Five Songs of Dickinson, for SATB divisi chorus and piano (2016 - 17)



Five songs of Dickinson is a choral cycle celebrating the works of Dickinson across themes of life, love, nature, death, and beyond. The texts explored include I’ll tell you how the sun rose, Because I could not stop for Death, Exhilaration is the Breeze, Wild Nights! Wild Nights!, and The brain is wider than the sky.

The recording above is the first song of the cycle to be recorded (Wild Nights! Wild Nights!). Wild Nights is one of the most sensuous and alluring poems in the entire Western poetry canon. It is also one of Emily Dickinson’s (1830 – 1886) greatest and most frequently set texts in her oeuvre. Perhaps what most notably sets her work apart is her characteristic simplicity of line and syntax. That is, her ability to communicate highly complex human emotions in concise language that is highly interpretive. 

In no text could there be greater room for interpretation and free-roaming imagination than in Wild Nights. The speaker is yearning to return to her lover, to whom she promises: “were I with thee, wild nights should be our luxury!” This manifested tension—yearning to be physically reunited—boils to an effervescent high, with swelling ostinato figurations in the piano projecting the erotic storm. As the drama surges on, Dickinson begins echoing back to the Garden of Eden, where she alludes to the power and paradisiacal love that awaits them. Yet the tension will not be fully released or satisfied, and the chorus and piano end in a harmonic world that sounds unresolved, leaving a sense of sustained longing beyond the double bar.