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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 2, 2005

Dan Knight Will Premiere His 'Whitman Suite' Nov. 18 At UI Museum Of Art

Pianist Dan Knight will present the premiere of "The Whitman Suite," the latest of his original works inspired by art and literature, in a solo performance at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, in the Nancy and Craig Willis Atrium of the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA).

The performance will feature narration from Whitman's writings by Ron Clark and Jody Hovland, alumni of the UI Department of Theatre Arts and co-artistic directors of Riverside Theatre in Iowa City.

The performance is presented in conjunction with an exhibition, "Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman," on view in the Hoover-Paul Gallery of the UIMA through Feb. 12, 2006. It also coincides with a symposium hosted Nov. 10-12 at the UIMA by the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, also titled "Whitman Making Books -- Books Making Whitman."

"The 'Whitman Suite' is something I've dreamed of doing for more than 30 years, and something I've actively worked on for more than 10 of those years," Knight said. "Of all of the work I've done to this point in my creative career, I'm most proud of this work."

"I began reading 'Leaves of Grass' when I was 16 years old, and there were a few years during the '70s when I carried a copy with me wherever I went. From the beginning, I wanted to put some of the poems to music, but the music I was playing and composing then was too rigid. It didn't work, so I put the project away, but it was always there in the back of my mind.

"A few years ago, it began coming to the fore again, and musical ideas presented themselves. Now, with a few years and a lot of life experience behind me, Whitman's words and the music I've constructed around them seem to fit like they've been there all along."

The "Whitman Suite" has nine pieces, each based on segments from "Leaves of Grass" or Whitman's volume of "Prose Works":

1. "Song of the Broad-Axe"

2. "For You O Democracy"

3. "I Sing the Body Electric"

4. "Song of Myself" (numbers 6, 31 and 48)

5. "Specimen Days": Abraham Lincoln

6. "Drum Taps"

7. "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd"

8. Preface to the 1855 edition of "Leaves of Grass"

9. "Good-Bye My Fancy"

"The suite defies categorization," Knight said. "It's not a jazz piece, although it includes improvisation. It is, to borrow one of Whitman's favorite words, 'unencumbered.' The words of Walt Whitman are pre-eminent here, as is the spirit of Whitman.

"My intention in the composition of the 'Walt Whitman Suite' is to wrap Whitman's great words in sound, not by arbitrary composition, but by finding in myself those parts of my musical soul that resonate with his. Hopefully, through the use of music and spoken word, the spirit of Whitman may sing as clearly and effortlessly in this Suite as overtones and harmonics sing in the strings of a piano."

The Whitman exhibition at the UIMA, featuring many rare editions of Whitman's work, was organized by Ed Folsom, Carver Professor English in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who will also lead the symposium.

Knight has often played in the museum. In 1999, he recorded and released a CD of music inspired by nine paintings in the museum's permanent collection, "Pictures at an Exhibition," and he played in the UIMA twice during the spring semester of 2004.

A Steinway Artist as well as a composer, educator and a respected improviser, Knight has built a worldwide reputation. He has made several CD recordings for After Hours Recordings, including "Dan Knight and the La Fosse Jazz Trio: Live from Studio III," recorded with the late UI violin faculty member Leopold La Fosse; "Dan Knight Duo: Live at Riverside Theatre"; and "Dan Knight Quartet: Live at the Cottonwood Club."

More information on Knight is available at his Web page,

One of the founders of Riverside Theatre, Clark has worked in theatres around the Midwest and in Seattle. His recent work includes the roles of Banquo and Siward in "Macbeth" and Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the 2005 Shakespeare Festival as well as Robert in "Proof," Dennis Shepard and others in "The Laramie Project" and Ziggy in "Side Man." Recent directing credits include "Fuddy Meers" for Riverside Theatre and "The Comedy of Errors" for Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival.

Hovland has been part of the leadership as well as a working artist with Riverside Theatre since its founding in 1981. She was seen in the most recent Shakespeare Festival as Dogberry in "Much Ado About Nothing." Other performance credits include the Nurse in "Romeo and Juliet," Sarah Daniels in "Spinning into Butter," Gertie in "Fuddy Meers" and the one-woman play "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe." Recent directing work includes "The Laramie Project" and "Tartuffe."

More information on Riverside Theatre can be found at:

Admission to UIMA is free. Admission to the performance -- $10 for museum members and $15 for non-members -- will be collected at the door of the Nancy and Craig Willis Atrium. There will be light refreshments and a cash bar available in the atrium during the performance.

Museum memberships are available for contributions of $25 or more. Contributions support exhibitions, programs and acquisitions by the museum. For further information, contact Buffie Tucker, at 319-353-2847 or by email at

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open noon to 9 p.m. Fridays. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots west and north of the museum.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art visit on the World Wide Web. For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,

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