I am looking for a word describing the action of taking written lyrics (say, a poem) and composing a tune to fit. e.g.

The album is based on Emily Dickinson poems

But "based on" sounds odd to me (I'm not a native English speaker)

  • 1
    "Based on" would generally be taken to mean that the lyrics are heavily influenced by, and incorporate elements of the poems, but don't use the exact same words. Oct 29, 2018 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


The expression you are looking for is set something to music:

to write or provide music for a poem, story, or other words so that it can be performed:

  • The poem was set to music in 1888.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

  • 1
    Sometimes "put to music".
    – WS2
    Oct 29, 2018 at 22:06

You can use a variety of phrases to describe the act of composing a tune to match a poem. This Wikipedia article about "In the Bleak Midwinter" uses "set to" as in:

The album consists of Emily Dickinson poems set to music by (Iron Maiden?!).

In the case of "In the Bleak Midwinter" there are two settings. Each of these tunes may have numerous "orchestrations" or arrangements for different groups of instruments.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.