CORNETS OF PARADISE: When Charlie met Emily


IW, 1M, Single Set

Over and over like a tune
The recollection plays
Drums off the phantom battlements
cornets of paradise.

Emily Dickinson

It is said that many Emily Dickinson readers are possessed by her, and that is true of this reader. This may be less the case with Charles Ives, though his life and music are without parallel in the American experience.

I wanted to put them together, these two most New England originals, and see what might happen. I had the opportunity during a Cultural Forum in Tucson, Arizona titled Transcendent Thought, an exploration of the 150th year of publication of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and the 50th year commemoration of Charles Edward Ives’ death.

Charles Ives


The conceit: In an imagined afterlife, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886), newest inductee to the Immortality Hall of Fame/New England, USA, Chapter, meets Charles Edward Ives (1874–1954). Emily’s first task as a member of the Hall of Fame is to conduct a case study of Ives. All is open for discussion—family, art, religion, philosophy—with Emily to file a report to the executive committee with her recommendation. Charlie and Emily spar in words, poetry and music, as their lives spent on terra firma unfold in “apparent confusion,” courtesy Ralph Waldo Emerson. Both Emily and Charlie are incapable of selling their art short—commerce inviolate. Or as Henry David Thoreau echoes: Not worthwhile going round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.