The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Why I Pity the Woman Who Never Spills

A gutsy, sensual song in praise of messy women

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Joan Wolf Prefontaine

A gutsy, sensual blues setting of Joan Wolf Prefontaine’s poem in praise of messy women. Opening with waves of “spilling” words — spill, splatter, spot, spree, dribble, drabble, oozle — this piece is a rambunctious journey through a world of vocal inflections and joie de vivre, to be sung with nuance and abandon.

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

As singers become more and more familiar with this song they often start adding blues inflections to lines that have a bit of extra attitude. There’s nothing wrong with this! Sure, I know choral singing usually involves the standardization of individual singers’ vocal production, but in case you haven’t noticed, this piece is not about conformity. I suggest that choirs lean with however much moxy as they feel on a given day, and just see what happens.


Why I Pity the Woman Who Never Spills

For she misses the luxury of dribbling
marinara sauce on white silk,

of merlot falling at uproarious dinner
parties onto beige lace tablecloths,

picnics where mustard, baked beans,
toasted marshmallows and melted

chocolate all leave their winsome,
gregarious stains on Levis and lips.

For she misses the thrill and mess of it all:
hands infatuated with bread dough,

logic blemished all day with sly innuendoes
and double entendres, the child in the lap

with the histrionic green lime popsicle kiss,
the kettle with its secret military spices

longing in its heart of hearts to spill the beans,
mangos eaten au natural in bathtubs,

sweet-talking, profane juices softening
the millstones and milestones of the body,

the plum’s intemperate noddings in a neighbor’s
nonchalant field, tartness oozing like ink

across obeisant fingers, strawberries,
caught red-handed in golden-straw beds,

falling upwards towards one’s mouth —
small, fierce advocates of sumptuous rendezvous.

I say to her: Spill, Spurt, Squirt, Splash, Splatter,
Spot, Spree, Sprinkle, Dribble, Drabble, Oozle,

Offend, Transcend, Transude, Transgress, Transpire,
Perspire, Percolate, Partake, Propagate, Create!

Joan Wolf Prefontaine
© by Joan Wolf Prefontaine. Reprinted by permission of the author



Premiere: Cornell University Chorus / Scott Tucker (Ithaca, NY)
Bella Voce Singers / Jessica Corbin (Brooklyn, NY)
Broomfield High School Belles / Clelyn Brown. Colorado Music Educators Association (Colorado Springs, CO)
Cantilena / Allegra Martin (Arlington, MA)
Choral Spectrum / Ted S. Williams (Oberlin, OH)
Cornell University Women’s Chorus / Scott Tucker (Ithaca, NY)
Good Company / Steven Hoifeldt (Ames, IA)
Imagine! / Roberta Shimensky (Salt Lake, UT)
Longmeadow High School Accidentals / Kayla Werlin (Longmeadow, MA)
Pacific Women’s Chorus / Kay Bryant (Vista, CA)
San Francisco Girls Chorus Alumnae Chorus / Susan McMane (San Francisco, CA)
Sine Nomine Chorus / Robert Bartalot (Denver, CO)
University of North Carolina Women’s Glee Club / Sue Klausmeyer (Durham, NC)
Voices Rising / Leora Zimmer (Boston, MA)
Wellesley College Chamber Choir / John Rowehl (Wellesley, MA)