"Invisible, as Music –": What the Earliest Musical Settings of Emily Dickinson's Poems, Including Two Previously Unknown, Tell Us about Dickinson's Musicality
- The Emily Dickinson Journal
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 28, Number 2, 2019
- pp. 73-105
- Additional Information
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Carlton Lowenberg's Musicians Wrestle Everywhere lists "Have You Got a Brook in Your Little Heart?" (1896) as the earliest musical adaptation of Dickinson's poetry. Yet the song's composer, Etta Parker, was performing it two years earlier. Also in 1894, a well-known German-British composer, Jacques Blumenthal, issued two Dickinson settings in a long-forgotten collection titled Two Books of Song. Lowenberg's main focus was on modernist and later musical settings, and little has been written about early adaptations. How Parker and Blumenthal came to set these works to music is unknown, and Parker's obscurity during her lifetime makes even biographical information difficult to verify. The speed with which these two distant and disparate composers took up Dickinson's work offers the opportunity to reconsider her "musicality." Gaps in the material record also prompt consideration of what gets recorded and discarded, and whose voices are heard, when we listen back to the past.