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The City and the Sea

The City and the Sea is a set of five settings on poems by E.E. Cummings. I’m writing two versions: one for SATB chorus and piano; and one for solo baritone and piano. The baritone solo version will be available in 2014. The entire set is based on white key clusters in the piano. I’ve started calling this the ‘oven-mitt’ technique, because the chords are played as if you are wearing mitts on your hands – the four fingers all bunched together and the thumb on its own. Here is an example from i walked the boulevard, the first piece in the set:
i walked the boulevard
Occasionally I break up the clusters and write the chords as arpeggios, as in this example from maggie and milly and molly and may:
maggie and milly and molly and may
I’ve sort of fallen in love with the style and sound of these pieces, and I might end up writing a couple more to fill out the set even further. In the meantime, here are the five movements that now comprise The City and the Sea:

i walked the boulevard

i walked the boulevard i saw a dirty child skating on noisy wheels of joy pathetic dress fluttering behind her a mothermonster with red grumbling face cluttered in pursuit pleasantly elephantine while nearby the father a thick cheerful man with majestic bulbous lips and forlorn piggish hands joked to a girlish whore with busy rhythmic mouth and silly purple eyelids of how she was with child E.E.Cummings, 1894-1962

the moon is hiding in her hair

the moon is hiding in her hair. The lily of heaven full of all dreams, draws down. cover her briefness in singing close her with intricate faint birds by daisies and twilights Deepen her, Recite upon her flesh the rain’s pearls singly-whispering. E.E.Cummings, 1894-1962

maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may went down to the beach (to play one day) and maggie discovered a shell that sang so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and milly befriended a stranded star whose rays five languid fingers were; and molly was chased by a horrible thing which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and may came home with a smooth round stone as small as a world and as large as alone. for whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea E.E.Cummings, 1894-1962

as is the sea marvelous

as is the sea marvelous from god’s hands which sent her forth to sleep upon the world and the earth withers the moon crumbles one by one stars flutter into dust but the sea does not change and she goes forth out of hands and she returns into hands and is with sleep… love, the breaking of your soul upon my lips E.E.Cummings, 1894-1962

little man in a hurry

little man (in a hurry full of an important worry) halt stop forget relax wait (little child who have tried who have failed who have cried) lie bravely down sleep big rain big snow big sun bug moon (enter us) E.E.Cummings, 1894-1962

Available from all good retailers including Musicroom, Hal Leonard and J.W. Pepper.

  • Shannon (Hume) Shogr

    Can't wait to hear Carnell sing the solo baritone version!

  • Wesley Hotzfeld

    You should also put the recording of Denver University singing "Maggie and Milly and Molly and May" on this page. I mean, I know it's on the blog, but it would be nice to have each "CIty" piece on one page.

  • Chris

    Thanks for posting the recording of "Maggie and Milly and Molly and May". Very beauiful.

  • Brian

    When will the solo baritone for this be released?? i'm looking to use it for my senior recital.

    • Brad

      It comes out January 2011. My voice teacher already ok'ed it so I'm super excited!!! :)

  • Jamie Garrard

    All the songs are magnificent, as followers of your work have come to count on, but "Maggie and Milly and Molly and May"…wow. I haven't FELT such music in a long time. I listened to it several times just now, while reading the lyrics. First of all, you're working with a moving poet. The poem is heartbreaking. But as I listened to it, I got chills during every verse, sometimes several in a row. The very last line of the song/poem is the most gut-wrenching. I have been a long-time fan, but this may become my favorite piece.

  • Baker Purdon

    Are these in print yet??? I am absolutely DYING to buy the baritone solo version!!!!!

    • Brad

      Unfortunately, we have to wait til January of 2011… :( But that's only like 2 months away!!!

  • Robert Jimenez

    When will the solo baritone version be released? I would LOVE to sing this song and have it in my repertoire!

    • Eric

      January first, Robert… thank you!

  • Ryan F

    Question!!! Even though you're writing it for baritone, do you think a tenor could sing this set? Or do you plan on having multiple keys for this set? It is really SO beautiful and I would love to sing it

  • Nicole C

    I love ee cummings and your songs and interpretations of them are exactly what hear when I read them. I love how not only in the singer's voices the tone of the poem is evident but in the instruments and silences between it all. I love how I can hear everything.

    By the way you capitalized and punctuated ee cummings name! Shame! But your music makes up for it

    • Eric


      Thank you so much for your kind words!

      With regards to E.E. Cummings name, and the capitalized letters: he not only signed his name with caps and punctuation, but made clear several times that he did not approve of his name being written "ee cummings." Publishers still do it, but I'll go with the man's word. ;-)

      • Nicole C

        Woah! I didn't expect you to read my comment much less comment back!

        I did not know that! Ack, I feel stupid. I'm just going on my teachers' words from school and they were very upset that his name was capitalized and I've only seen his name not capitalized and punctuated. I'm glad you're going on his words then, rather than just some publisher's assumption that he wouldn't capitalize his name as well. I guess since you write music for his poetry on such a personal level, you would do the same with respect to his wishes as a writer. Anyways, thank you for replying! I love your music so much and it's inspired me many a times to write during a writer's block :)

  • Brad

    Is there any way to pre-buy this piece for solo baritone voice before its January release and even after that, where will it be available for purchase?

  • Autumn Wind

    Will there be (or is there) a piano and solo soprano sheet(s) that I can buy?

  • Conor McCloskey

    I never thought I could fall even more in love with these poems. I particularly love the part "as small as a world and as large as alone" in 'maggie and mollie.' The music you put to this line released some nice chemicals in my brain :)

    Can't wait to sing this with you in March in NYC!

  • Nick

    it's heeeeeeere!

  • Nick

    Now that it's been released, where can i buy the sheet music for this cycle?

    • Adam

      I was wondering this as well…?

      • Devon M

        I too was wondering! You can tell all the baritones are excited!

  • Sebastian

    where would we be able to purchase the solo baritone version??

    • Devon M

      Seriously, four copies sold!

  • Brad

    Where is it available???

  • Domnik

    I am dying to know where this is. If the solo baritone version is for sale I need it. Where can I purchase it?

  • Mike

    Looks like they got pushed back to Spring 2011… ):. Aw. I was hoping to use it for my auditions coming up. Oh well. Hopefully for a recital, then!

  • Celia Tow

    Is there an audio recording of As Is The Sea Marvelous? I can't find it anywhere.

    • Eric

      Celia – here’s a YouTube video:


      • Celia Tow

        Aaaahhh thank you so much! And thanks for actually reading my comment and replying back! I'm a huge fan and I'm so excited to sing with you in April in NY :)

  • Jacob

    Where can I purchase sheet music the baritone solo The city and the sea? I would love to use it for auditions and add it to my repertoire.

    • Eric

      Jacob, it's coming out later this Spring. Cheers!

  • Celia Tow

    I have another question – in the printed out score I have for Little Man In A Hurry, for the sopranos the "down-now-now-now" etc. on the sheet music the notes are written as middle C, but in the recording they seem to be singing the C an octave higher, can you clarify which one it's supposed to be?

  • Chris

    Where can I order the solo baritone version?

  • Ellen

    Eric – Do you have any pieces for Solo Alto/Mezzo Soprano? Love your music, our Chamber group is currently performing a Boy and a Girl, and Animal Crackers.

  • Caitlin

    My boyfriend wrote me a poem to the tune, rhyme scheme and rhythm to Maggie and Millie and Molly and May for my birthday. Your music inspires so many people, it's amazing. Thank you for the music :)

  • Nick

    Still eagerly awaiting the release of this cycle. I'm determined to have a copy. :)

  • tws

    Is the solo version available in print yet?

  • Jesse Warren

    Excuse me sir, but where might I find this Solo Baritone version I have been hearing so much about?!? :O

  • Spencer Duggan

    Can we have an update about the Baritone version?

  • Lawson Daves

    I was also wondering if the baritone version was in print yet and if it was where I would be able to find it.

  • Krys Cooper

    Hi – are these settings available for high voice (ie soprano)? Would love to perform them…I have sung many of your choral works and just love all of them.


    Krys Cooper

  • Chris

    When can we expect the solo baritone sheet music to be released?

  • Adam

    In my college chorale this quarter, we’re performing as is the sea marvelous. It’s such a gorgeous piece. I can’t wait to perform it :)

  • Emma

    I need an auto repeat. :D

  • Cassandra

    Mr. Whitacre,
    maggie and milly and molly and may: this delicate and intimate lyric is so stirring. It reminds me of the wonders of being a child; the thrill of outrunning a monstrous wave; being awestruck by something as simple as a “smooth round stone”. I love the painted text; how it becomes the pushing and pulling sound of waves meeting the shore, and the diction (especially the ‘f’s in befriended, five, fingers, and for) bring the imagery of foam washing on the sand to life. Thank you for such a lovely, memory-waking composition.

  • Racheal

    What is the general mood of the city and the sea?does it remain the same throughout?

  • Brian

    Is there any word on when the solo baritone will be available? I’d love to add this to my repertoire.

  • Nicholas

    Another student baritone eager to get his hands on the solo settings! Any news on this front?

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