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Jennifer Higdon's 'Dooryard Bloom'

Composer Jennifer Higdon.
Composer Jennifer Higdon.
Soloist Nmon Ford.
Soloist Nmon Ford.

Jennifer Higdon's Dooryard Bloom derives its title from Walt Whitman's poem (also set for soloists, chorus and orchestra in the 1940s by Paul Hindemith). Her work was commissioned by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, which gave the premiere with Nmon Ford last year.

The composer has published her thoughts on the piece:

"A near impossible task, to write about this piece of music which sets Walt Whitman's 'When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd.' Normally, for a composer, the explanation of a piece is a much more straightforward affair. In this particular case, it is extremely difficult, maybe not even possible, for the text discusses and explores so many aspects of grief and loss. As a composer, I am hesitant to tread in this area with words (because Whitman did it so masterfully); I feel that only the musical notes that I write can do so in an appropriate manner. I can tell you, however, that I was moved by all of the stages of grief that Whitman examines in this poem, and that I was struck by the fact that he captures the extreme range of emotions that we all must face at some point.

My title, Dooryard Bloom, is a play of words on Whitman's title. A dooryard is defined as the yard next to the door of a house... which in this poem could mean many things... Is the yard the hereafter? Or is it a place leading to a passage? What is the bloom? The growth of a flower or a view of light? The lilacs blooming... are they representative of death or of life? Or of growth? Or of time passing... lilacs last. The beauty of music is the power to suggest things that even words might not convey. Therefore, take your own meaning from this piece, literally or emotionally or metaphorically... let it be your own dooryard."

All text courtesy program notes for 'A King Celebration' from the Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, Ga.

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