Edgar Allan Poe and music

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

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 Europe than in America.[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 eponymous poem.

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.[3][4]

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 Greek composer Dionysis Boukouvalas has set Poe's poem To Zante for soprano and piano.

In 2001, the 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.

The 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.

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

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.

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 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 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.

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."[5][6]

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.[7]

Popular music

See also

For his influence on other media:

For his appearances as a fictional character:


  1. Schmitt at AmericanSymphony.org
  2. Caplet at AmericanSymphony.org
  3. MUSIC REVIEW; At the Ball, a Deadly Thief in the Night (New York Times)
  4. Tales of Edgar Allen [sic] Poe at AmericanSymphony.org
  5. 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.
  6. Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna da (April 18, 2013). "Nimbly Chasing That Winged Target". The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  7. "The Ecstasies Above listing on Music Sales Classical (publisher)". Music Sales Classical. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  8. poe-cd.com
  9. Webster, Andy (5 September 2008). "Digging Deeply into Depths of Poe". New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  10. Froese, Edgar. "The Island of the Fay". Eastgate shop. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  11. Lawrence, Kristen. "Poe's "The Raven" - Part 1 & Part 2 - music by Kristen Lawrence". YouTube. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  12. 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

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