Resounding Verse

Resounding Verse

Join music theorist Stephen Rodgers as he explores how composers transform words into songs. Each episode discusses one poem and one musical setting of it. The music is diverse—covering a variety of styles and time periods, and focusing on composers from underrepresented groups—and the tone is accessible and personal. If you love poetry and song, no matter your background and expertise, this show is for you. Episodes are 20-40 minutes long and air around the first of every month.


February 1, 2023 33 mins

The Haitian-American composer Nathalie Joachim transforms a Haitian hymn, and in so doing creates a multi-layered tapestry of sound that evokes the many voices of Haiti—past, present, and future.

"Resevwa Li" comes from Joachim's Grammy-nominated 2019 album Fanm d'Ayiti (New Amsterdam Records), featuring the Spektral Quartet.

Resevwa Li

Men n’ap proche devan ou Granmèt
Avèk tout ti...

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Connie Converse was one of the first singer-songwriters, an uncommon talent who predated Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. But she was barely known in her day, and after making a handful of low-fi recordings in the 1950s, she disappeared in 1974. Her songs weren't widely known until some of those low-fi recordings were released on CD in 2009. This episode looks at one of her most affecting songs, which appears on Walking in the Dark, a...

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We know very little about the German composer Marie von Kehler (1822–1882), who served as a "lady in waiting" to a princess and seems to have been acquainted with Johannes Brahms. But we do know that she wrote over eighty songs that were published over a decade after her death—none of which had ever been recorded until Stephan Loges and Jocelyn Freeman recorded four of them for my website Art Song Augmented. This episode ...

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Carolyn Forché's 46-page poem "On Earth" forms the basis for a song cycle called The Blue Hour, which was composed by five women—Caroline Shaw, Shara Nova, Rachel Grimes, Angelica Negrón, and Sarah Kirkland Snider—and just released on CD this month by Nonesuch and New Amsterdam Records.

This episode looks at one of Caroline Shaw's contributions to the cycle, a song that embraces Bach and plainchant and...

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Francis Jammes's poem depicts two lovers who sit on a bench, alone together under the shade of overhanging branches. But it's not clear if the scene is real or imaginary. In her setting of the text, Lili Boulanger heightens the poem's sense of mystery—and also the poetic speaker's anxiety that the blissful moment may only be a figment of his imagination.

You can find the score to Boulanger's song h...

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Thomas Walsh's poem and Mary Turner Salter's setting of it capture the moment between day and night—and the desire to linger in that moment as long as possible.

The episode features the first-ever recording of Mary Turner Salter's "Afterglow," performed by soprano Camille Ortiz and pianist Gustavo Castro and engineered by Joseph Wenda. I commissioned the recording for Art Song Augmented, my website...

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Nathaniel Bellows’ poem and Sarah Kirkland Snider's haunting setting of it—from her song cycle Unremembered—revisit the site of a childhood trauma and meditate on innocence and the mechanisms of memory.  

The performance of the song features vocalists Padma Newsome, DM Stith, and Shara Worden, and the Unremembered Orchestra (members of ACME, Alarm Will Sound, ICE, The Knights, and Sō Percussion), conducted by Edwin Outwater.

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Anne Carson's poem and Caroline Shaw's mesmerizing setting of it meditate on the feeling of being in and out of time.

The recording of the song, which appears on the album Let The Soil Play Its Simple Part (Nonesuch, 2021), features Caroline Shaw and Sō Percussion (Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting).

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The 21st-century Mexican composer Rodrigo Ruiz sets a text by the 19th-century German writer Heinrich Heine. In so doing, Ruiz channels 19th-century musical style and offers a deeply moving interpretation of a poem about the loss of love and the death of an artistic tradition that Heine once held dear.

The performance of the song features soprano Grace Davidson and pianist Christopher Glynn.

The song appears on th...

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Kendra Preston Leonard's poem and Lisa Neher's song—about a man who sells fresh fruit on a summer day—celebrate something sumptuous where we would least expect it.

The performance of the song is by Arwen Myers, who is also featured in a previous episode about a song by Florence Price.

Be sure to check out other collaborations by Kendra Preston Leonard and Lisa Neher,  especially the works in their micro-...

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Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is one of the most famous poems in the English language, and it has been set to music by many composers. This episode explores an extraordinarily inventive setting by the Black American composer Margaret Bonds (1913–1972), recently recorded by bass-baritone Justin Hopkins and pianist Jeanne-Minette Cilliers.

This recording comes from a playlist created by Hopkins and Cilliers, wh...

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In Julia Johnson Davis's poem "To My Little Son," a mother imagines what her baby boy will look like when he's twenty-one years old, and wonders whether, when he's grown up, she'll see glimmers of the boy in the man. Thinking of her own son, Florence Price turned to Davis's poem and created a song that is nuanced, affecting, and deeply personal.

The recording of “To My Little Son” is by ...

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Maya Angelou's poem "Phenomenal Woman" tells women that they don't have to conform to conventional ideas of femininity. Farayi Malek uses her voice to amplify Angelou's, and to lift up the voices of other women who at times struggle to feel comfortable in their own skin—and who deserve to feel phenomenal just as they are.

The recording of "Phenomenal Woman" features the following musician...

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The protagonist in Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem looks upon a tree that has died and wonders what caused it to wither. She stands apart from the scene, awed and perplexed, but at a crucial moment enters the scene and takes a decisive action. In H. Leslie Adams's song, that action seems even more decisive—and even more brutal.

The recording of "Branch by Branch" is by Darryl Taylor and Robin Guy, and co...

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In Nikolaus Lenau's poem "Scheideblick" (Parting Glance) a man leaves his beloved and, as he departs, imagines sinking his happiness into the ocean. Josephine's Lang's setting of the poem evokes the ebb and flow of the sea, and also the ebb and flow of the emotions associated with it.

For more on Josephine Lang, see Harald and Sharon Krebs's book Josephine Lang: Her Life and Songs.


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May 15, 2021 3 mins

Announcing a new podcast about poetry and song. Join music theorist Stephen Rodgers as he explores how composers transform words into songs. Each episode discusses one poem and one musical setting of it. The music is diverse—covering a variety of styles and time periods, and focusing on composers from underrepresented groups—and the tone is accessible and personal. If you love poetry and song, no matter your background and expertis...

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