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Donald Womack23 Chinese Proverbssoprano, viola, piano14:001997
1. Flowers and Trees
2. Rats and Cats
3. Mountains and Rivers
4. Tigers
5. You

23 Chinese Proverbs is a set of five songs, with text taken from Chinese Proverbs, a collection of 58 folk sayings compiled and translated into English by Ruthanne Lum McCunn. For this setting the text was divided by the composer into five groups, according to the literal subject material of the various proverbs—a group of proverbs about flowers and trees, a group about rats and cats, etc. Like most folk sayings, these proverbs typically make observations about everyday life. Superficially simple, they are in truth complex allegories that often deal with matters far removed from their apparent subjects. Consequently, the songs in this setting are not always unified in character, as would normally be the case for a setting of a single poem. In the first two songs, the meaning of one proverb often differs greatly from the next, and a sudden change of character in the music might reflect this contrast. The last three songs are more unified in character, owing to the more closely related meanings of their texts. Overall, the proverbs in this setting range from mysterious, humorous, sad, or violent, to pastoral, patient, or beautiful.