Edgar Allan Poe and music

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The influence of Edgar Allan Poe on the art of music has been considerable and long-standing, with the works, life and image of the horror fiction writer and poet inspiring composers and musicians from diverse genres for more than a century.

Classical music[edit]

Claude Debussy wrote an unfinished opera based on "The Fall of the House of Usher."

Leon Botstein, conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra—which presented a program of "Tales From Edgar Allan Poe" in 1999—noted that in the realm of classical music, as in literature, Poe's influence was felt more deeply in [1] Andre Caplet's Conte fantastique for harp and strings, published in 1924 but begun at least as early as 1909, in a musical retelling of "The Masque of the Red Death"[2] and "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym".[3]

Rachmaninoff's choral symphony The Bells set Poe's poem (or at least a Russian translation) to music.

Other operas based on stories by Poe are Ligeia, a 1994 opera by Augusta Read Thomas, and The Tell-Tale Heart by Bruce Adolphe. A ballet based on a story by Poe is Hop-Frog, a 2009 ballet by Terry Brown with fifty minutes running time.

The contemporary Greek composer Dionysis Boukouvalas has set to music Poe's poem To Zante, for soprano and piano.

In 2001 Dutch composer Robert Weirauch composed a short song cycle for baritone and piano, E.A. Poe Songs, consisting of Evening Star, Lenore and Annabel Lee.

Swedish composer Fredrik Klingwall released in 2009 nine piano pieces, each one inspired by one of Poe's poems in a collection called Works of Woe.

American composer, Emma Lou Diemer, set "A Dream Within A Dream" and "Eldorado" for mixed chorus and piano. These works were published by Hinshaw Music, Inc. in 2001. Daron Hagen included settings of "A Dream Within a Dream" and "Thou Wouldst Be Loved" in the 1983 song cycle "Echo's Songs", published by E.C. Schirmer. Leonard Bernstein set "Israfel" as part of his song cycle for voices and orchestra, Songfest.

American conductor/composer Leonard Slatkin has composed a setting of "The Raven" for narrator and symphony orchestra. A lesser-known American composer, Edgar Stillman Kelley (1857–1944) wrote a piece for orchestra entitled "The Pit and the Pendulum".

Russian composer Nikita Koshkin wrote the 1984 piece Usher Valse (Usher Waltz) for solo guitar, depicting Usher's frenzied guitar performance in the short story "The Fall of the House of Usher". The Usher Waltz has been recorded by John Williams and Elena Papandreou.

Iowa composer, James Poulsen, composed "Five Poems of Edgar Allan Poe" for medium high voice and piano in 1986. The song cycle was orchestrated in 1998 with a commission from Jack and Dawn Taylor of Des Moines, Iowa. The Des Moines Symphony premiered the work in 1999 with Robin Roewe, tenor. The poems in the set are: 'Alone', 'Evening Star', Hymn', 'A Dream', and 'To One in Paradise.' Poulsen has also set a letter of Poe, a letter of Maria Clemm, and the valentine poem of Virginia Poe to music.

American conductor/composer Adam Stern (conductor) wrote a setting of Poe's early poem "Spirits of the Dead", subtitled "rhapsody for narrator and orchestra." The work received its world premiere in Seattle in October, 2014. Edmund Stone was the narrator, and the composer led the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra.

Popular music[edit]

  • Frankie Laine recorded a version of Annabel Lee in 1957, which was adapted from Poe's poem by Vic Corpora and Albert Lerner.
  • The American folk and protest singer Phil Ochs set Poe's poem "The Bells" to music on his debut album, All the News That's Fit to Sing, in 1964.
  • The American folk group "The 3 D's" recorded a version of Annabel Lee in 1964 and included it on their "New Dimensions in Folk Songs" album.
  • Bob Dylan's 1965 song "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" makes reference to "Rue Morgue Avenue".
  • When the Beatles compiled images of their heroes for the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, one of the most recognizable faces was that of Poe, in the center of the top row. In the same year, John Lennon wrote his famous nonsensical work "I Am the Walrus", which contained the lines, "Elementary penguin singing Hari Krishna/Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe."
  • In 1969, RCA records released "Poe Through the Glass Prism", a concept album in which all the songs featured the words of Edgar Allan Poe set to psychedelic rock. The Glass Prism, from Scranton, Pennsylvania, had a Billboard top 100 hit with "The Raven".
  • In 1974, English rock band Queen recorded the song "Nevermore" based on "The Raven" for their second album "Queen 2". The song appears on the Black Side of the vinyl (side 2, entirely written by Freddie Mercury. The side 1 was named "White Side" and was written mostly by Brian May)
  • In 1976, the British art rock group the Alan Parsons Project released a full album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, based on Poe's stories and poems. Opening with an instrumental named for Poe's poem "A Dream Within a Dream", the album features songs based on "The Raven", "The Cask of Amontillado", "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" (which was a Top 40 hit) and "To One in Paradise", as well as a five-part rock symphony called "The Fall of the House of Usher". Producer and engineer Alan Parsons released a remixed version of the album in 1987, featuring narration by Orson Welles; executive producer Eric Woolfson revisited the concept in a 2003 stage musical [Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination].[4]
    Also, in their 1980 album The Turn of a Friendly Card, there is an instrumental song called "The Gold Bug".
  • The deathrock band Voodoo Church wrote a song for their eponymous 1982 EP called "Second Death", which incorporates several lines from "The Black Cat" into the lyrics.
  • The Tell-Tale Hearts, a Rock/R&B garage band started in 1983 originating from San Diego, CA. The band members include Ray Brandes (acoustic and electrical guitar, vocals), Mike Stax (base guitar and vocals), Eric Bacher (electric guitar), David Klowden (drums). Former members include Bill Calhoun (organ player), Carl Rusk (lead guitar), Jon McKinney (rhythm guitar), Paul Carsola (drums), Peter Meisner (lead guitar), and Ron Swart (organ backing vocals).
  • The American rock band the Smithereens released a song called "William Wilson", based on the Poe story of the same name, on their 1989 album 11.
  • Tool featured the lyrics "seems like I'm slipping into a dream within a dream" in the song "Sweat" on their 1992 album Opiate.
  • Cuban musician Silvio Rodríguez has several songs on Poe, including "Trova de Edgardo" (1992), on the album Silvio.
  • Avant-garde Metal band Arcturus have a song on the album La Masquerade Infernale (1997) called "Alone" incorporating the full, unaltered text of Poe's poem "Alone".P
  • The band Odes Of Ecstasy on their second album Deceitful Melody (2000) incorporates the full text of "The Conqueror Worm" under the title of "Abstract Thoughts."
  • Pop singer Britney Spears named her 2001-2002 concert tour Dream Within a Dream, incorporating lines from that poem (and other Poe works) into her show.
  • The band Cinema Strange perform a song called "Legs and Tarpaulin" on their 2002 album The Astonished Eyes of Evening, dramatizing the plot of Poe's "King Pest"
  • Five Iron Frenzy's song "That's How The Story Ends" has several quotes from "The Raven" incorporated into it. It was released on their album The End Is Near (2003).
  • He was mentioned in the song "St. Jimmy" by Green Day on the album American Idiot (2004). The lyric says, "I am the son of a bitch and Edgar Allan Poe, raised in the city in the halo of lights."
  • MC Lars heavily refers to "The Raven" in his song "Mr. Raven" on his album The Laptop EP (2004). The song includes the words, "We got EAP in the house tonight, Edgar Allan Poe. America's favorite anti-transcendentalist." He continues to refer to "The Raven" throughout.
  • Scarlet's Well's fifth album Black Tulip Wings (2006) features musical settings of "To One In Paradise" and "Evening Star".
  • The L.A. Goth Rock duo Creature Feature wrote the song "Buried Alive" about Poe, released in 2007. The song contains over 20 references to Poe's work and life. Works named include "A Dream Within a Dream", "The City in the Sea", "The Valley of Unrest", "Loss of Breath", "The Premature Burial", "The Oblong Box", "Never Bet the Devil Your Head", and many others.
  • Finnish goth-metal singer Ville Valo of the band HIM frequently cites[citation needed] Poe's work as the inspiration for many of his lyrics, even sporting a tattoo of Poe's eyes on his back.
  • Warwickshires poet Siân Lavinia Valeriana with her debut album Of Blood and Absinthe (2012) released under her nom de plume 'The Raveness' features two Poe readings; "The Valley of unrest" and "A dream within a dream". Another song on the album written by the young poet about serial killer Vera Renczi was also inspired by Edgar's "The Tell Tale Heart". Further reference to Poe can be found in her teenage poetry book publication Lavinia Volume One (2006) in poems such as Sinful extraordinaire. ISBN 9781502313966
  • Marilyn Manson has been quoted[citation needed] saying that some of his inspiration for his music and art comes from Edgar Allan Poe's works, and has even painted a portrait of Poe.
  • Gothic Metal band Tristania have a song called "My Lost Lenore." The song refers to "her raven eyes" and ends similarly to the poem "The Raven", still mourning his lost Lenore.
  • The neocelt band Omnia has set "The Raven" to music on their 2007 CD Alive!.
  • Swedish neo-glam rock band The Ark's album Prayer for the Weekend's fourth track, "Little Disfunk You," claims the singer will be the "Murder in the Rue Morgue you're trying to solve," among other auspicious roles, including "mother" and "savior," that he hopes to play for the song's apparently emotionally repressed and sexually confused target.
  • Voltaire's song "Graveyard Picnic" is dedicated to Poe, and includes in the lyrics references to Poe's works, such as The Conqueror Worm, Lenore, Annabel Lee, and The Tell-Tale Heart, as well as mentioning Poe by name. He would also set Poe's poem "The Conqueror Worm" to music in his 2014 album Raised by Bats.
  • The post-hardcore band Chiodos cites Poe as one of their inspirations for lyrics from their third CD, entitled Bone Pallace Ballet.
  • Italian rocknoir band Belladonna regards Poe as their main inspiration and have included a line from Ligeia in the booklet of their debut album, entitled Metaphysical Attraction.
  • The Christian heavy metal band Tourniquet wrote their song "Tell-Tale Heart" entirely as a tribute to Poe and have said that his works have inspired them throughout their tenure. The band also used a line from the story, "The Masque of the Red Death" in their song "Vanishing Lessons", from the album of the same title.
  • The thrash metal band Annihilator dedicated one song to Poe's short tale "Ligeia" in their debut album Alice in Hell (1989)
  • Utada Hikaru in her early career wrote her song "Kremlin Dusk" about Poe's poem "The Raven".
  • German Ambient Doomrock band The Ocean used "The City in the Sea" as lyrics, only swapping a few lines to fit rhythmical patterns of the song. It was used both due to the band's love of Poe, and the themes common to both poem and band.
  • The indie rock band Draught did a version of "Annabel Lee"
  • The blues/rock band, The Yardbirds, adapted The second stanza (and a portion of the first) of Poe's "Dream within a Dream" to music.
  • The steampunk band Abney Park refer briefly to Poe in "The Secret Life of Dr. Calgori" on their 2008 album Lost Horizons.
  • Musician Jered Gallagher released the CD Outis in 2009 in which the words from eight of Poe's poems are sung over eight of Beethoven's works arranged and performed with modern instruments.
  • Greek-Cypriot songwriter and singer Alkinoos Ioannidis has written a song entitled "Edgar Allan Poe", recorded in the album O Dromos, O Hronos Kai O Ponos.
  • Buddy Morrow and His Orchestra recorded an album of songs based on Poe's work. The album, Poe for Moderns, was recorded by the jazz ensemble at Webster Hall in New York in 1960 and includes the following tracks: "The Murders In The Rue Morgue", "Annabel Lee", "The Gold Bug", "A Descent Into The Maelstrom", "The Bells", "The Fall Of The House Of Usher", "The Pit And The Pendulum", "Ulalume", "The Black Cat", "The Raven", and "Quoth The Raven/The Tell-Tale Heart."
  • In the West End musical, Snoopy!!! The Musical, a musical number in act one is titled "Edgar Allan Poe". In the song, some characters are worried that their teacher is going to ask them something about Edgar Allan Poe, who they know nothing about, while other characters list facts and titles by Poe.
  • In 2012, inde/pop band Stereo Influence released their single 'Edgar Allan Poe', drawing inspiration from his life and works. The single received good reviews, and a lot of media interest in the young group from Cheltenham was created after their signing to Paul Mccartney's label. The band have now renamed to 'Parc Royale' - https://soundcloud.com/parc-royale .
  • The album The Emptiness by Alesana is heavily influenced by the poem "Annabel Lee".[citation needed] In the album, the lead character had a lover named Annabel Lee, who was murdered before the first track starts, and the track name "In Her Tomb by the Sounding Sea" is the last line of the poem.
  • The Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan, in his song, "Lord Helpy My Poor Soul", sings the lines "Lord help my poor soul, I'm down like Edgar Poe".
  • The 2010 concept album Poe by Spanish power metal band Opera Magna revolves entirely around some of the most famous of Poe's works.
  • The band Glass Wave included a song on their 2010 album entitled Annabel Lee, in reference to Poe's last complete poem.
  • The album Dying Is Your Latest Fashion by Escape the Fate makes many references to Poe's short stories, specifically in the song "When I Go Out I Want to Go Out in a Chariot of Fire" the singer, Ronnie Radke, says "your heart beats under the floor" in reference to Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart".
  • The video for the Thirty Seconds to Mars song "Hurricane" ends with the lines from Poe's poem "Raven": "Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before".
  • A production of Masque of the Red Death, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Bells, using Poe's complete text, with music and additional songs by Christopher Reiner, was performed off-Broadway by Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group at St. Luke's Theatre in August and September 2008.[5]
  • In late 2010, electronic group Tangerine Dream recorded an album titled Edgar Allan Poe's The Island of the Fay, which was released via online shops on March 18, 2011. The album was recorded by Edgar Froese and Thorsten Quaeschning, and introduces a guest electric violinist. The short story which the album is based upon, "The Island of the Fay", will be included in the album's liner notes.[6]
  • Trevor Tanner, via Emperor Penguin Recordings, released an Apple iTunes, Digital 45, entitled "The Ballad Of Edgar Allan Poe" on July 13, 2011.
  • Classically trained American organist/composer/vocalist Kristen Lawrence created a musical setting to mirror Poe's rhythm and mood for the 18 verses of "The Raven" in her 2012 album, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." [7] This music was used during the National Endowment for the Arts THE BIG READ: Shades of Poe in San Diego, California, a program designed to encourage and inspire the community through stories, music, authors, art, poetry, film, actors and dance to read the works of Edgar Allan Poe.[8]
  • The song "From Childhood's Hour" from Norwegian progressive metal band Circus Maximus is based on Poe's poem "Alone". Most parts of the lyrics are nearly identical to the poem itself.
  • In 2012 the Noir Rock band Edgar Allan Poets released a single "Crow Girl" based on Poe's poem "The Tell Tale Heart".
  • Los Angeles band, Edgar Allan Poets, is creating rock music inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock. The Band wrote in 2012 the song "Crow Girl" inspired by " The Tell Tale Heart".
  • In December 2013, Italian rock-opera artist The Venetian released the EP "The Valley"; a 5 songs concept album based on Poe's poem "The Valley Of Unrest".

See also[edit]

For his influence on other media:

For his appearances as a fictional character:


  1. ^ Schmitt at AmericanSymphony.org
  2. ^ Caplet at AmericanSymphony.org
  3. ^ Rautavaara at AmericanSymphony.org
  4. ^ poe-cd.com
  5. ^ Webster, Andy (5 September 2008). "Digging Deeply into Depths of Poe". New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Froese, Edgar. "The Island of the Fay". Eastgate shop. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  7. ^ Lawrence, Kristen. "Poe's "The Raven" - Part 1 & Part 2 - music by Kristen Lawrence". YouTube. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Accomando, Beth. "The Big Read: Shades of Poe - A Month-Long Celebration of Edgar Allan Poe". KPBS News. KPBS.org. Retrieved 6 April 2012. 

External links[edit]