We have been hoping to record the Copland for a long time - we have both become extremely fond of Dickinson's poetry and feel Copland's settings show a deep understanding of the poems - they articulate her feelings and present her imagery with a beautiful simplicity and lucidity. It was fascinating to compare the piano score with the orchestral version of the songs and to see what instrumentation Copland selected to add more colour to the texture. Interestingly, he only set 8 of them because he could not imagine the orchestral colours for the remaining four. Copland's appreciation of the economy of Dickinson's writing is shown in the fact that he writes very few melismas in the vocal part and almost no repetition (with the exception of the ending of the first song where the repeated final line: 'wills silence everywhere', melts the tessitura down from a G to a long held B, creating the still and peaceful plateau of the sun setting). Copland allows the lines to be almost spoken, such as in <em style="font-size: 14.399999618530273px;">When they come back, which is a wonderful example of Dickinson's existential meanderings on the meaning of the here and now and her place in the world. Copland specified that he did not wish for 'an emotional voice' to sing the cycle but for the singer to be able to deliver the text in a very simple, hymnic style. Perhaps what he meant was that neither part should indulge in any romantic tendencies, so that the introspectiveness of Dickinson's poetry could be preserved; moreover, to ensure that it is her voice that is heard and not that of the performers and their interpretation - in fact Copland is careful to limit the scope of interpretation by being quite prescriptive about dynamics, tempo and phrasing.
We hope that our performance communicates our experience of the poetry and music as one entity, and shows our appreciation for the concrete way in which Copland has set the poems. In some songs, the soprano and piano are two voices, both external and internal, who converse, argue and switch places. One prevalent thematic characteristic throughout the song cycle is Copland's use of inversions and interval leaps, which often illustrate extremes of emotion or dramatic shifts (such as 'I'm glad I don't believe it' in number 10 and 'we barred the windows' in number 2) and they seem to act as the musical equivalent of the idiosyncratic dashes that punctuate the majority of Dickinson's poems. In other songs, the piano and soprano are two distinctly external voices often communicating across a Gothic veil between the natural world and the supernatural: one abstract, in colour, full of imagery and emotion and the other concrete, in black and white, starkly factual and direct. The two voices seem always to join together at the ending of each song; this unification, even if terrifying (such as in I felt a funeral in my brain) is a feature of the cycle that illuminates the humanity and often the surprising comfort and warmth present in Dickinson's poetry that many have come to know and love. '