Reading in the Dark - A Performer's Encounter with Emily Dickinson and her American Musical Interpreters

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


There has been much discussion and debate relating to Emily Dickinson’s (1830-1888) life, poems and letters of correspondence but there has been surprisingly little study done into the ever-broadening pool of song settings of her works. Yet American song composers, from as early as 1896, have been consistently drawn to the economy, beauty and inherent musicality of Dickinson’s poetic style.

The songs featured in this lecture-recital provide the audience/reader with an opportunity to observe not only a profound evolution of Emily Dickinson’s literary style, both in theme and poetic device, but also an opportunity to hear some of the finest American art song composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The musical settings provide us, the listener, with a unique platform where we can hear Dickinson’s poems and letters in a more full and embodied way. Her words, which are so concise yet electric and intense, now have the added layering of a musical score to release sub-layers and textures. In doing so these musical settings bring us closer to the emotional contours of our own lives and experiences.

It is our wish that this presentation will inaugurate a new forum for the way in which we read, hear and, most importantly, perform the work of Emily Dickinson.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2015
EventPERFORMA : International Conference on Music Performance - Universidade di Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal
Duration: 11 Jun 201515 Jun 2015


Internet address


  • Music
  • American cultural studies
  • Literature
  • Performance Studies
  • Composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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