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Twelve Poems by Emily Dickinson

Aaron Copland (b. 1900 - d. 1990)

Ailish Tynan

Ailish Tynan

Composer
Aaron Copland (b. 1900 - d. 1990)
Composition Year
1949-50
Work Movements
1. Nature, the Gentlest Mother
2. There Came a Wind Like a Bugle
3. Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?
4. The World Feels Dusty
5. Heart, We Will Forget Him
6. Dear March, Come In!
7. Sleep is Supposed to Be
8. When They Come Back
9. I Felt a Funeral in My Brain
10. I
11. Going to Heaven!
12. The Chariot
Artists
Ailish Tynan [soprano], Joseph Middleton [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

The Emily Dickinson story is an extraordinary one. She spent almost all her life in the Massachusetts town of Amherst, where she was born in 1830, in a Puritan community based on church-going and revivalism. She wrote 1,775 poems - less than 20 were published in her lifetime. Those she did publish were so mangled by uncomprehending editors that she quickly withdrew from the auction of publication and a complete and accurate edition of her poems did not appear until 1955. Her poetry is startlingly modern with her highly condensed expression and idiosyncratic punctuation that leap off the page. Every word, every punctuation mark, even every word left out counts in her poems.

Dickinson tears at the comforting blanket of language and exposes us to her stark, distinct and jewel-like world. In an age of oratory, she chose the near-silence of her terse poetic script. In a literary culture dominated by men, she sought out her literary sisters – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Brontës, George Eliot, George Sand. In a Puritan culture, she was a religious sceptic and wrote movingly about being shut out of a lost Heaven. She lived the restricted life expected of a woman of good family in a New England town, she wrote about the great Romantic themes of love, loss, death, Nature and God but her poetry looks at every experience, every object, every emotion as if it were wholly new. She was a hundred years ahead of her time.

The conductor Michael Tilson Thomas wrote: I actually learnt to love Emily Dickinson , my whole entry into her world of poetry was through Aaron’s songs. I think he made, for a whole generation of Americans, the cadential intent of the actual words very clear in the way he set them. And the soprano Phyllis Curtin, who sang them hundreds of times, said: It was Aaron who found the musical voice for Emily Dickinson, and the times when I sang best, I had the feeling she was speaking. Given that Copland seemed born to set Dickinson, it is doubly unfortunate that he did not work from her original texts and their remarkable punctuation. The corrupt editions that he used smoothed over her jagged delivery and conventionalised her devastatingly abrupt style.

The poems Copland selected concern life and death, nature as both a benign and destructive and the poet’s struggle between faith and despair. He began the project with The Chariot, where Dickinson picks up the Romantic theme of Death and the Maiden and gives the Maiden a voice, an uncanny meeting of wit and terror: Because I could not stop for Death - / He kindly stopped for me - /The Carriage held but just Ourselves - / And Immortality. What composer would not want to set those lines?

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Twelve Poems by Emily Dickinson

Composer: Aaron Copland (b. 1900 - d. 1990)
Performance date: Friday 4th July 2014
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Aaron Copland (b. 1900 - d. 1990)
Work Title Twelve Poems by Emily Dickinson
Composition Year 1949-50
Work Movements 1. Nature, the Gentlest Mother
2. There Came a Wind Like a Bugle
3. Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?
4. The World Feels Dusty
5. Heart, We Will Forget Him
6. Dear March, Come In!
7. Sleep is Supposed to Be
8. When They Come Back
9. I Felt a Funeral in My Brain
10. I
11. Going to Heaven!
12. The Chariot
Artist(s) Ailish Tynan [soprano], Joseph Middleton [piano]
Performance Date Friday 4th July 2014
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Crespo Recital Series
Duration 00:29:29
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation S-solo, pf
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

The Emily Dickinson story is an extraordinary one. She spent almost all her life in the Massachusetts town of Amherst, where she was born in 1830, in a Puritan community based on church-going and revivalism. She wrote 1,775 poems - less than 20 were published in her lifetime. Those she did publish were so mangled by uncomprehending editors that she quickly withdrew from the auction of publication and a complete and accurate edition of her poems did not appear until 1955. Her poetry is startlingly modern with her highly condensed expression and idiosyncratic punctuation that leap off the page. Every word, every punctuation mark, even every word left out counts in her poems.

Dickinson tears at the comforting blanket of language and exposes us to her stark, distinct and jewel-like world. In an age of oratory, she chose the near-silence of her terse poetic script. In a literary culture dominated by men, she sought out her literary sisters – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Brontës, George Eliot, George Sand. In a Puritan culture, she was a religious sceptic and wrote movingly about being shut out of a lost Heaven. She lived the restricted life expected of a woman of good family in a New England town, she wrote about the great Romantic themes of love, loss, death, Nature and God but her poetry looks at every experience, every object, every emotion as if it were wholly new. She was a hundred years ahead of her time.

The conductor Michael Tilson Thomas wrote: I actually learnt to love Emily Dickinson , my whole entry into her world of poetry was through Aaron’s songs. I think he made, for a whole generation of Americans, the cadential intent of the actual words very clear in the way he set them. And the soprano Phyllis Curtin, who sang them hundreds of times, said: It was Aaron who found the musical voice for Emily Dickinson, and the times when I sang best, I had the feeling she was speaking. Given that Copland seemed born to set Dickinson, it is doubly unfortunate that he did not work from her original texts and their remarkable punctuation. The corrupt editions that he used smoothed over her jagged delivery and conventionalised her devastatingly abrupt style.

The poems Copland selected concern life and death, nature as both a benign and destructive and the poet’s struggle between faith and despair. He began the project with The Chariot, where Dickinson picks up the Romantic theme of Death and the Maiden and gives the Maiden a voice, an uncanny meeting of wit and terror: Because I could not stop for Death - / He kindly stopped for me - /The Carriage held but just Ourselves - / And Immortality. What composer would not want to set those lines?