The song cycle Five Poems of Emily Dickinson was written in the summer of 2002 for tenor/guitarist Matthew Hinsley of Austin, Texas. Hinsley had already performed and recorded several of my Canciones para niños, and having seen his amazing performances (singing and accompanying himself at once), I wanted to write a cycle specifically for him that would show his abilities to best advantage. I asked him to choose some texts, and he sent me a copy of Emily Dickinson’s Selected Poems with dozens of poems marked as potential song texts. After reading all of them I decided to use five poems that he hadn’t marked at all. The cycle is constructed in a sort of arch form, with tempos of slow-fast-slow-fast-slow. The texts exhibit Dickinson’s characteristic charm, wit, and pathos, and I have tried to support them with similar musical sentiments. Knowing Hinsley’s considerable abilities as a guitarist/singer, I felt free to write fairly challenging parts for both guitar and voice with full confidence that he could pull it off, and he does so with an ease that takes one’s breath away.
Recordings by Matthew Hinsley:
I had been hungry
I had a guinea
I noticed people disappeared
Performance on CBC Radio by Julie Nesrallah and Daniel Bolshoy