North and South


North and South is a song cycle with music by John Harbison setting six poems of Elizabeth Bishop. The cycle is for mezzo soprano (or soprano) and piano. The songs have also been scored for voice and orchestra.

Composer Note:

"North and South is a cycle of six settings of poems by Elizabeth Bishop, composed between 1995 and 1999. It is divided into two books, each of similar proportion. Book One, dedicated to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, begins with the first of Bishop’s Four Songs for a Colored Singer. In an interview with Ashley Brown, Bishop said, "I was hoping someone would compose the tunes for them. I think I had Billie Holiday in mind. I put in a couple of big words because she sang big words well....As for music in general; I’d love to be a composer." After this rhetorical opening comes a setting of a typically elusive love-and-loneliness Bishop incantation, Late Air. The [text of the] third song, Breakfast Song, was not published. It was transcribed, in progress, by Lloyd Schwartz during a visit to Bishop while she was in the hospital."

-- John Harbison

Book 1:
Ballad for Billie I
Late air
Breakfast song

Book 2:
Ballad for Billie II
"Dear, My Compass"

Audio PLaylist