Libby Larsen's De toda la eternidad: creating infinity through the words of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Christy Wisuthseriwong (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Andrew Harley

Abstract: American composer Libby Larsen (b. 1950) has written extensively for the solo voice, earning much of her reputation as a vocal composer from her intuitive skill in setting English texts to music. For her song cycle De toda la eternidad (2002) for high voice and piano, Larsen chose to set texts from the seventeenth-century Mexican nun and poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695). Studied and respected throughout the literary world and a familiar cultural icon in Mexico, Sor Juana's vast poetic output and mastery of Baroque rhetoric and style have earned her recognition as one of the greatest Spanish writers of all time. As few composers have set Sor Juana's words to music, she is largely unknown to American classical music audiences. De toda la eternidad represents a departure from many of Larsen's more well-known song cycles. Her only work to date for solo voice that is written completely in Spanish, De toda la eternidad stands apart from Larsen's other vocal compositions not only because of the language, but also because of the significant difference in perspective of the texts. Many of her vocal works set texts with a specific voice, frame of reference, and perspective. In De toda la eternidad, Larsen takes the opportunity to explore an interior approach to these songs, conceptualizing a psychological cycle that is imbued with mysticism. Rather than constructing a narrative of fixed perspective, Larsen seeks to capture the space and timelessness that she found in Sor Juana's poetry and create a sense of eternity by writing music that is freed from the boundaries of time, culture, gender, and physicality. This paper provides a background of the conceptualization of the work, brief biographical information on Larsen, and a discussion of trademarks of her style in composing for the voice. It also provides an introduction to Sor Juana, showing a glimpse into Sor Juana's fascinating history and a brief discussion of her literary output and style. The paper concludes with a discussion of the songs by providing an interpretive analysis of the poetry and the music.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
Eternidad, Libby Larsen, Piano, Song cycle, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Voice
Larsen, Libby. $t De toda la eternidad
Juana Ine´s de la Cruz, $c Sister, $d 1651-1695 $t Poems
Vocal duets with piano
Song cycles

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