Dickinson Fragments

Programme Note

Dickinson Fragments is a cycle of 20 very short songs setting poems by Emily Dickinson. The poems explore a wide range of themes, and span the whole of Dickinson’s creative life. In writing the music, my intention was to create a series of vivid and contrasting moods which transcend the songs’ often minute dimensions. I originally composed Dickinson Fragments in 2006 when I was an undergraduate student, and I revised and expanded the piece in 2022.


27th April 2007
Helen Pridmore (Soprano), Guy Button (Violin)
Robinson College Chapel, Cambridge

Year: 2006
Duration: 10′
Instrumentation: Soprano, Violin

Part 1
I – A word is dead, when it is said
II – Purple – is fashionable twice
III – Let me first knowing be of thee
IV – As if some little Arctic flower

Part 2
V – Come slowly – Eden!
VI – When Continents expire
VII – The Blood is more showy than the Breath
VIII – How slow the Wind – how slow the Sea

Part 3
IX – The words the happy say
X – If I should see a single bird
XI – Incredible the Lodging
XII – Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawn

Part 4
XIII – The lovely flowers embarrass me
XIV – Soft as the massacre of suns
XV – All things swept sole away
XVI – God is indeed a jealous God

Part 5
XVII – How still the Bells in Steeples stand
XVIII – To wait an Hour – is long
XIX – My friend must be a Bird
XX – Life is death we’re lengthy at