The Grandeur of God: A Musical Setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins' St. Beuno Sonnets
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The poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins is rife with musical qualities; from his unusual “sprung rhythm” to the influence of the Welsh poetic tradition of cynghanedd, his works often “pour and pelt music” (“The Sea and the Skylark”). These elements have engendered many musical adaptations of Hopkins’ poetry, but such compositions rarely reach a large scale. In this creative project, I aimed to capture the musicality and meaning of Hopkins’ poetry in an eleven-piece cycle of piano works, each one the setting of a different sonnet written by Hopkins in the summer of 1877 while preparing for ordination at St. Beuno’s College. To this effect, I have adopted an original method of musical interpretation, drawing inspiration from both prosody and semantics to create instrumental melodies that follow the poetry closely, adapting each word of the text. The final project includes the compositional score in addition to an explanatory document that situates the work within the landscape of musical history–explicating the work’s many influences–and details many of my artistic choices in the compositional process.