Nathan: Some Favored Nook

Program Note

Eric Nathan (b.1983)
Some Favored Nook (2017)
Texts by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911)

Nathan is a 2013 Rome Prize Fellow and 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, and has garnered acclaim internationally through performances by Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic’s Scharoun Ensemble, soprano Dawn Upshaw, violinist Jennifer Koh, at the New York Philharmonic’s 2014 and 2016 Biennials, and at the Tanglewood, Aspen, Aldeburgh, Cabrillo, Yellow Barn and MATA festivals. Nathan currently serves as Assistant Professor of Music in Composition-Theory at the Brown University Department of Music.

"My song cycle, Some Favored Nook, with texts adapted by librettist Mark Campbell, takes place in Civil War-era America and is inspired by the significant correspondence between an unlikely pair: Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. My work places Dickinson and Higginson's writings in the context of the Civil War and the patriarchal society of the time, and uses the texts as a lens to view the social, political and cultural issues of this early chapter in American history – abolition, civil rights, women's rights, the effects of war, as well as many of the themes that fill Dickinson's poetry, such as love and death – all issues that are as relevant today as they were in Dickinson’s time.

Dickinson’s and Higginson’s correspondence spanned twenty-four years and offers an intimate look into Dickinson’s private world as well as to Higginson’s involvement in major social and political issues of the day, as the commanding officer of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first black regiment in the Civil War. Higginson was also a noted supporter of women poets, and published the first collection of Dickinson’s poetry after her death. I set both excerpts from Dickinson’s letters and poems she sent to Higginson. As many of Higginson’s letters to her are lost, texts are set from Higginson’s own essays and diaries from his “Army Life in a Black Regiment", giving an important historical context to Dickinson’s work.

This work was composed during a Frederic A. Juilliard/Walter Damrosch Rome Prize Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome (2013-14), while in residence at Copland House, Cortlandt Manor, New York, as a recipient of the Copland House Residency Award (2017), and as part of a Visiting Artist residency at the American Academy in Rome (2017). It was workshopped at a Yellow Barn Artist Residency, made possible, in part, by the Brown Arts Initiative. The world premiere was presented by the Nasher Sculpture Center and the East Coast-premiere was presented by FirstWorks."

—Eric Nathan