O Blissful Loss of Self – Explorations of Ecstasy in Music and Poetry by Women
Ecstatic poetry, characterized by experiences of selflessness, suspension of time, and physical or spiritual rapture, has a long and deep tradition throughout many cultures in the world. Historically, women’s voices of ecstasy have been silenced, dismissed, or forgotten. Poets such as Hildegard von Bingen and Sor Juana were silenced by the church. Emily Dickinson was considered psychologically unstable and her poetry was only published after her death. The poetry of Muna Lee, American Women’s Rights activist and Inter-Americanist, is rarely heard or read.
This project will explore, celebrate, and reclaim women’s poetic voices and experiences of ecstasy throughout history through a musical commission, a call for compositions by female composers, and free improvisation. Music written by women is underrepresented in today’s concert halls. This project will also generate more opportunities for composers who identify as female, will diversify the chamber music field, and will culminate in a performance at UNCG as part of the She Can We Can celebration.
We will also create a call for compositions by female composers for soprano and flute based on poetry with ecstatic elements written by women such as Hildegard von Bingen, Sor Juana, Emily Dickinson, or others discovered or written by the composers themselves.
Finally, we will also create our own multimedia work exploring the poetry of women’s rights activist Muna Lee through free improvisation in performance. Lee’s poetry contains ecstatic elements, rich depictions of her home landscape in Puerto Rico, and many translations of Spanish poetry. Her work is deeply lyrical and will provide abundant opportunities for free improvisation of both music and dance. Using audio files of Lee reading her own poetry, we will create an improvisatory work which embodies her words, their meaning, and the nature of Lee’s work as an activist.
Together, these elements will create a performance of about 60 minutes. The premier of these works will occur in concert at UNCG during the Spring 2021 semester as part of the She Can We Can celebration. After the premier, we will endeavor to perform these works at other North Carolina universities and venues both nationally and internationally.