Chief WorksAn early display of Stevens' expertise, "Peter Quince at the Clavier" (1923) employs a four-part symphonic form to intone modernist dissonance. A hymn to impermanence, the musical stanzas, each in its distinctive rhythm and line length, arise from the playing on a Renaissance keyboard instrument by a rustic laborer, the director of the masque "Pyramus and Thisbe," which concludes William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Through a graphic scenario, his thoughts on the effects of music on the spirit draw an analogy with the beauty of Susanna, whose naked loveliness stirred the elders to pry into her private bliss. With a pun on bass/base, the poet ridicules the throb of passion in the old men that produces "pizzicati of Hosannas," a reference to the plucking of strings to produce a lightly separated flow of melody.
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