"The Poets' Requiem", by Ned Rorem: Interaction between text and melody

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Choral and Voice

First Committee Member

Jo-Michael Scheibe - Committee Chair


The Poets' Requiem was composed by Ned Rorem between 1954 and 1955. It was premiered on February 15, 1957, by the American Concert Choir and Orchestra in New York; the conductor for the premiere was Margaret Hillis, and the soprano soloist was Ellen Faull. Although this performance received positive reviews, the work had not been performed since, until this author's recital on February 25, 1995; there is no commercial recording available. The Poets' Requiem is scored for mixed chorus, orchestra, and soprano soloist; the text is based on a collection of verses compiled and translated by Paul Goodman for his novel, Dead of Spring. The Requiem is divided into eight movements; each movement is set to words by a different writer: Franz Kafka, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean Cocteau, Stephane Mallarme, Sigmund Freud, Andre Gide, and Paul Goodman.Ned Rorem has brought together in one work diverse areas of study: literature, philosophy, psychology, and music. Brilliant contemporary writers with various literary styles are represented. This study explores the interdisciplinary nature of this work and the masterful setting by Rorem. In doing so this study (a) provides the reader with biographical information on the composer and the various authors of the texts, (b) provides background information on each poetic work, (c) offers commentaries on and scholarly interpretations of the meaning of the various verses, and (d) provides musical analyses of melodic materials used by Rorem to depict the text and the profundity of its meaning.


Literature, Modern; Biography; Music

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