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I Hate Music!

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Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein (trans. Ryan Nowlin)


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Subtitle: A Cycle of Five Kid Songs


General Info

Year: 1943 /
Duration: c. 6:30
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Solo voice
Publisher: U.S. Marine Band
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


Movements

1. My Name is Barbara
2. Jupiter Has Seven Moons
3. I Hate Music!
4. A Big Indian and A Little Indian
5. I’m a Person Too


Instrumentation

(Needed, please join the WRP if you can help.)


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

Leonard Bernstein’s charming song cycle I Hate Music! was dedicated to Edys Merrill, with whom he shared an apartment in New York City in the 1940s. As a young composer, conductor, and soloist, Bernstein often vigorously practiced piano and coached opera singers in the apartment. The incessant musical activity apparently drove Merrill to her breaking point on numerous occasions. She would run about the apartment with her hands over her ears exclaiming, “I hate music!” Amused by the declaration, Bernstein borrowed it for this unique collection of five brief songs. Each offers a perspective on the world around us through the eyes of a young girl. At times, the underlying maturity of these observations cleverly belies the innocence and inexperience of the narrator. Bernstein gives explicit instructions to the singer at the front of the score:

In the performance of these songs, coyness is to be assiduously avoided. The natural, unforced sweetness of child’s expressions can never be successfully gilded; rather will it come through the music in proportion to the dignity and sophisticated understanding of the singer.

Bernstein wrote the poems used for the text of the cycle, and the songs explore a wide variety of topics and emotions. The collection opens with a confident introduction by our protagonist (My Name is Barbara) after plunging into the inevitable question of where babies come from. Moving seamlessly from biology to astrophysics, in the second song, (Jupiter Has Seven Moons) Barbara jauntily demonstrates her knowledge of celestial bodies and wonders why Earth has received short shrift. The third song serves as the centerpiece and namesake of cycle. Declaring “I Hate music! But I like to sing,” Barbara shares her plain view of the rarefied world of classical music. The fourth song (A Big Indian and a Little Indian) is a musical setting of a clever riddle that plays on the assumptions of grownups, and the final song (I’m a Person Too) is a poignant observation on youthful curiosity and the sometimes complex relationship between children and adults.

Jennie Tourel, a noted mezzo-soprano and friend of Bernstein, chose to include I Hate Music! in the program she sang for her famed New York City recital at Town Hall on November 13, 1943. A New York critic called it “Witty, alive, and adroitly fashioned.” It was an important time in Bernstein’s early professional life, for the very next day he gained instantaneous acclaim as a conductor when he stepped in at the last minute for an ailing Bruno Walter to conduct a nationally broadcast performance by the New York Philharmonic.

My Name is Barbara
My mother says babies come in bottles;
But last week she said they grew on special
babybushes.
I don’t believe in storks either!
They’re all at the zoo, bust with their babies!
And what’s a babybush anyway?
My name is Barbara.

Jupiter has Seven Moons
Jupiter has seven moons, or is it nine?
Saturn has a million, billion, trillion
sixty-nine;
Ev’ryone is a little sun, with six little moons
of its own!
But we have only one!
Just think of all the fun we’d have if there were
nine!
Then we could be just nine times more
romantic!
Dogs would bay’ til they were frantic!
We’d have nine tides in the Atlantic!
The man in the moon would be gigantic!
But we have only one! Only one!

I Hate Music!
I hate music! But I like to sing:
La dee da da dee; la dee da dee.
But that’s not music, not what I call music.
No, sir.
Music is a lot of men in a lot of tails,
Making lots of noise like a lot of females.
Music is a lot of folks in a big dark hall,
Where they really don’t want to be at all;
With a lot of chairs, and a lot of airs,
And a lot of furs and diamonds!
Music is silly!
I hate music!
But I like to sing: la dee da da dee.
La dee da dee, la dee da dee.

A Big Indian and a Little Indian
A big Indian and a little Indian were walking
down the street.
The little Indian was the son of the big Indian;
But the big Indian was not the father of the
little Indian:
You see the riddle is, if the little Indian was
the son of the big Indian,
But the big Indian was not the father of the
little Indian, who was he?—
I’ll give you two measures:
His mother!

I’m a Person Too<br /> I just found out today, that I’m a person too,
like you!
I like balloons; lots of people like balloons:
But ev’ryone says, “Isn’t she cute? She likes
balloons!”
I’m a person too, like you!
I like things that ev’ryone likes:
I like soft things and movies and horses
And warm things and red things, don’t you?
I have lots of thoughts; like what’s behind the
sky;
And what’s behind what’s behind the sky:
But ev’ryone says, “Isn’t she sweet?
She wants to know ev’rything!”
Don’t you? Of course I’m very young to be
saying all these things
In front of so many people like you;
But I’m a person too!
Though I’m only ten years old;
I’m a person too, like you!

- Program Note from Marine Band concert program, 27 July 2018


Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C. (Jason K. Fettig, conductor; Sara Sheffield, mezzo-soprano) - 27 July 2018 (San Antonio, Tx.)


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