Radish-struck

Next week, composer-pianist Cary Ratcliff releases a new recording of art songs. Elegant and spare, many explore the cusp of change, the breath before a new reality takes shape.

I’ve been writing a piece for City newspaper, and I got an advanced copy of Ratcliff’s songs, interpreted by soprano Katie Lewek. They’re luscious and addictive.

I keep thinking about one of the pieces, “The Radish,” based on a poem by Karla Kuskin. “Sing a song about a radish; too many people sing about the moon,” it begins. A spare, jazzy accompaniment dovetails with an arching melody that follows the trail of eyes to the stars.

It’s a joke, really. The singer promises to describe a radish, but as the song unfolds, the radish “rises in the waiting sky.”

Ratcliff’s trick got me thinking about perception, how something that seems as lasting and luminous as the moon can turn out to be as lightweight and transient as a radish. Or maybe it’s the other way around. We know we hold a radish, but our hungry hearts imagine it’s the moon.

Either way, when reality hits, the joke’s on me.