Gordon Getty's Emily Dickinson cycle The White Election consists of settings of 32 of her poems. Getty notes that Dickinson frequently improvised on the piano, and speculates that she may have created settings of her poems, which she never notated, or that she may even have originally conceived of her poems as songs. He writes that his composition of the cycle was guided by his image of the music Dickinson herself may have composed. Getty's settings are simple in the extreme. He is skillful at text setting that sounds natural and that allows the words to be clearly understood. Few of the songs have a strong melodic profile, as if too-memorable melodies would draw attention away from the primacy of the texts. The recitative-like text setting is matched for the most part by a piano part whose function is to provide a spare harmonic framework for the melodies. When it does depart from its chordal role, the effect is dramatically effective. Getty makes little attempt at text painting with the piano writing, and the radical simplicity of the melody and accompaniment eventually causes the listener to adjust expectations and listen for the subtlest changes as having large dramatic and emotional import. It's also possible to hear the sameness as monotony -- much depends on the listener's predisposition. Soprano Kaaren Erickson has a full, warm voice and delivers a nuanced and fully committed performance. Pianist Armen Guzelimian plays the self-effacing piano part with discretion and an appropriate reticence.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|The White Election, for soprano & piano|