Song of Summer
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The various hymns, paeans, lamentations and lyrics that comprise the Song of Summer deal with a fundamental imbalance of cosmic forces, conflicting negative energies of urban decay, humanity waging a self-destructive disastrous rampage against itself, society engaged in dangerous and unequal combat with nature and the dire consequences all that implies. The narrative is entwined with a love story which is not explicitly told, but is woven as a complementary obbligato into the discourse. Structural poetical concerns of rhyme and rhythmic balance are emphasized in this work, and the use of interdisciplinary musical devices such as repetition schemes, variation forms and modal coloration assume special significance in the linear and strophic construction of the poem.
Written over the summer months of 1973, the poem is cast in four movements, consisting of a Prelude and three Canti, or chants of differing subject matter, mood and atmospheric texture. The Prelude begins with a scene of suburban doldrums in the summer heat, a mesmerizing middle-class equilibrium characterized by boredom and inertia. A contrasting nightmarish vision is introduced in Canto I, an alarming conjuration of quasi-apocalyptic images of destruction which haunt the remainder of the poem with a feeling of impending disaster. We are removed in Canto II to the chaparral-covered foothills and oak savannahs which comprise what is left of the natural environment on the outskirts of the city. An eruption of brush-fire symbolizes the inherent contradiction of nature and humanity, and continues to burn unabated, even now. The final part, Canto III, depicts a summer’s day fading away into rising darkness of night, imbued with a feeling of foreboding and impending doom tempered with an almost nostalgic sense of inevitability. The culminating tone of this hymn-like section is invested with a lightness and airy delicacy, with a touch of melancholy but without remorse which brings the Song of Summer to its conclusion.