Sometimes I write music “about” something. Other times I simply write music. My recent orchestra piece was one of those latter times. All the while I was writing it, I struggled to come up with a title. Even after completing the piece, two revisions later, and after having distributed the parts to the musicians, I still didn’t have a title for it. It was simply “Orchestra Piece.” I had an idea of what the music meant to me—life, light, energy—but I couldn’t encapsulate these feelings into words. Among my initial rejects were “It’s a Magical World” (the title of the first draft), “Sunflower,” and “Bodies Celestial.”
In the midst of this struggle to devise a title, one of my friends suggested that I look through some of her poetry books. I went through several, copying down lines I liked and mashing them together until I came up with a title that felt right: “Summer Has Ten Thousand Stars.” It fit, and that was the end of the story. I didn’t bother to remember what the poems were.
Or so I thought. This morning as I was sorting through my papers, I found a copy of Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” dated from February 2008. At first I didn’t recognize the poem until I came to the lines “Continuous as the stars that shine / And twinkle on the milky way, / . . . Ten thousand saw I at a glance” (emphasis added). Suddenly, I realized, “Hey! This is that poem I used to come up with the title for my orchestra piece!” I was quite surprised. It would seem that this image has been sitting with me for the last two years, waiting to be rediscovered.
(As for the “Summer Has” part, I looked it up: It’s from Dickinson.)