Setting “The Daffodils” to music – Poem Setting 2

My second poem choice is likely close to everybody’s heart. I was named for daffodils and my mother had an ancient pocket sized Wordsworth collection in which The Daffodils appeared first. As a child, this made me think the poem was written for me. Of course I later found out that Wordsworth had died a long time ago, so this was proved unlikely, but in any case, I felt compelled to set it to music.

I’ve chosen traditional form, essentially turning The Daffodils into a folksong using basic diatonic chords – a total contrast to my first Duffy setting which was linear and chromatic. In this case, I wanted the simplest possible approach to bring forward Wordsworth’s basic human sentiment and support his regular stanzas. I’d always had an overcomplicated approach to the poem, but really all that’s being said is “I saw some amazing flowers when I was out walking and sometimes when I’m lounging around at home, I think about them and it makes me happy”. For the first time I suddenly saw Wordsworth as a sublime-junkie, throwing himself into the landscape at Glencoyne Bay and responding with the poetic equivalent of “Woah”.

So, whilst I kept to a song form (V, Ch, V, Ch, V, V, Ch) only 4 chords (I, IV, V, vi in Ab major) and a similar melody for each verse, what seemed important was to honour the sentiment of each line in the small details of the vocal melody. This included altering the melody slightly according to “what each line wanted”, whilst keeping the same overall melodic arc for each verse and keeping the two main hooks intact.

I was surprised how much detailed attention needed paying to how each line was sung in terms of tone, volume, expression and energy. More than with any other song I’ve recorded, singing a line perfectly in tune, but with slightly the wrong tone, made it sound plain wrong – the meaning of the words didn’t come across at all. If I sang “fluttering and dancing in the breeze” without enough bounce and brightness, I may as well have sung “swaying in a bored way near some trees”. It drove me nuts! But, it felt like a real accomplishment in the end.

Hope you enjoy this setting. What should I set next?

Kimwei x


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