It has been a source of satisfaction to me that the first performers and listeners for Simple Daylight have been especially struck by the poems, and by the strong musical responses elicited by the poems. I have been grateful for Michael Fried’s work in many ways, most obviously in my previous settings of his texts, in Three Harp Songs (1972) and in The Flower Fed Buffaloes (1976).
My ordering of his poems makes a sequence closer in tone to a Bach Cantata text than to a nineteenth-century song cycle, and evokes a kind of sub-cutaneous narrative very favorable for musical purposes, but no doubt unintented by the poet.
Simple Daylight was commissioned by Lincoln Center. The dedication to its first singer Dawn Upshaw represents my complete confidence in sending her into uncharted waters, as well as my intuition that she would enjoy the complete, motet-like partnership with the pianist that the cycle requires.
-- John Harbison