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Celebrate Walt Whitman with Braille Music

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May 31, 2019, marked the 200th anniversary of poet Walt Whitman’s birth. As home to the world’s most extensive collections related to Walt Whitman, one of America’s most treasured poets, the Library of Congress celebrated the Whitman Bicentennial with a host of events, digital collections, and, of course, blog posts featuring Whitman-related items from the Library’s collections.

Photograph of Walt Whitman, head and shoulders, facing front.
Walt Whitman, 1819-1892. Photographic print, 1854.

The NLS Music Section continues the celebration this week by highlighting braille music scores in our collection that set Whitman’s poetry to music. Dozens of composers–American and otherwise–have drawn inspiration from this bard’s pen. Compositions range from Ned Rorem’s miniature gem of a song setting “O you whom I often and silently come,” which takes less than one minute to perform, to Paul Hindemith’s epic 1946 requiem When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d, which expresses the composer’s gratitude to the U.S. for safe harbor during World War II as well as his reaction to the Holocaust.

Here, then, is a selection of Whitman-inspired compositions available in braille music from the NLS Music Section:

  • Hanson, Howard. Song of Democracy. For chorus of mixed voices and piano. Poem by Walt Whitman. 6 volumes in line by line and bar over bar formats.  (BRM24150)
  • Hindemith, Paul. When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d. Soprano chorus part (BRM29718). Alto chorus part (BRM29719). Tenor chorus part (BRM29720). Bass chorus part (BRM29721).
  • Holst, Gustav. A Dirge for Two Veterans. For TTBB and piano. Text by Walt Whitman. (BRM04494)
  • Persichetti, Vincent. Celebrations: Cantata No. 3. Vocal score with piano. (BRM23342)
  • Rorem, Ned. “O you whom I often and silently come.” For high voice and piano. Words by Walt Whitman. Line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRM27322).
  • Vaughan Williams, Ralph. Dona nobis pacem: Cantata. For solo voices and sopranos. Ensemble open score format. Includes texts by Walt Whitman. Lyrics in English contracted braille and Latin braille. (BRM34808)
  • Vaughan Williams, Ralph. Toward the unknown region: 1st and 2nd soprano. Words by Walt Whitman. Ensemble open score format.  (BRM34804)

If you’d like to borrow these braille music scores or have questions about the NLS Music Section, please contact us by toll-free phone (1-800-424-8567, option 2) or e-mail ([email protected]).

Additionally, please enjoy the following digital collections, video, and blog posts related to the Whitman Bicentennial, from the Library of Congress:

Digital Collections


Blog Posts

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