Henry Dehlinger today announced the publication of his latest opus: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. T. S. Eliot's (1888-1965) poetic masterpiece is reimagined by the composer as a sweeping rhapsody that suggests the symphonic American vernacular of composers like Howard Hanson, Samuel Barber, and Leonard Bernstein.
Dehlinger wrote Prufrock for the expressive lyric voice of his friend and recording collaborator, Metropolitan Opera soprano Danielle Talamantes (although a tenor or countertenor could also perform the work). As a dramatic monologue, it requires a singer who is present in what is being said, one with a broad dynamic range and flair for dramatic interpretation.
LISTEN (ELECTRONIC REALIZATION)
First published in the June 1915 issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, this was a new kind of poetry by a poet who was fully awake in his own era—one who expressed a modern sensibility. It reveals the tortured psyche of a prototypical modern person: urbane, eloquent, educated (perhaps overeducated), neurotic, and paralyzed with anxiety. Prufrock, the poem's speaker, seems to be addressing a potential lover, someone with whom he desires to consummate a relationship. But all he can do is ask himself, “Do I dare?” In his mind he can only hear others chattering about his inadequacies.
Dehlinger’s judicious use of polystylism—a growing trend in 21st century music—brings Prufrock to life on the concert stage. Dehlinger sketches out discernible themes and recurring motifs, combining elements from different musical styles and genres that reflect each changing mood of Eliot’s stream of consciousness narrative. The most notable of these is what the composer calls the “Prufrock motif” that heralds the poem’s famous opening line, “Let us go then, you and I.” He then weaves these melodic and harmonic fragments into a coherent aural experience.
In the epigraph to the poem, from Dante’s Inferno, we meet the condemned soul of Guido da Montefeltro who shares his innermost secrets only because he believes his listener will never be able to betray to the world the contents of his confessions from hell. Prufrock, like Guido, is in a hell of his own, albeit an earthly one that is mostly in his head. Nonetheless, he will speak to the audience without fear of incurring disgrace.
Dehlinger renders the epigraph—in Dante's original Italian—as a sarabande, a dance in triple meter that originated in 16th century Spanish America as a fusion of Moorish and Mesoamerican dance elements before it spread to Europe and became a slow court dance. Dubbed by the composer, "Questa fiamma," it serves as a short prelude to Prufrock's dramatic monologue.
When crafting the sound of a tonal phrase, God is in the details. As Prufrock muses upon “the mermaids singing, each to each,” Dehlinger utilizes an unusual blend of extended techniques: artificial harmonic glissandi in the cello part combined with an ocean drum. The result is a remarkable simulation of the sounds of the seashore as seagulls and ocean waves billow through the rich orchestral tapestry and Prufrock utters the final dramatic line, "Till human voices wake us, and we drown.