Some Favored Nook (2017)
for Soprano, Baritone and Piano
Composed by Eric Nathan
Dramaturgy by Mark Campbell
Texts by Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson,
adapted by Mark Campbell and Eric Nathan
Composed for Jessica Rivera, Andrew Garland and Molly Morkoski
ABOUT THE WORK
My song cycle, “Some Favored Nook” (45 minutes), with texts adapted by librettist Mark Campbell, takes place in Civil War-era America and is inspired by the significant correspondence between an unlikely pair: Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. My work places Dickinson and Higginson's writings in the context of the Civil War and the patriarchal society of the time, and uses the texts as a lens to view the social, political and cultural issues of this early chapter in American history – abolition, civil rights, women's rights, the effects of war, as well as many of the themes that fill Dickinson's poetry, such as love and death – all issues that are as relevant today as they were in Dickinson’s time.
Dickinson’s and Higginson’s correspondence spanned twenty-four years and offers an intimate look into Dickinson’s private world as well as to Higginson’s involvement in major social and political issues of the day, as the commanding officer of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first black regiment in the Civil War. Higginson was also a noted supporter of women poets, and published the first collection of Dickinson’s poetry after her death. I set both excerpts from Dickinson’s letters and poems she sent to Higginson. As many of Higginson’s letters to her are lost, texts are set from Higginson’s own essays and diaries from his “Army Life in a Black Regiment,” giving an important historical context to Dickinson’s work.
This work was composed during a Frederic A. Juilliard/Walter Damrosch Rome Prize Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome (2013-14), while in residence at Copland House, Cortlandt Manor, New York, as a recipient of the Copland House Residency Award (2017), and as part of a Visiting Artist residency at the American Academy in Rome (2017). The work is dedicated to, Jessica Rivera, Andrew Garland and Molly Morkoski.
– Eric Nathan
45 minutes (in three parts)
First workshop performance: Yellow Barn Artist Residency (September 19-23, 2017).
This residency was also made possible, in part, by the Brown Arts Initiative.
Premiere: Date TBD
I. To tell me what is true?
II. The nearest dream recedes unrealized
III. Could you tell me how to grow?
IV. They shut me up in Prose
V. My barefoot rank is better
VI. To see if we were growing
VII. War feels to me an oblique place
VIII. There suddenly arose
X. All sounds ceased
XI. There came a wind like a bugle
XII. Attending to the wounded
XIII. That shamed the nation
XIV. These are my introduction
XV. My Wars are laid away in Books / No Prisoner be
The Emily Dickinson texts:
"They shut me up in prose" J 613/F 445
"They dropped like flakes" J 409/F 545
"No prisoner be" J 720/F 742
"My wars are laid away in books" J 1549/F 1579
Are set to music and reprinted in the score with permission from Harvard University Press. THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1951, 1955 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © renewed 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1914, 1918, 1919, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1935, 1937, 1942, by Martha Dickinson Bianchi. Copyright © 1952, 1957, 1958, 1963, 1965, by Mary L. Hampson.
All other texts used in the work are in the public domain.