Nursery Problems

Nursery Problems
A Song Cycle for Soprano and ad lib percussion instruments
based on poetry by James Broughton
by
Dan Locklair

All poems used in this song cycle are from James Broughton’s poems entitled, Nursery Problems (from Musical Chairs – Songs for Anxious Children, 1950). They are published by The Jargon Society in the book entitled, James Broughton : Collected Poems 1949-1969 – A Long Undressing. I am grateful to the poet and copyright holder, James Broughton, for his permission to use these poems in this solo soprano song cycle.

Musically, this cycle seeks not only to express Mr. Broughton’s delightful poetry about childhood curiosity, but also provides a musical primer to the ancient modes. Though many of the modes in this piece are transposed, the original pitches of the modes and the movements in which they appear are as follows: Mixolydian (piano white keys G – G, Movement I), Locrian (piano white keys B – B, Movement II), Dorian (piano white keys D – D, Movement III), Lydian (piano white keys F – F, Movement IV), Ionian (piano white keys C – C, Movement V), Aeolian (piano white keys A – A, Movement VI) and Phrygian (piano white keys E – E, Movement VII).

Instruments required (and played by the soprano) :

Pitch Pipe
Large Triangle

Extended techniques called for:

Whistling* (sounds 15 ma above written pitches)
Foot stomps
Hand claps

Though it supplies necessary pitches to the soprano, the role of the Pitch Pipe is that of a musical instrument. It should always be played musically.

*For singers who cannot whistle, whistling passages may be sung at written pitch as a vocalise on a comfortable syllable.

Duration of Nursery Problems : ca. 9 minutes

(I = ca. 1′ 45; II = ca. 1′ 45″; III = ca. 1′; IV = ca. 1′ 15″;
V = ca. 40′; VI = ca. 1′ 30″; VII = ca. 1′ 10″)
Dan Locklair
September 1982
Winston-Salem, NC

Nursery Problems
Poetry by James Broughton +
Music by Dan Locklair

I. The Little Reader’s First Riddle

Where do the humans come from?
What are the humans begun from?
And how did I get here so small?

Though everyone somehow arrived in it
the world keeps on adding up odd.
If one and one make always two
can one and one make one at a time
and what’s the connection with God?

O where did the humans jump from?
And how do the humans fall?

Though everyone lands on a mom and pop
there’s a hitch to a family tree.
If two together have to marry
does one from two leave one to carry
and what is a stork to me?

Now where do the humans come from?
What are the humans sprung from?
And how did I get here at all?

II. Mrs Mother Has a Nose

What a big nose Mrs Mother has,
the better to smell her dear.
Sniff sniff sniff it comes round the door,
detective of everything queer.

Two big noses Mrs Mother has,
the better to quell her dear.
“I smell something odd, I smell something bad,
what is that smell in here?”

Three big noses Mrs Mother has,
they grow and grow in the night.
Sniff sniff sniff her naughty naughty dear!
And she also can smell with her ears.

III. Papa Has a Pig

Papa has a pig.
And a big pig too.
Papa plays a piggy-toe that I can’t do.
O Papa has the biggest pig you ever did see.
He gave only ten little piggies to me.
Papa has the star of all the swine,
Papa shines stern in the sty.

Papa goes to market.
And I stay home.
Papa doesn’t tickle his toes all alone.
O Papa has the fattest pig you ever did feel.
My ten little piglets just pinch and squeal.
Papa has the star of all the swine,
Papa shines stern in the sty.

Papa has a pen.
And a big pen too.
Papa rides a piggy-back that I can’t do.
O Papa stands out in the pig-feet race.
My ten little wiggles don’t go any place.
Papa has the star of all the swine.
Shine, Papa, shine in the sty.

IV. Lullaby News

Dear singular snookums, you’re a beddie-bye sight.
It’s a shame you have no partner to share your night.
But companions are expensive on Mama’s account
at the big compartment store where babies come from.

It isn’t Daddy’s fault, he’s a regular fellow.
His head goes right to sleep when it hits the pillow.
So your chum may be adopted at a slight discount
in the big compartment store where babies come from.

V. Berceuse Délicieuse

Yummy diddle dumpling, come eat up my son.
Yummy diddle dumpling, eat my baby boy.
He’s a fat and tasty morsel
to roll upon your tongue.
Come devour my young joy.

Yummy tummy tidbit, come eat my daughter.
Yummy tummy tidbit, chew my baby girl.
She’s a rouncy bouncy pumpkin
and as juicy as a plum.
Come feast upon my pearl.

VI. Junior’s Prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord to help me out.
I’m flat on my back and left alone,
so God bless nobody, please keep out.

If I should die and fall asleep
how will I run away from home?
If I should wake before I die
will I still be in the dark alone?

Now I lay me down to sleep.
But keep me awake, Lord, keep me awake!

VII. Ticklish Subject

Button button,
what good is my button?
Does it hold me together, fasten me right?
I pull it, I push it,
I try to unhitch it
and yet it just sticks in there tight.

Do Mommy and Poppy both have one?
Is it some sort of use when you grow up tall?
But what the hell do I do with it now
and why is it on my anatomy?

I’m beginning to learn
what things can be done
with the other parts that are part of me.
But button button,
what good is a button
that doesn’t unbutton at all?

+ Nursery Problems come from Musical Chairs – Songs for Anxious Children and are published in the book, James Broughton : Collected Poems 1949-1969 – A Long Undressing (© 1950 by James Broughton, published by The Jargon Society : New York : 1971). Used with permission.