nevertheless, Beethoven fused a song within the structure of an instrumental piece. The concluding song was an important part of his vision for his symphony.

It's in the same spirit that I offer up Last Hours of Summer: a fusion of instrumental structure with song form. The music is in the ABA ternary form of a piano piece. You can take a listen here: Last Hours of Summer 

The A portion comprises Verse 1 and Chorus 1 (16 measures each). The middle B portion comprises Verse 2, Chorus 2, Bridge, Chorus 2a, and the final A repeats the melody, but has different lyrics for Verse 3 and Chorus 3.

Verse 2 is melodically different from Verses 1 and 3, but rhythmically the same, so the ear doesn't perceive a very great difference. Chorus 2a is melodically and rhythmically similar to Chorus 2, but has different lyrics. All three choruses, in fact, have different lyrics.

While I've composed an optional introduction for anyone who wants to sing along while they play this piece, you won't hear it in the audio sample. I didn't want to dilute the impact of the opening bars. They seem more dramatic without the introduction.

Another difference from typical song structure: the song's title is heard in the opening lines of the piece: Last hours of Summer, they fly away. Fall will replace Summer's Last days. Oh, the last Summer blooms, Never to be seen; Winter looms.

The song is about growing older, and feeling - a recurrent theme as one grows older, I think - that there isn't enough time to accomplish all that one wants to accomplish. When you're young, life yawns ahead of you, and you feel you have all the time in the world to do what you want to do. Some time in your mid-thirties and beyond, you realize that you have just so much time given to you. And you need to use it wisely.

It's also about the dreams of youth that we lose or give up on as we grow older, but with the realization that what we have accomplished and the dreams we pursue in our maturity are in some ways more fulfilling than the ones that fueled our youth. Not all dreams are lost, of course. And even in the later years of our lives, we can take up and pursue some of our youthful dreams.

So, the song is a reminder to look ahead, and to seize the day - even if it's a chilly Fall or a cold Winter day!



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