First Advisor

Malde, Melissa

Second Advisor

Luedloff, Brian Clay

Document Type


Date Created



The song cycle,, by Judith Weir, is a unique composition because it was a collaborative effort written by women about women’s lives. With financial backing from Henry Kravis, Jessye Norman commissioned the composition in 1997 for a Carnegie Hall performance in 2000. She enlisted authors Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Clarissa Pinkola Estés to write new poems based on stages of a woman’s life: childhood, love, puberty, loss, maturity. Acclaimed Scottish female composer Judith Weir set these texts to music. The songs of the cycle are, in order, “On Youth” (Angelou), “Breasts!! Song of the Innocent Wild Child” (Estés), “The Edge” (Morrison), “Eve Remembering” (Morrison), “Mothership: When A Good Mother Sails from This World: Stave I and Stave II” (Estés), and “On Maturity” (Angelou). Despite the fame of the collaborators, this work has only had six public performances since its debut in March of 2000. There are also no public recordings of the work, although there are at least two recordings owned by the publisher that are available by special permission. The purpose of this dissertation is to bring more public awareness of this song cycle and to encourage more performances. The dissertation includes information about the origin and performance history of the song cycle, a musical analysis of the work with a focus on the distinct compositional technique related to, and organized according to, the texts by the three authors, and a study of the compositional elements Weir uses to unify the cycle as a whole. An assessment of the cycle’s success as a composition is included in the conclusion along with an enumeration of possible reasons why the work has not been performed more often. The appendix includes a transcript of an email interview with Weir.

Abstract Format



Song cyles


174 pages

Local Identifiers


Rights Statement

Copyright is held by author.