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Walt Whitman Music

Fred Hersch, Leaves of Grass

When he received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2003, American pianist Fred Hersch used it to compose a jazzy arrangement of Whitman's poems. The original score featured a chorus singing the words to Whitman's poems, accompanied by a musical ensemble.

Paul Taylor Dance Company, Beloved Renegade

"I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul." This line from Whitman's "Song of Myself" was the inspiration for this choreographed piece by the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Beloved Renegade is a modern ballet that celebrates Whitman's life and his love of the human body.

Billy Bragg & Wilco, "Walt Whitman's Niece"

An awesome song by awesome musicians that does not really have all that much to do with Walt Whitman, but we really like it and the title is "Walt Whitman's Niece," so here it is. We have to believe that Walt would have enjoyed it too.

William Bolcom, A Whitman Triptych

The steadfast optimism of Whitman's poetry is uplifting. To honor it, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer William Bolcom created this three-part chamber music piece based on Whitman's poems. The poems that he selected as his inspiration were "Come Up From the Fields, Father," "Scented Herbage of My Breast" and "Years of the Modern."

Paul Hindemith, When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd: A Requiem for Those We Loved

Whitman wrote the poem "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd" to commemorate the death of fallen President Abraham Lincoln. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt died unexpectedly in office in 1945, conductor Robert Shaw commissioned this piece from the German composer Paul Hindemith. Hindemith found Whitman's elegy as comforting and relevant as it had been 80 years earlier.

Alexander Blechinger, Leaves of Grass

Many musicians have been inspired by Whitman's lyrical poetry. Composer and conductor Alexander Blechinger created this arrangement of Whitman's work for a baritone voice, piano, and string quartet.

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