Poetry Inspires Cavanagh’s Latest Work


Inspirations of poetry and music are at the heart of Associate Professor Dan Cavanagh’s latest composition.

In late October, Cavanagh (Department of Music) and the UT Arlington Faculty and Friends Chamber Orchestra (conducted by Associate Professor Clif Evans) performed “Divining Reverence on the Far Eighty,” a 40-minute original work inspired by poetry from three Midwestern poets. Two of the poets were in the audience during the performance, crafting original works while listening to the music.

It’s a process Cavanagh calls “creative telephone,” and one he has used for previous works.

“I’ve worked with poetry on and off in my career,” he said, “looking for ways to activate that inspiration process. Certain concepts appear out of the poetry, then get translated into the music. It’s translation across an artistic domain.”

Cavanagh’s latest project began three years ago through conversations with fellow artists at a Rainy Lake retreat in Minnesota. He commissioned three poets — Timothy Young, Katharine Rauk and Thomas Smith — to write original pieces, then used those works to create the “Divining” composition.

“The idea of commissioning someone to write something that will inspire you is fairly unique,” Cavanagh said. “To keep me interested and engage I have to push myself and push the art. Music lies on a spectrum. It’s not really different from one end to the other. It’s still music.”

Cavanagh hopes to record his work, a concert concerto with piano improvisation, in the near future. He said several of the poets will include their pieces in upcoming books.

Cavanagh admits he was apprehensive about taking on the project, but is pleased with the results.

“This is combining all the things I love,” he said. “It’s artistically scary, but you’ve got to go for it. It’s nice to keep me engaged and fresh and I think that comes out in the music, too.”


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