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They Call Me Mignon: Album

Project Type



April 2018

In 1795, German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe created the character Mignon, a young girl whose suffering was so great that she sang tragic songs in moments of expressive excess. But these songs are trapped in the novel – a narrator misinterprets, misrepresents, and reduces her performances, and we never get to hear Mignon. Over the last two centuries, musical settings of her poems let Mignon sing her own story. This album presents ten different settings of two poetic texts, as well as a Fantasy on themes from Mignon’s eventual opera. With each composition, Mignon expands from inside out: she gains more and more agency to express her inner self. In the novel, her first words - “They call me Mignon” – focus on the power of external forces. Now, with music, we finally hear her voice.

They Call Me Mignon was an album and written thesis project to fulfill (and expand upon) a graduation requirement for Wu’s undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature at Harvard University. The written work and accompanying album went on to win multiple prizes at the University, including the University’s top research and writing award, The Hoopes Prize.

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