Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Spring 2020


Benesch, Krista. The Role of the Piano in The 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson by Aaron Copland. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2020.


Copyright Krista Benesch 2020.


In the song cycle 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson by Aaron Copland, one may observe the interplay between the piano and the narrator. Throughout all twelve songs, the piano plays different roles. In several songs, the piano plays a certain character: in “Nature, the gentlest mother,” the piano is personified as Nature, while in “Dear March, come in!” the piano is March. In other songs, the piano reacts to the narrator—for example, in “Going to Heaven!”, the narrator announces a statement, and the piano follows with fast, tumbling eighth notes that portray the narrator’s scattered thoughts. Every song in the cycle has a specific character, and the piano collaborates with the voice to paint an aural image of the meaning of each song. This paper analyzes the piano’s role in each individual song.