Paul Alan Levi, composer

Dateless Calendar

Poems by Sally Fisher

For chorus and six instruments

Commissioned and premiered by New Amsterdam Singers,

Clara Longstreth, Music Director

Church of the Holy Trinity, New York

16-19 minutes

Every year, my friend, the poet Sally Fisher, mails to her friends a Dateless Calendar, 12 cards, c. 3"by 4", each with the name of a month followed by a short, haiku-length poem that may or may not be obviously associated with its month. The poems are clear, quirky, and unpredictable, often humorous. Sally's poetry seems to push my music into areas unanticipated by either poet or composer, and creates opportunities for style collisions, which I always enjoy.

I began with six years of Dateless Calendars, 72 poems, picking twelve that I thought would clang against each other nicely. It's hard to explain what that means, but when I get all the right texts for a new piece in the right order, something inside of me says "Aaah!" Here and there I spliced two poems together for a slightly more substantial text, or used poems from other collections. The piece deals with some weighty questions, such as how do you pronounce "haiku," or how do 75 singers and six instrumentalists inhabit the soul of a dog?


Neither the poetry nor the music has an obviously unifying theme or motif, but to me, unity lies in the voice of the poet and the ear of the composer. Nevertheless, the piece has a structure that evolved subconsciously as I composed it. The first six months are performed continuously; the last six in separate movements. Something unexpected occurs every three movements. And the second half of the piece contains more thoughtful, personal, or serious moments than the first.


I think of Dateless Calendar not as 12 separate vignettes, but as one single composition -- a narrative, a journey, perhaps a meal in 12 surprising courses.

           Listen to Dateless Calendar.            Scroll down for Sally's poetry and scores.

Click to read the poems by Sally Fisher

Piano-vocal score:                                      Scroll further down for instrumental-vocal score.

Instrumental-vocal score: