In the 1922 autobiographical novel, The Enormous Room, the American author E.E. Cummings detailed his temporary imprisonment in a French detention camp during the First World War. Cummings, who in 1917 had recently graduated from Harvard College, volunteered as an ambulance driver during the war under the auspices of the International Red Cross. Irreverent anti-war letters written by Cummings and his friend, the fellow American, William Slater Brown, attracted the attention of censors, and the two were imprisoned for sedition. For months, detainees were forced to share a single large room. The novel is a colorful commentary on the triumph of the human spirit, and the foolishness of authority.
The popular novel inspired the American composer, David Diamond, in 1948, to write a fantasia for orchestra which “tried to interpret literary ideas in musically programmatic terms.” For the causal listener, programmatic associations seem to fade into the background. The Enormous Room is at times somber, soaring, majestic, and elegiac. As with the music of Bruckner, its gradual development is less concerned with distant goals than with the sanctity of the moment. Moving beyond its initial inspiration, this is glowing, pastoral music imbued with the rugged beauty and expanse of the American landscape.
- Diamond: The Enormous Room (Fantasia for Orchestra), Gerard Schwarz, Seattle Symphony Amazon
Featured Image: cover art from “The Enormous Room” by E. E. Cummings