Larry Daehn (b. 1939) is a composer, teacher, and music educator from Wisconsin. Daehn’s program notes for As Summer Was Just Beginning (Song for James Dean) (1994) are moving and descriptive, so I defer to him:
I liken him to a kind of star, or a comet that fell through the sky, and everybody talks about it yet today. – Julie Harris
He seems to capture that moment of youth … where we’re all desperately seeking to find ourselves. – Dennis Hopper
He is not our hero because he was perfect, but because he perfectly represented the damaged but beautiful soul of our time. – Andy Warhol
James Byron Dean (1931 – 1955) experienced the brightest and briefest movie career ever. In 16 months he made three movies: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. Only the first had been released when he was killed in a car accident at age 24. His death on September 30, 1955, sparked an unparalleled outpouring of sorrow. For three years after his death, Warner Brothers received more letters to him than to any living actor.
And the James Dean phenomenon has never really ended. Thousands still come to the little town of Fairmount, Indiana, to see the farm where he grew up and to visit his grave there. His familiar image appears worldwide on posters and T-shirts. He has been the subject of many books, songs, TV documentaries, plays, movies, and hundreds of magazine articles. Forty years after his death, James Dean is still a hero to his own generation and to succeeding generations who keep his legend alive.
People were robbed of him. Whenever you’re robbed of something, it lingers with you. – Martin Landau
A bronze bust of James Dean by artist Kenneth Kendall stands near Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, California. There is a Greek inscription on the right shoulder which, when translated reads, “As Summer Was Just Beginning.” This sentiment, from a painting by John La Farge, is a Greek epitaph concerning the death of a young person. I chose it as the title for this piece.
I loosely based the main melody (heard at the beginning and at measures 33 and 57) on an old British Isles folksong, “The Winter it is past, and the Summer’s here at last.” I chose it because Dean’s Quaker heritage goes back to England, Ireland and Scotland, and because this simple bittersweet song about summer seemed appropriate for remembering James Dean.
The North Texas Wind Symphony presents As Summer Was Just Beginning with near perfection, as usual:
As he says in the program notes, Daehn based As Summer Was Just Beginning on the British Isles folk song “The Winter it is past“. Here is a sung rendition of that: