To Make A Prairie
For Soprano and Piano
Commissioned by soprano Alisa Pearson and pianist Kathleen Boyd as part of a larger set entitled “Insecticycle: 3 Songs About Bugs”
Also featured on the compilation CD “Emily Dickinson in Song; Dwell in Possibility”
“To Make a Prairie…” was commissioned by soprano Alisa Pearson and pianist Kathleen Boyd as part of a larger set entitled “Insecticycle: 3 Songs About Bugs”. Alisa had had a lifelong goal of singing about bugs (?!) and had collected a stack of at least 30 poems, each dealing in some particularly delectable way with the subject of creepy crawly things. Never one to turn down a dare, I borrowed her “anthology” and came up with these. “The Fly”, based on a text by Karl Shapiro, careens schizophrenically through many moods and musical situations. It makes fleeting musical references to everything from country two-beat to heavy metal.
Fasten your seatbelts.
“To Make A Prairie…” (text by Emily Dickinson) is the “serious” one in the set. Dickinson’s text can be interpreted on many levels, including as an ode to pollination. What struck me, however, was the utter purity and simplicity of Dickinson’s text, which itself suggested to me the openness, beauty and hope of the prairie – unspoiled and alive with possibility.
The prairie can symbolize many things – tranquility, vastness, strength, optimism, splendor, love. It is a blank slate, a new beginning, all that is beautiful and natural. Dickinson urges us, quietly, that all these things and more are possible – achievable through the simplest of means.
The song itself builds from nothing – the barren starkness of beginnings, of an emptiness which holds within it infinite promise. All things become possible – an entire universe awakens from only one solitary flower and the perseverance of a single bee. When even these simple ingredients are out of reach, the power of imagination alone can bring to life a vast, beautiful wonderland. To make a thing of beauty, she whispers, this is enough.
The poem and the song it inspired suggest to me the power of the individual human spirit to transcend circumstance and to create beauty out of sheer faith and inner strength – a quiet power of belief and patience, one which does not proclaim itself by shouting, but by whispering… dreaming.
Beauty created out of nothing- nothing but hope…
To make a prairie,
It takes a clover and one bee,
One clover and a bee,
The revery alone will do,
When bees are few.
– Emily Dickinson