Sounding Tennyson

This website includes Emily Tennyson’s music settings of “Break, Break, Break,” which preserve aspects of Alfred Tennyson’s recitation

  • Phyllis Weliver, Saint Louis University

Sounding Tennyson, a freely-available website, includes the first recordings and publications of Emily Tennyson’s piano/vocal settings of “Break, Break, Break,” which preserve aspects of Alfred Tennyson’s recitation. The recordings were made in the drawing room at the Tennysons’ restored home, Farringford, using Queen Victoria’s piano. Sounding Tennyson uses sound as an experiential way of conceptually thinking through an archive and is part of the Tennysons Archive, the first digital archival grouping of Tennyson items.

The music section shows images of musical scores (mostly by Tennyson’s wife, Emily) and gives the option to play the songs, with each measure marked in time with the music. Users can compare any one musical setting to other musical and textual drafts. The scores can be silently examined through the music or archives tab, which includes all the digitized items featured on Sounding Tennyson. An “earwitness” section contains observers’ accounts of listening to Tennyson or his family recite and the poet’s response to hearing his poetry set to music. Following the essays link brings up short articles, both highly specific to the poem and contextual.