The Music of Poet Emily Dickinson

American Poet Emily Dickinson was very intereseted in music of many kinds, and kept a
personal sheet music collection which is in the Houghton Library at Harvard University.
Some of the images on this page are from the table-of-contents of her music book.

Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts into a prominent family with strong ties to its community. After studying at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, she briefly attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family's house in Amherst.

Dickinson lived much of her life in reclusive isolation. Considered an eccentric by locals, she developed a noted penchant for white clothing and became known for her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, to even leave her bedroom. Dickinson never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence. She was a recluse for the later years of her life

While Dickinson was a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime. The work that was published during her lifetime was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Her poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends.

Although Dickinson's acquaintances were most likely aware of her writing, it was not until after her death in 1886—when Lavinia, Dickinson's younger sister, discovered her cache of poems—that the breadth of her work became apparent to the public. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890 by personal acquaintances Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, though both heavily edited the content. A complete, and mostly unaltered, collection of her poetry became available for the first time when scholar Thomas H. Johnson published The Poems of Emily Dickinson in 1955.

Scholar Judith Farr notes that Dickinson, during her lifetime, "was known more widely as a gardener, perhaps, than as a poet". Dickinson studied botany from the age of nine and, along with her sister, tended the garden at Homestead. During her lifetime, she assembled a collection of pressed plants in a sixty-six page leather-bound herbarium. It contained 424 pressed flower specimens that she collected, classified, and labeled using the Linnaean system. The Homestead garden was well-known and admired locally in its time. It has not survived but efforts to revive it have begun. Dickinson kept no garden notebooks or plant lists, but a clear impression can be formed from the letters and recollections of friends and family. Her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, remembered "carpets of lily-of-the-valley and pansies, platoons of sweetpeas, hyacinths, enough in May to give all the bees of summer dyspepsia. There were ribbons of peony hedges and drifts of daffodils in season, marigolds to distraction—a butterfly utopia". In particular, Dickinson cultivated scented exotic flowers, writing that she "could inhabit the Spice Isles merely by crossing the dining room to the conservatory, where the plants hang in baskets". Dickinson would often send her friends bunches of flowers with verses attached, but "they valued the posy more than the poetry"

Despite Dickinson's prolific writing, fewer than a dozen of her poems were published during her lifetime. After her younger sister Lavinia discovered the collection of nearly 1800 poems, Dickinson's first volume was published four years after her death. Until Thomas H. Johnson published Dickinson's Complete Poems in 1955.

(Adapted from Wikipedia)

 


We have created a collection of notation arrangements using versions of many of the tunes in Emily Dickinson's music collection. These arrangements include the melody, a basic keyoard (or harp) accompaniment and guitar chords. These basic arrangments can quite easily be used to create various verions of this music.

Pieces in the collection:
Aurora Waltz
Bird's Waltz
College Hornpipe
Drops Of Brandy
Durang's Hornpipe
Fisher's Hornpipe
Juniata Hornpipe
Kinlock Of Kinlock Variations
Locomotive
Lucy Neal
March in Aladdin
Panharmonicon March
The Caledonian Hunt
The Elfin
The Last Rose Of Summer
The Tulip
The Willows

Here are some MP3 samples of simple arrangments....

The Willows (English horn and harps)

Kinlock of Kinnlock Variations (Fiddle solo and harps)

The Elfin (Violin solo & harps)

Downloading the
Emily Dickinson Music Collection

You can download the notation for all 11 pieces of music in PDF format, using the following link for $4.00.



Download - Price - $4.00

After your secure payment is processed you will immediately be sent the download link to the email you give while purchasing the collection.

 

Three poems by Emily Dickinson

Tell-all-the-truth-but-tell-it-slant

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

The brain is wider than the sky

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.

They shut me up in Prose –

They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
Because they liked me "still" –

Still! Could themself have peeped –
And seen my Brain – go round –
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason – in the Pound –


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