Composer: Tadd Russo
Piece: Spirits of the Dead (1997)


As the clock chimes midnight, the listener is confronted by Edgar Allan Poe's vision of death. I these five short stanzas, he depicts the calm tranquility of death as juxtaposed with fierce realizations that mortal experiences can be no more. Poe's masterful imagery paints an intangible, but potent, portrait of life's greatest enigma–death. The music, strictly inspired by the text, functions to complement Poe's vision. From ethereal sustaining harmonies to child-like tantrums, these poetic experiences of death are expressed to the listener in a manner that evokes the experiences of life. Spirits of the Dead was commissioned by S. Todd Christopher, basso profundo.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is one of America’s favorite, though misunderstood authors. He is known for his macabre poetry and short stories. Many critics have made the assumption that Poe was not of stable mind--possibly because most of his stories were written in the first person narrative. To be sure, he occasionally doubted his own mental stability; however, his writing process was extremely methodical and rational. His work demonstrates a predilection for vivid effect as he brought to light in his essay “The Philosophy of Composition”. Where he ponders, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, on which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, which one shall I, on the present occasion, select?”

Spirits of the Dead