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About this Piece

The poet Archie Ammons, my Cornell colleague and friend, died in 2001. For tonight's concert, I decided to make a new version of my 1992 song cycle Four Poems of A.R. Ammons, originally for baritone and six instruments. That first version, commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, was composed with the wonderful American baritone Sanford Sylvan's beautiful interpretations of Adams and Harbison ringing in my ear. This new version, retitled To Whom I Said Farewell, was tailored for the equally splendid American mezzo Janice Felty. Although the subject of all four poems is death, Ammons is never gloomy. Rather, he is combative at first, arguing with Death but then savoring a "nice dominion in the air, the black so round and deep." He strikes a posthumous bargain with the desert wind, bids tender farewell to eucalyptus, cloud, bird, spider. He departs leaving us inspired and hopeful.