One way to handle this “problem” is to repeat the poem several times – and/or to embed it into another song – as I did with my melody for “I never saw a moor” and Pachelbel’s Canon (for more on this, click HERE).
Another way to handle the issue of short poems is just to write short song! My composition for “The Earth has many keys” clocks in at just under a minute and a half.
Of course, one has to decide what type of song to write that is appropriate for the theme or mood of a given poem: Something upbeat and positive? Something slow and sad? Something mournful or something uplifting? Something inspirational or lighthearted?
My first inclination – based on the first four lines of the poem – was to write something upbeat. After all, lines 1 and 4 state, “The Earth has many keys,” (sounds happy to me) and “Beauty is nature’s fact,” and lines 2 and 3 mention – albeit a bit awkwardly – “Where melody is not / Is the unknown peninsula.”
But then I read the final four lines, and I changed my mind from writing some sort of rosy, hopeful song to composing – **drum roll please** – an elegy! Afterall, there it was in line 8, the word “Elegy.”
I read the poem with a very modern perspective with a focus on climate change: As beautiful as our planet is, we are not doing enough to protect it; witness what is going on with our land and seas (lines 5 and 6) – and the sound of crickets – signifying our silent response to all the warning signs – is the Earth’s “utmost of Elegy, to me.”
I ended up with a slow and somber melody, and the song lasts all of about a minute and twenty-seconds. Oh, I also challenged myself to change keys when possible (since the first line is “The Earth has many keys”) – so not an easy task with such a short composition.
Short & Sweet continued:
One way to handle this issue is to repeat the poem several times – and/or to embed it into another song – as I did with my melody for “I never saw a moor” and Pachelbel’s Canon.
Another way to handle this is just to write short songs! The elegy I wrote for “The Earth has many keys” clocks in at just under a minute and a half.
A third way to deal with Dickinson’s shorter poems: combine them! That’s what I did with a song I wrote entitled “Wonderful Rotation.” The song focuses on two different poems by Dickinson: “Frequenlty the woods are pink” and “This slow day moved along.” The title for my song comes from the penultimate line of “Frequently the woods are pink.”
A fourth way to add a bit of “time” to a poem for a longer song is to repeat words, phrases or lines. Dickinson’s poem “Adrift! A little boat adrift!” is relatively short, and I added a bit to it by repeating the word “adrift” and by adding other repeating lines.