VALENTINES for soprano and piano is a collection of love songs based on the writings of poet Lillian Li. While the three pieces here prescribe to conventions of the western art song, their musical personalities owe more to the traditions of the American musical, the Great American Songbook, and most especially to the cabaret genre. As such, the text and music are woven together to create colorful, evocative, highly theatric showpieces for both the soprano and pianist. It is my hope that these three songs serve as a foundation for an ever-expanding set of love songs, providing an opportunity to explore through music and poetry the limitless aspects of love and its myriad forms of expression: unrequited love, puppy love, old love, a parent’s love of a child, etc.
—Jules Pegram (2015)
Text by Lillian Li
I. “Broken Fever Dream”
Everyone who fell in love believed that their love was the best and the brightest, but maybe they were the rarer few who saw their dis-union as one for the record books. It wasn’t so futile after all, squeezing out the last, sour drops of their relationship. Because what was the point in keeping love pure when the jagged end of love, in all its tragic drudgery, offered up the realest proof that the beginning was more than just a fever dream?
II. “Speed Dating”
Your face made me go forty in a school zone
Just to get to you faster.
And the traffic camera snapped me with my mouth in mid-whistle,
My head already leaning out the window to yell,
“Call me, stranger!”
…I hope you do.
Watering my garden in the supermoon light
I remember the summer you fed me nothing
But rotten food, stinking, bitter, sour in my mouth.
Everything is more alive when it is dying, you said
As you unpinched my fingers from my nose.
I never acquired the taste you left on my tongue.
Now, with you gone, and the tomatoes finally sprouting,
I bite into the ripe, red flesh, and the sweetness
Fills me with grief, because it is not enough.
You were right in the end, because I have never
Loved you more than when our love spoiled,
And hung, swollen with its own poison, dying on the vine.
—Lillian Li (2014)