Composers have set the poetry of Walt Whitman (1819–1892) more than five hundred times in the century since his death—the most for an American poet. For many, Whitman is the quintessential representative of the United States. This document will examine the ascendancy of Whitman as it relates to vocal art music from the first half of the twentieth century and will focus on the context in which composers have turned to him for inspiration. Composers from various nations and communities also seem to find something in Whitman that speaks to them and their individual circumstance, be it comfort in war and loss, racial integrity, sexual orientation, love of man and nature, or patriotism. Specific pieces will be presented as representational examples of these various themes. Concepts of self-identity and national identity will be addressed, and the particular circumstances of composition will be presented in order to show how Whitman, who during his lifetime was largely dismissed by the public and the academy, became known as America’s Bard.
|School||UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI|
|Subjects||Modern literature; Music; American literature|
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