Setting “I Carry Your Heart” to Music

The line “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)” long ago became a part of public consciousness, commonly read at weddings and featuring on Waterstones’ bags.

More than any poem I’ve set so far, this poem by E.E. Cummings wanted to be a song with a chorus. The iconic line “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)” felt to me like the statement of a spiritual, and the bracketed lines invited a call and response of two vocal parts, as often heard in gospel music. Therefore, the song has a spiritual/gospel sound to it.

The poem was a joy to set, containing simple, beautiful language. Not only is it masterfully written, but is also full of song-like phrases such as “and it’s you”, which are a gift.

For the first time, it felt right to create a chorus that was not present in the original poem.

Chorus:

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

I carry your heart with me

(I carry it in my heart)

 

To purists, it may seem controversial that I’ve done this, so to explain why I chose to:

When writing a song it’s typical for me to create a brainstorm of lines, until one line that represents the most concise statement of the song’s central theme pops out. This line then becomes the chorus, and is reinforced with repetition and variation, whilst verses provided detail, further information and development. In poems on the other hand, I’ve noticed that lines that as a songwriter I would typically grab for a chorus appear in power positions such as the opening or closing line, or in the case of “I Carry Your Heart”, both. Therefore, converting the song’s core line into a chorus was a way to keep the role of that line intact through the poem’s conversion into a song.

Yet again, the skill of the poet was revealed to me more and more as I moved through this poem to set it. It really is an incredible process in which details were uncovered that I doubt I would have noticed any other way. My hope is that hearing this poem as a song will also bring a new perspective to those of you who have loved it for a long time.

 

Kimwei

 

kimwei.com

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1 Comment

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One response to “Setting “I Carry Your Heart” to Music

  1. Pingback: I Carry Your Heart (Poem Setting) – Video | Symphony For Happiness

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