Faculty Colloquium: Prosody and Time in Musical Settings of Emily Dickinson

Dear Colleagues,

Please join us this Friday, February 10th at 3 pm. in the Hatfield Room for our third Faculty Colloquium of this semester. Treats will be provided.

Marva Duerksen, Associate Professor of Music, Women’s & Gender Studies

Title: Prosody and Time in Musical Settings of Emily Dickinson

Musical settings of Emily Dickinson’s poems—some 3,000 by one collector’s reckoning—comprise a core component of the American art-song repertory and a sustained and wide-ranging constituent of her reception. That said, a mutually insightful conversation between musical and literary scholarly communities lies largely untapped, most especially in that facet of Dickinson’s poems that she herself highlights conspicuously and that constitutes a shared concern in both poetry and music: prosody, and its companion, time.

Several questions arise: how can literary prosodic method inform analysis of musical settings of her works? And, what insights can composers offer the literary community as they interpret the poet’s rhythmic and metric designs? More specifically, how do composers execute in music signal elements of Dickinson’s prosody—the familiar “dash,” a startling approach to rhyme, disruptions of conventional grammar, and idiosyncratic lineation? Then, how do composers’ renderings of such features through specially tempered rhythmic pacing, multi-layered rhythmic designs, and heterogeneous musical vocabularies in turn impact our comprehension of the disruptions endemic to her work? Finally, how can these analyses inform the categories of time—diachronic and synchronic—vital to Dickinson’s poetic project? Exploring these questions through literary models and musical settings by composers Ernst Bacon, Vincent Persichetti, and Niccoló Castiglioni provides a starting point for the dialogue proposed here.

Please feel free to invite students to attend this talk.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Doreen Simonsen and Daniel Rouslin
Faculty Colloquium Coordinators