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Notes to Verse

The history of composers setting poetry to music runs deep, stretching from Palestrina to Prokofiev. Just as composers draw on poetry for inspiration, music has inspired many poets as well. In our new project, Notes to Verse, Performance Today sets out to explore the connection between classical music and poetry. We've asked Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams to write a new poem inspired by a piece of classical music that you, the listener, have helped to choose. Tune in to follow him through the process as we'll hear how he infuses music and words.

C.K. Williams has published several volumes of poetry, one of which, "Repair," won Williams the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2000. In addition to writing original poetry, he's also published several translations, a memoir and a book of criticism.

Hear the music

Listen to a short clip of each piece:

Felix Mendelssohn: Octet in E-Flat Major, Op. 20
Peter Maxwell Davies: Farewell to Stromness
Maurice Ravel: String Quartet in F Major —II. Assez vif - Tres rythmé
Ludwig von Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 —II. Allegretto
Hector Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14

And the winner is...

All the votes have been counted, and though it was a tight race between Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and Davies' Farewell to Stromness, Beethoven beat out Davies by a thin margin of 8 votes! Therefore, Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A Major will be the inspiration for the next new, original poem by C.K. Williams. Thank you for voting!

Meet C.K. Williams

Fred Child talks with C.K. Williams about the two passions in Williams' life: music and poetry. They also discuss the extent to which music and poetry collide in Williams' work and how Williams finds music in a poem. The first interview features a performance of Mendelssohn's Octet for Strings in E-flat, Op. 20 by musicians from the Marlboro Festival at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Musicians from the Marlboro Festival: Scott St. John, violin; Yonah Zur, violin; Miho Saegusa, violin; Jessica Lee, violin; Mark Holloway, viola; Maiya Papach, viola; Susan Babini, cello; Na-Young Baek, cello
Listen to the interview
Williams' Poem in Progress

C.K. Williams' poem

Read C.K. Williams' new, original poem inspired by the piece of music you chose and listen to Fred Child's final interview with the poet, during which Williams reads and discusses his new work.
Listen to the interview


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