An epic American poem set superbly to music.
Someone once said that lyrics aren’t poems and poems aren’t lyrics – they’re completely different forms. But Liz Queler has gone against that and has set Edna St. Vincent Millay’s famous epic poem ‘Renascence’ to music and the result is quite stunning.
In ‘Renascence’ Queler shows that it’s not only Bob Dylan who produce twenty-minute odysseys. Whilst the thought of such a long track made up of over a hundred rhyming couplets might sound boring, Queler ensures it isn’t with at least six different melodies that change subtly throughout the song. At times the scansion has to be forced a little making “thatched” and “sealed” into two syllable words but the rest fits superbly. Also, occasionally Millay’s couplets don’t really rhyme such as “sky” & “eternity” and “death” & “beneath”, but these are minor blemishes in such a beautiful piece.
Millay wrote her masterpiece at the age of just nineteen which is remarkable when it covers such subjects as nature, the human condition, suffering, death, birth, rebirth (renascence) and even God! It reads as if it was written under a big sky and the poetry sounds like she’s captured the soul of bucolic, middle America, something Queler has underscored superbly with pure Americana. Ably supported by her husband Seth Farber on piano, accordion and harmony vocals, son Joey Farber on bass, Cajon and vocals and Justin Smith on violin, this combination of instrumentation along with an enchanting lead vocal from Queler (who also plays acoustic guitar) is the epitome of the very best in Americana music.
The piece starts with the first two lines recited by Millay herself and it sets the scene for an exquisite piece of work that proves that a poem can be indeed be used as a lyric without altering a word.