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."

In 1907, American composer Grace Chadbourne set Poe's text to music with her "Hymn for Solo Voice: At Morn, at Noon, at Twilight Dim."[1]

André Caplet's Conte fantastique for harp and strings, published in 1924 but begun at least as early as 1909, is a musical retelling of "The Masque of the Red Death".[2]

In 1913, Sergei Rachmaninoff set his choral symphony The Bells to a Russian translation of Poe's poem of the same name.

The American conductor and composer Leonard Slatkin composed a setting of The Raven for narrator and symphony orchestra in 1971. A lesser-known American composer, Edgar Stillman Kelley (1857–1944) wrote a piece for orchestra entitled The Pit and the Pendulum.

The American composer Philip Glass wrote the 1978 The Fall of the House of Usher to a libretto by Arthur Yorinks.[3]

The 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.

The American 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.

The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara based his 1997 choral fantasy "On the Last Frontier" on the final two paragraphs of Poe's novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.[4][5]

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.

The American composer Dominick Argento wrote an opera, based on the death of Poe.

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 Europe than in America.[6]

The 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.

Greek composer Dionysis Boukouvalas set Poe's sonnet To Zante to music in 2001. Zante (or Zakynthos) is Boukouvalas's native island. After a revision of the work in 2012, it was premiered at the very same island with the composer at the piano, sung by soprano Andriana Lykouresi.[7]

The British and American composer Tarik O'Regan uses portions of Poe's poem Israfel as the basis of his 2006 composition The Ecstasies Above for voices and string quartet.[8]

The American composer Christopher Rouse based his 2011 symphonic poem Prospero's Rooms on the castle of Prince Prospero in "The Masque of the Red Death."[9][10]

The American conductor and composer Adam Stern 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]

See also[edit]

For his influence on other media:

For his appearances as a fictional character:


  1. ^ "At morn -- at noon -- at twilight dim (Poe, set by (John Carrington, Grace Chadbourne, Walter Ruel Cowles, Paul Eisler, Harvey Bartlett Gaul, Joseph Charles Holbrooke, Bertram Shapleigh)) (The LiederNet Archive: Texts and Translations to Lieder, mélodies, canzoni, and other classical vocal music)". www.lieder.net. Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  2. ^ "Caplet at AmericanSymphony.org". Archived from the original on 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2006-03-05.
  3. ^ Rockwell, John (1988-05-20). "Opera; Glass and Poe Combine In Gothic Goings-On". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  4. ^ MUSIC REVIEW; At the Ball, a Deadly Thief in the Night (New York Times)
  5. ^ Tales of Edgar Allen [sic] Poe at AmericanSymphony.org
  6. ^ Schmitt at AmericanSymphony.org[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Video of the premiere of the song
  8. ^ "The Ecstasies Above listing on Music Sales Classical (publisher)". Music Sales Classical. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  9. ^ Levere, Jane (April 17, 2013). "New York Philharmonic To Perform All-American Program With Joshua Bell And Christopher Rouse Premiere". Forbes. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  10. ^ Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna da (April 18, 2013). "Nimbly Chasing That Winged Target". The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  11. ^ poe-cd.com
  12. ^ Froese, Edgar. "The Island of the Fay". Eastgate shop. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  13. ^ Lawrence, Kristen. "Poe's "The Raven" - Part 1 & Part 2 - music by Kristen Lawrence". YouTube. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  14. ^ Accomando, Beth. "The Big Read: Shades of Poe - A Month-Long Celebration of Edgar Allan Poe". KPBS News. KPBS.org. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  15. ^ (in French) "Gemme : Nolwenn Leroy rayonne sur un album mystique et puissant". Charts in France. 1 September 2017. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  16. ^ News, BWW. "From THE WOODSMAN To New Music Inspired By Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart". BWW News Desk. broadwayworld.com.

External links[edit]