“Autumn Passage” sans music (mp3, 1:12)
“Autumn Passage” with music (mp3, 1:49)

Poet Elizabeth AlexanderFor this week’s exercise, we’re interested in hearing your preference. The two audio clips above feature Elizabeth Alexander reading her poem “Autumn Passage”: the first version pairs her poetry with music and the second without. Does the added production enhance her reading of the poem or does it interfere with your experience? Why is that?

If you heard our interview with the poet in “Words That Shimmer,” you might have noticed there was a mix of poems highlighted with music, while others were left unadorned. This sparked a discussion among our staff. Some, especially the long-time Alexander fans, preferred the poetry to stand alone, while others felt the music brought the poet’s words and reading style to life and added to the experience.

Ultimately, we decided to offer you both versions of all eight poems on our website — her poems with and without music — which you can download as mp3s.

Share Your Reflection



It was definitely better with the music. The poem was more moving with music.

The words and the way the poet's voice informs each one is more than enough to convey meaning. For me, the music absorbs and detracts from that expression.

I preferred the sans music version. The background music selected was distracting because it was more than just a backgrounding "white noise" sort of music.

I think it depends on the chosen background music and the mood of the listener, but i prefer the one with no music in this sample , it goes into my system so easily and clearly.


Music enhances the auditory experience. Music has the ability to stir emotions that make things memorable. There is a connection within the brain that doesn't exist with words alone. That's why hearing a song can bring memories flooding back. That's why music is used in advertising and in movies . . . to make that connection. Music can induce reverie and introspection and can help block out other sounds that distract. It helps me dwell on the words and helps to set the mood.

I love poetry and music combined but it has to be exactly right. I liked the first one very much.

I vote for the version with music, which in this case was a good match for the poem.

Whoever mixes your music with the words of your program is a genius. I love listening to poetry in the raw, but ah the music. The music puts the pieces of me back together.

Poetry without music leaves me free to listen, allows me to hear without someone else choosing the mood of the poem or molding my response. The music detracts from the immediacy, the emotion and the honesty of the poet. After listening to both versions, I can never read or hear this poem again without the dirge like banality of the music chosen intruding, forever it is ruined.

I prefer the silent. To let the poem mold itself, instead of to be molded. Just my preference. I bet, though, if the music is just right, it can elevate it to a divine level.

I enjoyed both, but for different reasons. With music, there was a full, rich experience - Without the music, there was a greater opportunity to share understanding with the author. I preferred the poem first without music. My preference would have been to read the poem first and then listen to it read without music, and then, finally, to hear it with music. What a delight!

I agree with Eden that it depends on the background music mood of the listener. I prefer the poem with the music. The starting and stopping of the music at the beginning was a bit puzzling. After it began to flow, I could relax into the poem.

The combination of poetry and music has seen such diverse manifestations and aesthetic effects over the past thousands of years. In this case, I appreciated the way in which the music helped me hear structure and meaning in the poem. The repetitive opening musical phrases followed of the parallelism in the poem's opening. Where the poem paused, so did the music. I did appreciate being able to listen to just the poem first; it could have also been interesting to hear just the music, before listening to their combination

Without music. The music distract form the folw of the poem. Poems create their own music.

I prefer without the music. I found myself paying more attention to where the music took me than to where the poem took me. I wonder what it would be like to add music of my own choosing. Can I create a music poem pairing that would reflect my own reaction to a poem? Can I take a listener there with me?