D.H. Lawrence and Music

Submitting Institution

University of Hull

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies

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Summary of the impact

D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) has been widely known for his contributions to the modernist novel and short story whereas his interest in music has received relatively little attention. As a writer and painter he worked in different media as well as literary genres. The underpinning research has established the extent to which music influenced Lawrence's aesthetic development. This research has inspired new musical collaborations and compositions (notably William Neil's Where There is no Autumn), leading to public performances, recordings, a webinar, multi-media dissemination and a successful Royal Music Association event at the University of Hull.

Underpinning research

Dr Bethan Jones (Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature) joined the English Department at Hull in 2002. She has long been considered internationally as a leading scholar in the field of D.H. Lawrence studies, and her research has achieved originality through focusing on previously neglected aspects of Lawrence's work: notably his late poetry and his connections with music (a particularly apposite area given Lawrence's musical connections include numerous references to music and dance throughout his work, a lifelong passion for hymns, love-hate relationships with classical composers from Wagner to Warlock, and a score to accompany his final play David). Jones's unusual position as an academic, published poet/librettist and professional-standard instrumentalist has furnished her with unique opportunities for conducting performance-related research, the impact of which is signalled below.

The immediate catalyst for Jones's most significant research into Lawrence and music was the invitation she received to present a keynote address at the 11th International D.H. Lawrence Conference in Sydney (June/July 2011). She gave an hour-long lecture entitled `D.H. Lawrence and the "Insidious Mastery of Song" ' (the quotation deriving from Lawrence's poem `Piano'). This paper was subsequently requested for the special issue of the Korean Journal D.H. Lawrence Studies, published in 2013. During the writing of her paper Jones encountered a key work by the American composer William Neil, entitled The Waters are Shaking the Moon, and she devoted a long section of the paper to an analysis of this work. Contact with Neil was established prior to a D.H. Lawrence Symposium at Gargnano (September 2012). It transpired that Neil had long intended to compose a setting of Lawrence's poetry involving clarinet and digital acoustics, but this project had never been realised. Jones's academic status in the field of Lawrence's poetry combined with her expertise as a clarinettist provided the necessary stimulus. An extensive correspondence ensued (see Section 4), which makes clear the extent to which Neil was inspired by Jones's work and documents the evolution of the new composition Where there is no Autumn: a setting of four nature poems by Lawrence for narrator (John Worthen), clarinet (Bethan Jones) and digitally enhanced piano (William Neil). For performance and impact of this composition please see Section 4 below.

Jones's academic achievements more generally were fundamental in establishing her status and providing a foundation for the poetry and music project. Her recent monograph D.H. Lawrence's Last Poems: Shaping a Late Style (Ashgate, 2010) was awarded a biennial prize by the D.H. Lawrence Society of North America, presented at a gala event during the Sydney conference. This book engages in a contextual and intertextual analysis of the two late poetry notebooks left unpublished at Lawrence's death, using archival material held at the Harry Ransom Research Center, University of Texas at Austin. Jones has worked extensively with Christopher Pollnitz on the three-volume Cambridge University Press Complete Poems and edited the Journal of the D.H. Lawrence Society from 2000-2005. She is a member of the advisory board and referee for two Lawrence Journals and a reader for Ashgate Press. In addition, she has published two book chapters and five articles on Lawrence's poems, while her article `Inviolable Secrets' (see Section 3) involved an analysis of the Etruscan influence on Lawrence's nature poems and directly informed the choice of poetry for Where there is no Autumn. She will be delivering a `sequel' to her paper on Lawrence and song entitled `Soundscapes from symbols: contemporary musical settings of Lawrence's nature poetry' (including an analysis of Where there is no Autumn) at the 13th International D.H. Lawrence Conference (taking place in Italy in June 2014), as part of a panel on Lawrence and music with Susan Reid and Fiona Richards.

Jones's experiences as a creative writer and musical performer have proved crucial to her academic research and publications in the field of literature and music. As a prize-winning ex-principal clarinettist of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, she has in recent years played with orchestras in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Hull and York; co-founded the Friary Quintet and Aegle trio with Dr Elaine King (Hull Music Department); performed concertos by Mozart, Nielsen, Weber and Finzi; and conducted Hessle Sinfonia. Her musical expertise has resulted in a number of collaborative ventures which have paved the way for the recent Lawrence and music project. In 1996 she arranged and performed the music written by Lawrence to accompany his play David: this world première at the Djanogly Recital Hall, Nottingham, was recorded and widely distributed by the D.H. Lawrence Centre based in Nottingham University, while the score was subsequently published in the CUP edition of Lawrence's Plays. During the same event, Jones ran a public workshop-performance of scenes from a new chamber opera, The Rocking-Horse Winner (based on the short story by Lawrence with the same title), for which she wrote the libretto. Excerpts from the opera were subsequently included on a DVD of the Anthony Pelissier film (Home Vision Entertainment, 2002), and submission of this material to the English National Opera studios resulted in a venture funded by the ENO to workshop and record another collaborative work entitled Boyhood's Home. The musical Slingshot! — written by Bethan Jones and Matthew Jones, and using Lawrence's David tunes as the basis for several songs — was premièred by Music Theatre Warwick in 1999, playing to full houses over three nights at the Warwick University Arts Centre.

References to the research

• `D.H. Lawrence and the "Insidious Mastery of Song"', D. H. Lawrence Studies (published by the D. H. Lawrence Society of Korea), vol. 20 no. 2 (December 2012), pp. 153-174. [Journal article]

The Last Poems of D.H. Lawrence: Shaping a Late Style, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010, 233 pp. (Reviewers described this book as `Impeccably researched and full of interesting insights...an important contribution to Lawrence studies and to more general understandings of modernist poetics'; a `major new book [which] offers nothing less than a transformative re-vision of Lawrence'; `scholarly, perceptive, sensitive, fresh and readable... a wonderful book'.) [Monograph]

• `Inviolable Secrets: D.H. Lawrence's Tuscan and Etruscan Nature Poetry', in D.H. Lawrence, Firenze e la sfida di Lady Chatterley, ed. Serena Cenni and Nick Ceramella, Firenze: Consiglio Regionale della Toscana, Editzione dell' Assemblea 40, 2010, pp. 11-24. [Book chapter]

• `Nettling Authority: Lawrence's reaction to censorship in his late poetry', Etudes Lawrenciennes, 41, 2010, pp. 9-26. [Journal article]


• `Poems on the Brink: Psychological and Structural Borderlines in Look! We Have Come Through!', Etudes Lawrenciennes, 33, 2006, pp. 137-152. [Journal Article]

• The Rocking-Horse Winner — libretto for chamber opera (music by Andrew McBirnie), special feature on The Rocking-Horse Winner, Home Vision Entertainment, 2002, with libretto also printed in the accompanying booklet. [Libretto]

Details of the impact

The impact evidence provided here relates primarily to Jones's collaboration with and profound influence on the American composer William Neil (documented in their regular exchange over several months: Section 5 no. 9) and the world première of their work Where there is no Autumn during the D.H. Lawrence Symposium in Gargnano on 21 September 2012 at the Sala Castellani (Section 5 no. 3). The performers were John Worthen (narrator), Bethan Jones (clarinet) and William Neil (piano and digital acoustics). This concert was open to the public and the audience (of about 200) consisted principally of local inhabitants. William Neil subsequently gave a concert on his Aztec flute with a local guitarist while Jones performed Mozart's clarinet concerto with the Italian pianist Giacomo della Libera at the Palazzo Bettoni, Gargnano, hosted by Count Bettoni-Cazzago.

The musical project outlined above featured prominently on William Neil's website before the symposium, with photos of the performers, audio clips, a YouTube video showing an interview with the composer about setting Lawrence to music (Section 5 no. 6) and a link to Jones's article `D.H. Lawrence and the "Insidious Mastery of Song"'. Neil's website received 50,675 visits during September 2012 showing a marked increase from the month before and indicating wider interest in the symposium activities. Jones made audio and video recordings of the première which she then uploaded for Neil to edit and disseminate. Neil added audio excerpts from each of the four movements of the new piece to his website (Section 5 no. 5), and created a link enabling payment for downloads or a musical score. As well as the audio files, he uploaded a video of the first movement, `Southern Nights' (Section 5 no. 1). Neil prepared a YouTube video of `Pomegranate' (the second movement of Where there is no Autumn) with accompanying fruit images and commentary. This was posted online and embedded on the webpage of the Pomegranate Celebration event in Madera, California (27 October-3 November 2012).

As guest host of the `Sunday Symphonies' program on WDRT (Driftless Community Radio, SW Wisconsin, c. 20,000 local listeners and streamed online), Neil has given two broadcasts describing the collaborative composition — one before the symposium (9.9.12 — Section 5 no. 8) and one after (14.10.12). The first broadcast included a recording of Nielsen's clarinet concerto, performed by Jones, while the second featured the recording of `Tropic' (the fourth and final movement of Where there is no Autumn) made at the première.

At the Gargnano concert, Jones distributed a leaflet inviting the audience to participate in a follow-up `Webinar' on 8 October (Section 5 no. 2), during which the composer and performers would be online to discuss the music and the performance. Jones set up a presentation including a title-page image based on photos provided by conference delegates, web links and poem texts. The webinar was a highly successful international event with contributions to a stimulating discussion made principally by Jones (in Hull, acting as moderator), William Neil (USA), John Worthen (Germany) and Charlotte Stoppelenburg (Holland). The webinar was recorded and can be accessed globally.

In June 2013, Jones organised a follow-up event in Hull in collaboration with Dr Freya Bailes and Dr Lee Tsang (Hull Music Department), as part of a two-day `festival', entitled `From Lawrence to Larkin' (Larkin being another composer with extensive links to music — particularly jazz). This began with a concert and workshop at Beverley Minster on 27th, run by Tsang, and included the performance of new settings of Larkin's poetry, commissioned for the occasion. On the following day, Jones and Bailes held a Royal Music Association Study Day at the University with the title `Twentieth Century Poets In Music' (Section 5 no. 4). This event, funded partially by the RMA, brought together academics, students and the general public in a series of presentations combining theory and performance. Jones delivered a paper on new settings of Lawrence's poetry — building on her Sydney keynote address and foregrounding her collaboration with Neil — as part of a panel on Lawrence and music. A highlight was the inspirational keynote address from Professor Stephen Banfield, who later described the event as bringing together a group of people who `genuinely interact, on a new basis, during the course of it'. Four new musical settings of poetry were composed in response to the Call for Papers and performed for the first time at this event: `A Blue Scent Rises' by Sandy Clark; `The Bough of Nonsense' by Hereward Cruttwell-Reade; `Four Auden Shorts' by Michael Betteridge; and `Four American Lyrics' by Andrew Mcbirnie. Jones distributed questionnaires at the Study Day (Section 5 no, 7) and also included a flyer outlining the William Neil collaboration and inviting comment and contributions. Questionnaire responses indicated that the event had stimulated participants and would lead to further creativity: one delegate commented `I am planning to set Jack Kerouack's poem "Mexico City Blues" to music, with spoken word elements' while others wrote `I intend to explore and subsequently write more music based on poetry'; `[the event] will be useful for further composition projects'; and `[I will] look further afield, indeed towards poetry, maybe D.H. Lawrence or Thomas Hardy, to be inspired to composition, not just for piano and voice but for other ensembles'. When asked about the ways in which the event furnished new perspectives on the subject, others alluded to `new insights', `useful discussions' and the gaining of `a good deal more knowledge from the day's events, from the variety of presentations and topics covered'.

This kind of collaborative experience in composition and performance, combining text and music, is being sustained and extended by Jones, at the D.H. Lawrence Society of Great Britain (most recently on 13 February 2013) and the annual Lawrence Festival in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. In 2015, William Neil and John Worthen will travel to Hull for the British première of Where there is no Autumn as part of an International D.H. Lawrence event.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. YouTube video of `Southern Night' (performed by Worthen, Jones and Neil at the Gargnano Symposium). Currently showing 86 views and steadily escalating.
  2. Webinar, 8 October 2012, 4-6pm British time, moderator Bethan Jones. Extended discussion of the Jones/Neil project among a varied group of participants.
  3. Symposium events programme:
  4. Website for RMA Study Day
  5. Audio files of Where there is no Autumn and information about the work:
  6. Interview: William Neil talking about setting Lawrence's poems:
  7. Questionnaires completed by delegates who attended the RMA Study Day, testifying to the way in which the event influenced them, stimulating new ideas and compositions.
  8. Sound cloud of first WDRT radio broadcast (available from William Neil)
  9. Extensive email correspondence between Jones and William Neil (with input also from others) from 8.05.2012 to the present, documenting the evolution of Where there is no Autumn through creative collaboration.
  10. Published proceedings from the Gargnano Symposium — Lake Garda: Gateway to D. H. Lawrence's Voyage to the Sun (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2013) — in which `Part VII: Lawrence and Music' includes an article by Neil and an interview with Charlotte Stoppelenburg about their experiences of performing Where there is no Autumn. This volume also includes an essay by Jones on Lawrence's nature poetry.