The Force of Habit
(A set of five choral pieces for equal voices [children, boys or SA] with piano accompaniment)
The Force of Habit, composed in 1978 in Binghamton, New York, is a set of five choral pieces for equal voices with piano accompaniment and based on animal poetry. It may be performed in its entirety, as a set of three (Nos. 1, 2 and 3) or as single pieces.
In each piece the basic musical idea is developed by different means and techniques which should be brought to the attention of the performers in the expectation to awaken or further their musical perception.
1 – The Elephant or The Force of Habit, for two-part choir, is based on a straight C-major scale used at single step intervals, except for occasional skips of thirds, fourths and fifths; the changing meters may help to develop a keener sense of rhythm. Words by A.E. Housman.
2 – Animals is for unison choir. The vocal part is based on a pentatonic scale on the black notes, extending from G to G¹. The piano part instead makes use, especially in the solo passages, of two pentatonic scales, thus creating a polytonal effect. Words by Walt Whitman.
3 – I Dunno, for three-part chorus, is based on the E-flat minor scale. By dividing the chorus in the opening whistling (or sung on la) part, a responsorial effect may be obtained. Words in this movement are anonymous.
4 – How Doth the Little Crocodile, for solo treble voice and four-part choir (or solo semi-choir), is based on the Lydian mode, the scale extending from F to F¹ on the white keys. In the humming part, the choir repeats the same notes three times, for six measures each (noted by brackets in the score). As one of the aims of the piece is the development of the intonation in the presence of a very close harmonic structure, the use of the piano, which doubles the chorus, should be limited to early rehearsals. The ties and the distribution of notes of varied values among the four parts in the 5/4 meter will increase counting awareness. Words by Lewis Carroll.
5 – The Reason for the Pelican, for two or three-part choir, is based on the chromatic scale, with the melodic line moving by half steps except in the middle section where different intervals are present. Here the piano helps by doubling the most troublesome passages. Words by John Ciardi.