© Paul P. Reuben
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Chapter 4: Early Nineteenth Century: Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
ED POEMS SET TO MUSIC
Outside Links: | ED: Song Texts | Fred Tompkins : Four ED Songs |
Page Links: | Information Contributed by EMWEB Mailing List Members: Fred Feinberg Christopher Walker |
| MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |
Site Links: | Dickinson Page | Alphabetical List | Chap 4: Index | Table Of Contents | Home Page | September 26, 2006 |
Subject: [emweb] Emily's poems set to music
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 19:48:09 -0800
From: Paul Reuben
Received this query:
I am searching for any of Emily's poems which have been set to music.
If list members have suggestions, please let me know.
| Top | Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 10:05:53 -0400
From: Fred Feinberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There's actually quite a bit of it (brace yourselves!) Aaron Copland famously set 12 of her poems (Copland, Aaron. Twelve poems of Emily Dickinson, set to music. Voice and piano. NY: Boosey & Hawkes, 1951), and the composer Graham Ramsay has a remarkable cycle, which I heard performed in Boston quite some years back. I also attended the graveside 'celebration' on the anniversary of ED's death about 15 years ago in Amherst, and someone played some of their folksong settings, a few of which had their moments (and some of which, er, didn't).
I was also able to find these, by Jules Langert:
| Top | These by Yoko Sato:
| Top | These by Leo Smit:
These by Peter Child:
These from Ernst Bacon:
| Top | These from Vincent Persichetti:
These from Terry Vosbein:
These from Roland Leich:
These from Charles Griffin:
Even Ragtime versions by the eminent Max Morath:
| Top | Finally, a WHOLE PAGE listing all kinds of settings of her work, most of them rather obscure:
AND, we've discussed this before! At bottom is a note from a list member on this very topic, from 11 Feb, 1999.
Hope this helps!
Geena: I suggest you get in touch with the American Music Center in New York. Their phone is 212-366-5260 and their E Mail address is email@example.com. Many, many American composers have set her songs; I recently heard a setting by Ernst Bacon, which is very lovely, of about 17 poems. The most famous is, of course, Aaron Copland's magnificent "Twelve Songs on Poems of Emily Dickinson." I believe somebody, perhaps a performer, has recently done some research on this topic and there may be a catalogue or collection somewhere which lists a good many of the settings. If there is such, it is very likely that the American Music Center will know of it. Good luck!
| Top | Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 11:37:27 +0100
From: Christopher Walker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Now that I've checked, the full title of John Adams' work is *Harmonium for Large Orchestra and Chorus*. It's published by Associated Music Publishers (1981; AMP no 50480015).
About 30 mins long, it was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and dedicated to Edo de Waart, who suggested it and who led its first performance on April 15, 1981.
This is Adams himself on the piece:
'*Harmonium* was composed in 1980 in a small studio on the third floor of an old Victorian house in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco [...] The title of the work was all that survived from my initial intention to set poems from Wallace Stevens's collection of the same name. [...] Ultimately I settled on three poems of transcendental vision. [Part I sets Donne's *Negative Love* - CW] The two Dickinson poems show the polar opposites of her poetic voice. *Because I Could Not Stop for Death* is the intimate, hushed Dickinson, whose beyond-the-grave monologue is a sequence of images from a short life, a kind of pastoral elegy expressed through the lens of a slow-motion camera. Like Aaron Copland before me, I unknowingly set the bowdlerised version of the original, being unaware at the time that the poet's original version differed significantly in syntax from the more smoothed-out, conventional version made by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. 'Following the last palpitations of the slow movement the music enters a transition section, a kind of _bardo_ stage between the end of one life and the beginning of a new one. Again, as in *Negative Love*, the music gradually assumes weight, force and speed until it is hurled headlong into the bright, vibrant clangour of *Wild Nights*. Here is the other side of Emily Dickinson, saturated with an intoxicated, ecstatic, pressing urge to dissolve herself in some private and unknowable union of Eros and Death. The metaphors, at once violent and sexually hypercharged, play upon the image of a "heart in port", secure and out of danger from the wild storm-tossed sea. So much has been written about Emily Dickinson, and her mysterious persona has been subjected to so much speculative analysis, that it is always a shock to encounter these texts alone and away from any kind of exegesis.'
There are recordings by de Wart on ECM (new series) 1277, by Robert Shaw on Telarc 80365 and by Adams himself on Nonesuch. The URL for the John Adams website is http://www.earbox.com
October 18, 2001
Dear Paul, I am a composer, and I have devoted a good portion of my career to the setting of Emily Dickinson's poetry to music. I am now in the process of setting up a page of links on my web site and was hoping that you might be interested in adding my site to the links on your "ED Poems set to Music" page. I would then add a link on my site to yours.
My e-mail address is: email@example.com Hope to hear from you soon, Thanks,
MLA Style Citation of this Web Page
Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 4: Dickinson Poems Set to Music." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. URL:http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap4/dickinson_music.html (provide page date or date of your login).
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