Double Heart (for 2 sopranos, mezzo-soprano, and continuo)



Program Note

Double Heart for 2 sopranos, mezzo-soprano, and continuo was commissioned by Pacific Musicworks and its Artistic Director,Stephen Stubbs,

The text is the poem “A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body,” by the English metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell (1621-1678.)
This 17th-century poem seemed to me to be the perfect choice to complement the Baroque works which would be performed on the program for which it was commissioned – a concert of 17th-century works for women’s vocal trio. The poem contains fertile ground for a composer’s imagination and humor, with its flamboyant language and dramatic descriptions of the “sufferings” and constrictions that the body and soul perceive in each other.


Notes on preparation and performance

Double Heart can be performed as a concert work, or it could be enhanced with Baroque opera-inspired staging or dance. The continuo group is intentionally flexible, and is intended for Baroque instruments (the group heard on this recording consists of viola da gamba, Baroque guitar, Baroque harp.)


A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body
by Andrew Marvell

O who shall, from this dungeon, raise
A soul enslav’d so many ways?
With bolts of bones, that fetter’d stands
In feet, and manacled in hands;
Here blinded with an eye, and there
Deaf with the drumming of an ear;
A soul hung up, as ’twere, in chains
Of nerves, and arteries, and veins;
Tortur’d, besides each other part,
In a vain head, and double heart.

O who shall me deliver whole
From bonds of this tyrannic soul?
Which, stretch’d upright, impales me so
That mine own precipice I go;
And warms and moves this needless frame,
(A fever could but do the same)
And, wanting where its spite to try,
Has made me live to let me die.
A body that could never rest,
Since this ill spirit it possest.

What magic could me thus confine
Within another’s grief to pine?
Where whatsoever it complain,
I feel, that cannot feel, the pain;
And all my care itself employs;
That to preserve which me destroys;
Constrain’d not only to endure
Diseases, but, what’s worse, the cure;
And ready oft the port to gain,
Am shipwreck’d into health again.

But physic yet could never reach
The maladies thou me dost teach;
Whom first the cramp of hope does tear,
And then the palsy shakes of fear;
The pestilence of love does heat,
Or hatred’s hidden ulcer eat;
Joy’s cheerful madness does perplex,
Or sorrow’s other madness vex;
Which knowledge forces me to know,
And memory will not forego.
What but a soul could have the wit
To build me up for sin so fit?

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