Joelle Wallach

Wny the Caged Bird Sings

Year: 2008

Duration (in minutes): 6'

Difficulty: Medium (college/community)

Category: choral, orchestra and chamber orchestra, piano, solo brass with piano, solo voice(s) with chamber ensemble, solo voice(s) with piano, string orchestra, string quartet, string quintet

Instruments: alto, any high voice, any medium voice, any string, any voice, cello, mezzo soprano, piano, soprano, viola, violin

Publisher: E.C.Schirmer

Publisher website:

Outside URL:

Score PDF: Caged-Bird-Combined-Scores.pdf

Text PDF: Caged-Bird-Combined-Scores-1.pdf

Purchase score URL:

Description: Why The Caged Bird Sings finds the convergence of horn, trebles voices (children's choir or women's) and either strings or piano to explore the tragic irony of the poetic text. The poem, by 19th Century African-American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, is a plaintive personal plea for freedom, an effective alternative to thrashing painfully and purposelessly against constraint. Woven into Why the Caged Bird Sings’ overall lyricism are subtle timbral clashes which fortify the strength of the work and contribute to the excitement of performance: the innocent beauty of the children’s song, the horn’s heroic call and the piano’s lavish harmonic journey join forces to express the craving of the caged bird in each of us. Essay on Why the Caged Bird Sings: Releasing the Caged Bird: Completing a Work Sympathy I know what the caged bird feels, alas! When the sun is bright on the upland slopes, When the wind blows soft through the springing grass And the river floats like a sheet of glass, When the first bird sings and the first bud opes, And the faint perfume from its chalice steals – I know what the caged bird feels I know why the caged bird beats his wing Till its blood is red on the cruel bars; For he must fly back to his perch and cling …I know why he beats his wing! When his wings are bruised and his bosom sore, – When he beats his bars and would be free; It’s not a carol of joy or glee, But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core, But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings – I know why the caged bird sings! —Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872 – 1906)

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