Listen to "The Centipede"
About the Music
Composer: Barbara Ulman
Composed and arranged: 1962 - 2008
Performers: Composer's Choir - Daniel Shaw, Director
The anonymous poem The Centipede has appealed to me since I first encountered it in junior high school. At that time, I merely thought it was cute; now I appreciate it as a simple statement of how the mind can get in the way of -- everything!
In the summer of 1962, in a class in Musicianship at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Professor Sol Joseph taught us to create melodies by first writing the notes of a scale in different rhythms. Gradually, we expanded the process, until, in my last assignment for the class, I wrote a melody for The Centipede which switches from major to minor when the centipede gets bewildered. In 1981, I harmonized it for SAB unaccompanied chorus, and in 2008 I arranged it for SATB chorus with or without piano, or soloist with piano. The SAB version on MusicaNeo is in its original key. The SATB version is included in several different keys.
A centipede was happy quite,
Until a frog in fun said,
“Pray, which leg comes after which?”
This threw her mind in such a pitch,
She lay distracted in the ditch,
Consid’ring how to run.
Sheet music and audio file available at: