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How to Write a Song

Students in the Lewis Center for the Arts’ spring 2013 Princeton Atelier course, “How to Write a Song,” will present original songs at a performance on April 27 at 9:00 p.m. at Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street.  The 23 students will perform selected new work completed over the past semester under the guidance of poet and songwriter Paul Muldoon and British songwriter and author John Wesley Harding.  The performance is free and open to the public.

The goal of Muldoon and Harding’s class was to encourage students to explore their own emotional cores through lyrics and songwriting.  Each week, the students, all with varying levels of literary and musical backgrounds, split into different groupings of two to three participants and wrote lyrics and composed tunes on an assigned emotional topic, such as remorse, joy, despair,ordesire.   At each class, the students performed their pieces for their instructors and classmates, who then provided critiques.

“It’s been a delight spending the past semester with these students,” notes Muldoon. “They have demonstrated amazing creativity and dedication in bringing new work to class each week, and have offered incredibly insightful comments on one another’s work. At some level, Wes and I could step away and this group of artists could continue making exciting new work.”

Muldoon is the Acting Director of the Princeton Atelier, as well as the Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Creative Writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts, and Chair of the Fund for Irish Studies.  He has been described by the The Times Literary Supplement as “the most significant English-language poet born since the Second World War,” and has published numerous volumes of poetry, among them The Annals of Chile (1994), for which he won the T.S. Eliot Prize, and Moy Sand and Gravel (2002) for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the Griffin Poetry Prize.  He is a recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in England and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Since 2007 he has served as the Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.  Muldoon has written songs with Warren Zevon and is a member of the Princeton-based band Wayside Shrines, which just released its newest album, The Word on the Street.

Harding, who also writes under the name Wesley Stace, released The Sound of His Own Voice, his most recent of 17 albums, in October 2011.   He has also published three novels, including the international bestseller Misfortune.  His most recent book, Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer, made both The Wall Street Journal’s Top Ten Novels of The Year and Top Ten Mysteries of The Year.  He also created John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders, a touring musical-comedy-literary variety show, soon to air on NPR.  The New Yorker called it “one of the finest nights of entertainment this city has to offer.”  Harding reviews for The Times Literary Supplement, and is currently writer-in-residence at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The Princeton Atelier offers four to five unique, interdisciplinary courses each year, usually inviting in guest artists as faculty who collaborate with one another and students to create new work. Over the past decade, guest artists have included choreographer Jacques d’Amboise, vocal group Anonymous 4, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, novelist Gabriel García Márquez, visual artist Irina Nakhova, the Pig Iron Theatre Company, Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock and theater director Peter Sellars.

Each course culminates in the public presentation of new work, and both the seminars and these final presentations have become vibrant mainstays of the University’s creative and performing arts public offerings.  Courses are open to all students by application and are offered in both the fall and spring semesters.

To learn more about this event, the Princeton Atelier, and the more than 100 public events offered annually by the Lewis Center for the Arts visit


Event Information


Saturday, April 27, 2013

9:00 PM

Small World Coffee

14 Witherspoon Street


Free and open to the public



The Princeton Atelier was endowed in 2009 through the generosity of a donor who has chosen to remain anonymous. The Atelier is additionally supported through The Newhouse Foundation, The Erik C. Blachford '89 Fund, The Schare-Pfaffenroth Endowment Fund, The Jordan Roth '97 Performance Fund and The Peter T. Joseph Foundation.


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