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Music Text

Emily Dickinson


Abbreviations (PDF)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY
Trio Mediaeval (Anna Maria Friman-Henriksen, Linn Andrea Fuglseth), Martha Cluver / Beth Morrison Projects / Julian Wachner
Composer's Notes

The Lost Thought (original)

I felt a cleaving in my mind
As if my brain had split;
I tried to match it, seam by seam,
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind I strove to join
Unto the thought before,
But sequence ravelled out of reach
Like balls upon a floor.

—Emily Dickinson

The Lost Thought (revised)

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind—
As if my Brain had split—
I tried to match it—Seam by Seam—
But could not make it fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto the thought before—
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound
Like Balls—upon a Floor.

—Emily Dickinson

Set for three female voices and chamber ensemble, The Lost Thought is the second in a collection of five poems by Emily Dickinson intended for a multi-disciplinary evening. This complete cycle is being created in collaboration with animators/visual artists, a choreographer and librettist. There are moments in the music where room is left for the other elements to be explored, and this balance will likely be further exaggerated as the work develops to completion.

Through the settings of these poems, Dickinson is portrayed alone in her room; a confined space wherein magical worlds are imagined, remembered and incarnated. They breathe into the space, and bleed through the walls and windows to the sky. This particular instrumentation was selected to create an intimate unveiling of, and window into, Emily’s world.

On the surface, the opening movements are marked by simplicity and a sense of playfulness through lilting melodic cells and buoyant rhythms, but with a sinister undertone always lurking and never too far away. At moments, the music fractures to reveal more chaotic passages or outbursts – guided by the text – both the image and the articulation and sound of the words.

Since writing her poem, The Lost Thought, Dickinson later revised it - capitalizing key words, adding her signature dashes, which would often indicate missing words or gasps, and even changing words – most notably replacing ‘reach’ with ‘Sound’. These revisions dramatically alter the poem – both in meaning, and also in terms of how the poem appears visually on the page and how it is heard in recitation. Dickinson went on to write another, much more dramatically different, version of this poem 10 years later, at the request of her sister. It is the first two versions that are explored in this setting.

— Anna Clyne

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