America has produced a number of writers, thinkers, and composers who consciously wanted to live their lives in isolation or exile. Henry David Thoreau, Conlon Nancarrow and John Luther Adams are just a few examples of these American hermits.
What I think is special about the American poet Emily Dickinson is that she spent her whole life secluded in her childhood home in Amherst, Massachusetts — hidden in plain sight. Her poems also remained hidden until after her death: a chest full, which her sister did not destroy but published against Emily’s wishes.
In 2020 we will all have become hermit-like. We keep our distance from each other, work from our own homes where possible and look forward to the time when we can reunite in larger numbers in concert halls, theaters, cinemas and festivals.
I composed Emily for a series of concerts dealing with themes around Covid-19. Her poems about death, isolation and immortality are more relevant than ever.
Emily was premiered by soprano Marene Elgershuizen and Matangi Quartet, for NTR Radio 4 in Muziekhaven, Zaandam. Matangi Quartet also performed my first string quartet I Dreamed in the Cities at Night. You can listen to the entire program here.
In December, Marene and I were interviewed about the project for newspaper Trouw.