Swing High, Swing Low (Lullaby)

Performer and production credits:
Karol Bennett, soprano; Leone Buyse, flute; Hannah Holman, cello; Susan Oltsman Koozin, narrator; Tricia Park, violin; Rod Waters, piano; Michael Webster, clarinet; Blake Wilkins, percussion.
Bill Klemm, videographer and editor; Kate Dawson, director.

The composer of a folk song is often not known to us. Perhaps there may have been a single original author at one time, but their identity has faded away. Or perhaps a folk song is simply an ever changing musical organism, with layers of additions and emendations by many nameless composers incorporated over time—this would explain the often quite different versions of many folk songs that exist. The author of a folk song might have been a parent singing to their child, workers toiling in the fields, a troop of soldiers or a preacher. On the other hand, some songs can be traced back to established composers like Woody Guthrie or even Jean-Baptiste Lully. But whomever the composer, a folk song is usually passed along from person to person, from family to family, and from generation to generation, until it becomes part of the collective spirit of a people.

Sometimes classically trained composers try their hand at creating folk songs by adding music to popular texts. In theses cases, the authorship and creative genesis of the work is better documented. In this section of the program, we explore the making of a folk song from scratch: How a composer takes a popular text and invents music to bring it to life as a new folk song creation.

  Swing high, swing low
  Into the hills we go
  Where eggplants grow
  Plenty we'll pick today
  'Nough for a rice basket
  Yummy to the last bit
  So hot on the market
  Perfect for babe's first birthday

Composer Shih-Hui Chen writes: "I found the text of this lullaby while researching Taiwanese folk music. This rich and imaginative Taiwanese text evokes a carefree childhood and has no specific melodies attached to it. My goal is to create a newly composed piece that, though it might be modern and distinctly Taiwanese, will also exhibit a universal quality that can be appreciated by all cultures and ages. The translation is by Tao-Lin Hwang." The work is scored for voice, flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano.

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