Setting Poetry to Music

2022 ALSCW Conference, Yale University

The Pilinszky event in March 2022 opened the door to an extraordinary meeting of musicians, composers, poets, scholars, visual artists, and others. In October 2022, eighteen artists and scholars from Hungary and the U.S. presented in Diana Senechal's double-session seminar on "Setting Poetry to Music," one of many sessions at the 25th ALSCW Conference at Yale University. View the full conference program here; read Diana Senechal's blog posts about it here, here, and here. The seminar lineup was as follows:

Setting Poetry to Music: Session 1 (Friday, October 21, 10:30-12:30 a.m.)

Gergely Balla, Independent Musician/Songwriter, "It Cannot Answer: A Platon Karataev Song Inspired by the Oeuvre of Sándor Csoóri." (Song link forthcoming, pending song release.)

Claudia Gary, Independent Writer/Artist, "Song as Conversation," subsequently published in the Winter 2023 issue of Expansive Poetry Online. Listen to "Artist of Light / Song of Creation" (poems © Frederick Turner and Heinrich Heine; Heine translation © Frederick Turner; music by Claudia Gary; performed by Claudia Gary (soprano), Steven Hartmann (clarinet), and Eugene Moye (cello). Listen also to "Scenario" (poem © 2007 by Michael O'Siadhail; music by Claudia Gary) and "If Only" (poem and music © Claudia Gary).

Emily Grace, Catholic University of America, "A Study of the Interpretive Potential of Two Settings of John Donne’s 'Batter My Heart'"

Todd Hearon, Phillips Exeter Academy, "'Caliban in After-Life': Reimagining Shakespeare’s Monster in Music and Words," subsequently published in the Winter 2023 issue of Literary Matters. The monodrama "Caliban in After-Life" (text by Todd Hearon, music by Gregory Brown) was performed by Mary Hubbell (soprano), Joel Pitchon (violin), and Judith Gordon (piano) at Sweeney Concert Hall, Smith College, on March 9, 2016; see the performance here.

Kata Heller, Eötvös Loránd University, "Rap as a New Type of Poetry? A Discussion of the Genre within the Scope of Holi's 'Roadmovie' ('Sírok és nevetek')." See also the slideshow.

Anna Maria Hong, Mount Holyoke College, "H & G: From Novella to Opera" (Diana Senechal summarized her talk in her absence). Read her poem "Patisserie du Monde" from her collection Fablesque (North Adams, MA: Tupelo Press, 2020).

Csenger Kertai, Independent Writer, "Kaláka's Musical Interpretation of Attila József's 'Tudod, hogy nincs bocsánat' ('Mercy Denied Forever')." Read József's "Tudod, hogy nincs bocsánat" (in the Hungarian original and in the English translation of Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner); listen to (and watch) Kaláka's musical rendition.

Alyse O’Hara, University of Connecticut, "Performing on the Theme of Consent in Sir Walter Ralegh’s ‘The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.'" Read Ralegh's poem here and listen to O'Hara's song rendition here.

Setting Poetry to Music: Session 2 (Saturday, October 22, 1:45-3:45 p.m.)

Lara Allen, Pratt Institute, "And All Round Me Spirits: Invoking Harry Partch"

Fruzsina Balogh, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design,and Panna Kocsis, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, "Music and Poetry in the Language of Contemporary Hungarian Visual Art." See their slideshow in PDF format here.

Sebestyén Czakó-Kuraly, Independent Musician/Songwriter, "Accompaniment or Song: Two Musical Approaches to János Pilinszky." Listen to Czakó-Kuraly's musical renditions, released in 2014 and 2015, of "Straight Labyrinth" and "On a Fine Day" (Géza Simon's translations of Pilinszky's "Egyenes labirintus" and "Egy szép napon").

Piotr Gwiazda, University of Pittsburgh, "Listening to Grzegorz Wróblewski on YouTube." See the YouTube videos of Wróblewski's "Melancholia" and "Wiara" (both videos ©Archiwum Literackie 2014).

Mary Maxwell, Independent Scholar, "Setting Sulpicia’s Songs"

Jennifer Davis Michael, Sewanee: The University of the South, and Nathan Davis, The New School College of Performing Arts, "Bell of Silence." Read the poem and score; listen to a live recording of the world premiere.

Kimberly Soby, University of Connecticut, "Examining Word Painting in the Vocal Works of Earl Kim." See her slides in PDF format here; view Apollinaire's "Écoute s'il pleut." here; listen to Earl Kim's "Where Grief Slumbers: Listen to it rain" as performed by Dawn Upshaw here.

Iris Zheng, Independent Scholar, "Composition as Criticism and Creation"

Photo of Yale Humanities Quadrangle entrance by Diana Senechal.