Alice Tenniel paragraph 1John Tenniel, 1865


Few works of children's literature have stirred the imaginations of artists in virtually every medium as frequently and fruitfully as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass (1871). It's not surprising, because the stories are so wildly and hilariously illogical, the language is so whimsical, and the characters are so eccentric and memorable.
 

Alice Dali Paragraph 2Salvador Dalí, 1969


The books by Carroll (the pseudonym for the enigmatic British scholar, clergyman, and author Charles L. Dodgson) have inspired innumerable artists to create works that adapt them or allude significantly to their language, themes, or characters. Besides the original illustrator John Tenniel, artists Arthur Rackham and Salvador Dali produced series of works based on the books. James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, and Joyce Carol Oates have drawn on Alice imagery, and Carroll's work has inspired numerous parodies, retellings, and sequels, many recently in the form of comics and graphic novels. The books have served as the basis for video and computer games. Dozens of films and television shows, both animated and live, have taken the Alice stories as a premise, with varying degrees of faithfulness to the sources. The eight surviving minutes of the first Alice film, an astonishingly vivid silent made by British director Cecil Hepworth in 1903, is available on YouTube, with an effective period-appropriate soundtrack written and played by Wendy Hiscocks.
 
Cecil Hepworth: Alice In Wonderland, 1903 (fragment)
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeIXfdogJbA[/youtube]
 

Alice Rackham CaterpillarArthur Rackham, 1907


The Alice books have served as the source for countless compositions both in the classical and pop traditions. The fantastic imagery and marvelous poems draw composers like honey, and not insignificantly, Carroll's work is in the public domain, so composers can use it with impunity, unlike the tantalizing Winnie the Pooh books, which remain under copyright in the control of notoriously tight-fisted literary executors. During the 1960s in particular, Alice was embraced by musicians who saw drug-induced psychedelic experiences mirrored in the books' phantasmagoric imagery and the characters' shape-shifting, the inspiration for many, many songs. This article will only look at Alice music in the classical tradition, but there are plenty of resources on Alice in popular music. This website is a good place to start looking.
 
 
 

Alice Tenniel QueenJohn Tenniel, 1865


Alice-inspired works include operas, ballets, songs, orchestral tone poems (sometimes with narration), oratorios, and film scores, ranging in style from the most conservative to the avant garde and daringly experimental. The books' broad appeal has made them almost universally popular, engaging composers not only from the United States and the UK, but Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Denmark, and South Korea. Here's a sampling of some of the most popular, wittiest, most evocative, loveliest, and just plain weirdest musical adaptations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
 
1908
Liza Lehmann (1862-1918)
Nonsense Songs from Alice in Wonderland, for vocal quartet and piano
 
Liza Lehmann was a British singer and composer who flourished in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Her credentials are impressive; she studied voice with Jenny Lind and was supported by Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim. Her charming songs are evidence of her talent, and although her grandly Romantic aria, "Ah, Moon of My Delight," and children's song, "There are Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden" are heard occasionally, she deserves to be better known.
Various Artists - Lehmann: Nonsense Songs from Alice in Wonderland - "Would you walk a little faster"
 

Alice Insects TennielJohn Tenniel, 1870


1922
Deems Taylor (1885-1966)
Through the Looking Glass, for orchestra
 
Deems Taylor, one of the best known American composers and music critics of the early twentieth century completed his four-movement suite, Through the Looking Glass, one of the earliest orchestral pieces devoted to the Alice literature, in 1922. His most popular work, its wit and charm made it for many years a concert favorite with American audiences, but it has gradually fallen out of the repertoire.
Gerard Schwarz, cond., Seattle Symphony - Taylor: Through the Looking Glass - Looking Glass Insects
 

Alice AttwellGordon Robinson, 1915


1932
Harold Fraser-Simson (1872-1944)
"How Doth the Little Crocodile," song
 
British composer Harold Fraser-Simson is most remembered for his operetta, The Maid of the Mountains, but he made a specialty of children's songs, setting the poetry of A.A. Milne, and Kenneth Grahame. In 1932, he published eight songs from Alice in Wonderland, written in a thoroughly proper style that would not have ruffled the sensibilities of the first readers of the Alice books over 50 years earlier.
Various artists - Fraser-Simson: "How Doth the Little Crocodile"
 

Alice Father William TennielJohn Tenniel, 1865


1942 & 1953
Irving Fine (1914-1962)
Choruses from Alice in Wonderland, Series 1 and 2
 
A student of Nadia Boulanger and a near-contemporary of Samuel Barber, New England composer Irving Fine tended to write in a tonal but dissonant style that was sometimes linked to Hindemith and Stravinsky. As well known as a teacher, conductor, and writer as a composer, Fine spent most of his career in academia, teaching at Harvard and Brandeis. His two sets of choruses from Alice in Wonderland are anything but academic, though, and their whimsicality and memorable melodies have made them favorites with choral ensembles.
 
1942
Gregg Smith Singers - Fine: Three Choruses from Alice in Wonderland, Series 1 - "The Lobster Quadrille"
Gregg Smith Singers -
 
1953
Gregg Smith Singers - Fine: Three Choruses from Alice in Wonderland, Series 2 - "The White Knight's Song"
Gregg Smith Singers - Fine: Three Choruses from Alice in Wonderland, Series 2 - "Beautiful Soup"
 

Alice Pepper JacksonA.E. Jackson, 1914


1950
Jørgen Jersild (1913-2004)
Alice i Eventyrland, a musical fairy tale
 
Danish composer Jørgen Jersild, a student of Albert Roussel, wrote at least four pieces throughout his career based on the work of Lewis Carroll. The most substantial was Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Fairy Tale, for narrator (who also sings) and orchestra, written in 1950, which has also been performed with a larger cast of actors taking the roles of the various characters in Wonderland. Translator and librettist Flemming Geill managed to squeeze a substantial amount of Carroll's text into the 40-minute piece, whose evocative and imaginative music ranges to the idyllically impressionistic opening (heard in the sample) to genuinely zany depictions of Wonderland.
Aage Haugland, bass - Jersild: Alice i Eventyrland

 
Alice Disney
1951
Oliver Wallace (1887-1963)
Alice in Wonderland, score for Disney film
 
Generations of American children were introduced to Alice by the 1951 animated Disney film. Although the movie featured some fabulous voices, including Ed Wynne as the Mad Hatter, Sterling Holloway as the Cheshire Cat, and Richard Haydn as the Caterpillar, the score by Oliver Wallace was not the most memorable, except for the White Rabbit's "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date," sung by Bill Thompson.
 

Alice Jabberwock TennielJohn Tenniel, 1870


1954
Harry Partch (1901-1974)
O Frabjous Day!, the Second of Two Settings from Lewis Carroll - The Jabberwock, for intoning voice, harmonic canon, and bass marimba
 
Maverick composer and inventor Harry Partch was known for the catholicity of his literary taste, setting sources as diverse as the Bible, Li Po, Sophocles, Yeats, Joyce, and hobo graffiti. Lewis Carroll would seem to have an obvious appeal to Partch's sense of whimsy and the absurd. His setting of The Jabberwock, for intoning voice, bass marimba, and the harmonic canon, one of his invented instruments, captures the off-kilter spirit of the nonsense text and gives it another layer of strangeness and humor.
Harry Partch, voice and harmonic canon - Partch: O Frabjous Day! - The Jabberwock
 

Alice BlakePeter Blake, 1970


1968-1995
David Del Tredici
 
David Del Tredici is unquestionably the granddaddy of composers of Alice music. Between 1968 and 1995, he devoted himself almost exclusively to music based on texts by Lewis Carroll, writing more than a dozen Alice pieces (including an as-yet unproduced opera, Tweedle-dum-Deedle), amounting to over eight hours of music altogether, not counting numerous arrangements and smaller works derived from larger ones. The majority are vocal pieces scored for soprano, folk ensemble, and orchestra. He had been a staunch modernist, but around the time his fascination with Alice began, his style began to gradually evolve into a warm, overtly expressive lyricism. He is a terrific melodist, and several of his movements, including Acrostic Song from Final Alice, are deeply memorable. In 1980 he received a Pulitzer Prize for In Memory of a Summer Day, the first part of a larger work, Child Alice.
 

Alice Rackham Tea PartyArthur Rackham, 1907


1972
Vintage Alice, Fantascene on "A Mad Tea Party", for soprano/narrator & ensemble
Hila Plitman, soprano - Del Tredici: Vintage Alice, Fantascene on "A Mad Tea Party" - Sleeping-Coda, "Twinkle, twinkle"
 
1974-75
Final Alice, for amplified, folk group, and large orchestra
Harry Christophers, cond., The Sixteen - Del Tredici: Final Alice - Acrostic Song
 
 
Peter Stanley Martin, cond., Rutgers University Symphony Band - Del Tredici: Final Alice - Acrostic Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJmlRLhmkR4&feature=PlayList&p=5D376C485AC243BF&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=7

Unidentified a cappella ensemble - Del Tredici: Final Alice - Acrostic Song
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdIZGpEsMl8 [/youtube]
 
1976
An Alice Symphony, for soprano, folk group & orchestra
Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano - Del Tredici: Alice Symphony - Speak Roughly / Speak Gently
 
Alice Del Tredici
1980
Child Alice: In Memory of a Summer Day, for amplified soprano and orchestra
Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano - Del Tredici: In Memory of a Summer Day
 
 
1985
Haddock's Eyes, for amplified soprano and orchestra
Susan Narucki, soprano - Del Tredici: Haddock's Eyes - The White Knight's Song (I)
 
1995
Heavy Metal Alice, for Brass Quintet
Brass Ring - Del Tredici: Heavy Metal Alice - II. Fuga
 
Del Tredici's website offers detailed descriptions of his Alice music.
 

Alice Rackham GryphonArthur Rackham, 1907


1969, 1993
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
 
Although he is best known for his evocative large orchestral and choral works, several of which were used in the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the great Hungarian composer György Ligeti had a strongly developed sense of the absurd, to which he gave free rein in his only opera, the truly strange Le Grand Macabre. He had a lifelong fascination with Lewis Carroll and his works, and had plans for using Alice in Wonderland as the basis of his second opera, but he never realized the project. (His student, Unsuk Chin, perhaps inspired by his passion, wrote an Alice opera in 2007.)
 
1969
Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet (1969)
The end of the last movement of Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet ends with surprising abruptness, and the composer added a quotation from Carroll in the score after the music stops.
Quintette à vent Claude Debussy - Ligeti: Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet - 10. Presto bizzarro e rubato

Alice Humpty TennielJohn Tenniel, 1870


 
" ... but-"
There was a long pause.
"Is that all?" Alice timidly asked.
"That's all," said Humpty Dumpty. "Good-bye."
 
 
1988-1993
Six Nonsense Madrigals, for six unaccompanied men's voices
The King's Singers - Ligeti: Six Nonsense Madrigals - 5. "The Lobster Quadrille"
 
1978
Robert Chauls (b. ?)
Alice in Wonderland, chamber opera for children
 
American composer and conductor Robert Chauls is best known for his chamber opera for children based on Alice in Wonderland. It's written with a flexibility that makes it possible to be performed in a variety of circumstances, based on the resources available to the producers. There are two versions, one lasting 36 minutes and one 75 minutes, and it can be performed either with 13 soloists or with four singers taking multiple parts. It can also be performed by teenagers, and is probably the most frequently produced Alice opera.
 
Chicago Opera Theater for Teens - Chauls: Alice in Wonderland
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJUCuLW9lsQ
 
1981
Elizabeth Swados (b. 1951)
Alice at the Palace, musical
 
Staged at the 1981 New York Shakespeare Festival, Elizabeth Swados' musical Alice at the Palace is an especially imaginative take on the Alice stories, with an engaging book and music, an inventive production by Joseph Papp, and stellar performances by Meryl Streep (as Alice), Mark Linn-Baker, and Debbie Allen. The production is available on DVD, but it's also possible to watch it in its entirety on YouTube.

Meryl Streep - Swados: Alice at the Palace - Eating Mushrooms / Jabberwocky
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-Suk8LzxLs
 
1995
Federico Ibarra (b. 1947)
Alicia, opera
 
Mexican composer Federico Ibarra's Alicia has received multiple productions, making it one of the most successful Alice operas to date. The attractive and witty score has a distinctly Latinate flavor, and while the composer isn't afraid of using contemporary techniques or archaic conventions, the opera is largely tonal and lyrical, with memorable melodies. The 2008 production of the whole opera from the Conservatorio Delas Rosas is available on youtube in nine installments.
 
Conservatorio Delas Rosas - Ibarra: Alicia - Doceto del Jabberwock
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jifPeCg0p1M&feature=related
 
Conservatorio Delas Rosas - Ibarra: Alicia - La Reina de Corazones
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4K8FD94pUw&feature=related[/youtube]
 

Alice Queen Alice BlakePeter Blake, 1970


1997
Daniele Gasparini (b. 1975)
Through the Looking Glass, for orchestra
 
Italian composer Daniele Gasparini was a student of Azio Corghi. His nine-movement suite, Through the Looking Glass, won third prize in the prestigious international composition competition, Masterprize, in 1997-1998.
Daniel Harding,cond. - Gasparini: Through the Looking Glass - Introduction
Daniel Harding,cond. - Gasparini: Through the Looking Glass - Humpty Dumpty
Daniel Harding,cond. - Gasparini: Through the Looking Glass - Queen Alice
 
2004-2007
Unsuk Chin (b. 1961)
Alice in Wonderland, opera
 
For its 2007 production of a new opera based on Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, the Bavarian State Opera assembled a remarkable creative team including South Korean composer Unsuk Chin, Chinese-American playwright and librettist David Henry Hwang and German director Achim Freyer. The company pulled out all the stops for a spectacularly eclectic presentation that could have only been pulled off by a major opera house with a huge budget. A DVD of the production is available.
 
Chin: Alice in Wonderland - Trailer for Naxos Video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3RWajXGzc8
 
Bayerisches Staatsoper - Chin: Alice in Wonderland
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7EX2XGhM0c
 
 
Alice Burton
2010
Danny Elfman (b. 1953)
Alice in Wonderland, score for Tim Burton film
 
Tim Burton's film, Alice in Wonderland, released by Disney, describes a 19-year-old Alice returning to Wonderland, so it is not strictly an adaptation. Burton did not consider it a reimagining or a sequel to the two Alice books, but the film uses many of their most famous characters. The magical score by the director's frequent collaborator, Danny Elfman, colorfully evokes Carroll's fantastical creatures and settings.
 
Danny Elfman, soundtrack producer - Elfman: Alice in Wonderland - Alice's Theme
Danny Elfman,
Danny Elfman, soundtrack producer - Elfman: Alice in Wonderland - The White Queen
 
Alice Rackham Cards
Arthur Rackham, 1907