The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

when faces called flowers float out of the ground

A whimsical and amorous song of spring

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: E. E. Cummings

Floating flowers, climbing fish, diving birds — only e. e. cummings could create such a spring! This playful musical setting is as buoyant as the poem, full of surprising modulations, metric variety and a few amorous asides.

when faces called flowers float out of the ground is the central movement of the three-movement work Spring Revels.

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

When I decided to create a musical world for e. e. cummings’ poem when faces called flowers float out of the ground I took my cue from his images of “floating”and “flying,” shaping melodies which sometimes hang in mid-air, and sometimes to soar. The whimsical phrase “the mountains are dancing” is sung first in unison, later as a duet, and finally as a four part canon.


when faces called flowers float out of the ground

when faces called flowers float out of the ground
and breathing is wishing and wishing is having —
but keeping is downward and doubting and never
– it’s april (yes,april;my darling)it’s spring!
yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly
yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be
(yes the mountains are dancing together)

when every leaf opens without any sound
and wishing is having and having is giving —
but keeping is doting and nothing and nonsense
– alive;we’re alive,dear:it’s(kiss me now)spring!
now the pretty birds hover so she and so he
now the little fish quiver so you and so i
(now the mountains are dancing,the mountains)

when more than was lost has been found has been found
and having is giving and giving is living —
but keeping is darkness and winter and cringing
– it’s spring(all our night becomes day)o, it’s spring!
all the pretty birds dive to the heart of the sky
all the little fish climb through the mind of the sea
(all the mountains are dancing;are dancing)

e. e. cummings
Ffrom Xaipe, © 1950 by e. e. cummings, and Complete Poems, 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage, published by Liveright Publishing Corporation. Used by permission of the publisher



Spring Revels (complete work)
Premiere: Cayuga Vocal Ensemble / G. Roberts Kolb (Ithaca, NY)
Broadmoor Chamber Singers / Rebecca Kenneally (Natick, MA)
Brookline Chorus / William Cutter (Brookline, MA)
Cayuga Vocal Ensemble / Carl Johengen. 5th Annual Poetry and Song Concert (Ithaca, NY)
Chamber Singers of Iowa City / Martin Dicke (Iowa City, IA)
CoroAllegro / Jack Warren Burnam (Wilmington, DE)
Hamilton College Choir / Rob Kolb (Rochester and Buffalo, NY; Cincinnati and Cleveland Heights, OH; Evanston and Kenilworth, IL)
Harmonium Choral Society / Ann Matlack
Harmonium Choral Society / Ann Matlack (Madison, NJ; Geraldine R Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo Village, NJ)
Lively Experiment of University of Rhode Island / Mark Conley (Kingston, RI)
South Bend Chamber Singers / Nancy Menk (South Bend, IN)

when faces called flowers float out of the ground (individual song)
College Hill Singers / G Roberts Kolb (Clinton, NY)
Minnesota Oratorio Society / George Chu (St. Paul, MN)