Pretty Words Like Blades

Composer
Allen Menton
Composer Nationality
American
Text
Emily Dickinson
Year Composed
2017
Pages
14
Minutes
4:16
Language
English
Voicing
8 part mixed chorus
Sacred or Secular
Secular
Mood
Rhythmic, with steady energy; Dramatic, with dynamic contrasts; Tense, with some edge
Description

Emily Dickinson’s poetry furnishes composers with great opportunities for musical setting, but her poetry also presents a special challenge. Her densely concentrated syntax hinders an effective marriage of music and meaning. This poem (text reproduced below) describes a vicious small-town gossip. At first, the speaker reacts to the gossip’s subtle malevolence by retreating into a pained silence, but after the encounter, her anger bursts forth in the stormy deprecations of the poem. To illustrate the speaker’s emotional reaction and gradually formed response, I chose syllables of stammering, as if the speaker were struggling to let her words break free of the rigid small-town conventions restricting what she could say in public.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQZJMz5hE20

Audio Credit
Umberto Belfiore, video and recording
Group
C3LA
Performances
C3LA: Feb 2018 (Words Like Blades)