There are happy coincidences and then there is a confluence of events.
The latter is the better description for “Music, the Civil War, and American Memory,” a conference being held on Saturday, April 18 at the Lincoln Center campus, starting at 10 AM. Through various mediums, the conference will examine the Civil War, which ended 150 years ago on April 9.
To mark the sesquicentennial, New York Review Books has just rereleased the original version of Walt Whitman’s Drum Taps, most of which he wrote while serving as a hospital volunteer tending wounded and dying soldiers. Lawrence Kramer, PhD, Distinguished Professor of English and Music, edited the collection and wrote the introduction to the book, which has not been published in its entirety since 1865.
Kramer has organized the conference, which includes a musical concert in conjunction with readings performed by Fordham’s Poets Out Loud Prizes (POL) winners. This year’s prizewinners are Daneen Wardrop, winner of the POL Prize for her collection, Cyclorama; and Terrence Chiusano, winner of the POL Editor’s Prize for On Generation & Corruption.
Wardrop’s new work is composed of Civil War narratives that explore the lives of those often overlooked: the nurse, the woman soldier, the child, the draftee, the prostitute, the black slave, and the Native-American soldier.
Chiusano has written a poem with a Civil War theme for the occasion.
“He came up with a poem that he devised by making a word collage of the titles of all the poems in Drum Taps,” said Kramer. “This was more than a happy coincidence, this was marriage made in heaven.”
In addition to the poets, leading scholars and musicians will explore the relationship between music and visual art. Musicologist Richard Leppert, PhD, Regents Professor at the University of Minnesota, will talk about period sheet music and its impact. Pianist and music historian Elizabeth Morgan, PhD, of St. Joseph’s University, will present some newly discovered battle pieces of the period for piano. Robynn Stilwell, PhD., associate professor of music at Georgetown, will delve into cinematic and televisual soundtracks on Civil War themes. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang will discuss his piece for large chorus and dance, titled “Battle Hymns.” And Wardrop will speak about the role of music in Cyclorama.
The event will culminate with a concert for tenor and piano, featuring a musical setting by Kramer that was inspired by Wardrop and Whitman’s poems, together with Whitman settings by Kurt Weill, several Fordham students, and others. The tenor performing is the internationally renowned Rufus Müller. Pianist Julia Hsu will accompany him.