He believed that in a good song the words became assimilated by the music, and he wrote lovingly and knowledgeably for the voice, as well as for the piano. In his choice of texts, he frequently gravitated to American poets, among them Frost, Teasdale, cummings, Van Doren, Millay, and E. A. Robinson, and his range of mood runs the gamut from sprightly wit (HIST...WIST) to biting irony (RICHARD CORY) to unabashed Romanticism (LUKE HAVERGAL) or meditative reflection (BE STILL AS YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL).
Asked why, as a pianist, his compositions included so few piano works and so many songs, Duke replied: "I think it is because of my belief that vocal utterance is the basis of music's mystery."
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