Cello Songs

Note: This is a digital score (PDF).

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Note: *”Winter” is available here as a stand-alone movement.


“Cello Songs” was commissioned by Doug Bella and David Hunt for the St. Charles Singers in memory of Doris J. Hunt.

On my living room wall, I have a letterpress broadside of the poem “Cello” by Dorianne Laux. Its central image is a dead tree, fallen into the arms of a living one. As years pass, it “…rubs its fallen body / against the living, building / its dead music / making its raw mark, / wearing the tough bough down / as it moans and bends, the deep / rosined bow sound of the living / shouldering the dead.”

Todd Boss, a frequent collaborator of mine, has created a new, four-movement text inspired by Dorianne’s poem. Intended as love songs, the texts use the seasons as a structure to examine how the cello might come to mean very different things to us as we progress through the beauty and complexity of our lives.

Musically, each movement focuses on a different playing technique of the cello: Summer - long tones, Autumn - spiccato, Winter - glissando, Spring - pizzicato. The text of each movement responds to these including playful, plunking raindrops in spring!

SATB with divisi, cello, piano


Cello Songs
by Todd Boss

I. Summer

How sweetly
summer wheat
opens its fragrance
on the air!

How can it be
in our nature
to make war,
with wholesomeness
and sweetness
we braid kernels
of despair?

II. Autumn

on its back where
the woodgrain

a cello matches
a player’s
inner torches

till one red roar
in horsehair
and wire

burns so bright
it overturns
the night,

and its light
lights the world

III. Winter

When a dead tree
in a living tree’s
arms lies
balefully bowing
in the glade,

seems colder,
the earth a little

the living
more forgiving,

and loving
well made.

IV. Spring

Each wet splat slaps what dirt keeps trapped like
each plucked note knocks at hearts locked shut.

1 review for Cello Songs


    Wonderful poetry! Can’t wait to hear the finished musical work.

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