Return to Eapen Find out more about the Denver Art Song Project. Buy recordings of the Denver Art Song Project.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Listening at the Keyhole, Pt 4

Our final conversation will be questions from Hallie Spoor who will sing "November" from Theme in Yellow on our Women's Voices Concert on March 9 at 6 p.m. at Syntax Physic Opera.

Here is the response from Juliana:
Thank you, Hallie, for singing my song "Mother" and for sharing it with your Denver audience.  While I cannot travel to all the places I would like, it is a real gift that my music can travel to those places, and meet those people I would like to meet, and be a part of people's lives far from where I myself live.

My most heartfelt thanks for including my songs in your March 9th program, Eapen, and to all your beautiful singers, and beautiful pianist as well, I send my very warmest wishes.


What drew you to the letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay, as opposed to her poetry/plays?

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we lived in New Haven, CT.  For several years a man there had a wonderful used and rare book shop that my husband and I used to frequent; he had lots of gorgeous first editions and very unusual books.  One day we found a copy of the complete letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay, one poet whose words I have always loved.  Previous to this, in 1989, I had written a song cycle on letters of Emily Dickinson which had been a very different and beautiful experience for me; letters, even poetic ones, can be a very different type of writing than setting poems.  When I saw Edna's letters, I knew there must be a song cycle in there somewhere...and there was!

"To Mother" begins very melodic and then shifts into a more speech-like and dissonant tone.  What was your thinking behind this?

As with all my writing, I take my cues from the text...for the most part, the song is quite lyrical and full of vocal and piano lines that "arch" almost in celebration of this person in Edna's life, her mother.  There are some dissonant moments speaking of parents who do not support their children who are "different" and hinting at the more common response by parents to childrens' interest in poetry and the arts in the music mirrors, I hope, Edna's mother's nurturing spirit and the contrast Edna discusses that might have been her fate, had not her mother so thoroughly supported her natural interests and gifts.

What was your inspiration for the cycle?

Letters open a different view into a poet's work and life, and I found Edna's letters to have such a fun-loving spirit and a deep joy in being alive.  Many of her letters describe her various relationships, youthful excitements, and places around town (in New York City) that made up her youthful life while she lived in New York; I myself lived and worked in New York when I was a similar I felt a kinship with what she was going through, and a closeness to her, having had such a lively four years living in the city myself.  Places she describes in her letters as being important in her life are also places I lived in and walked through, and they were important to me as well...the best example being her mention of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church...where she worshipped, and where - during my own stay - I sang in the choir, practiced piano, and in which I was later married!

Is there any significance in the syncopated rhythms?

The rhythms of the vocal lines are taken mainly from the spoken rhythms of the words themselves...for it is my main desire for the words to speak out clearly...and much of the piano writing supports that ideal with a gently rocking feeling (the feeling perhaps of a lullaby) - as if in some sense, Edna still feels a type of very deep, almost physical, connection to her mother...who appears to have been a rather remarkable woman herself to be able to support Edna in such a loving way that conveyed to Edna what firm conviction she had in the rightness of Edna's chosen path, and the confidence she felt in Edna's ability to travel that chosen path.

I hope you enjoy this blog series, "Listening at the Keyhole."  Thank you to Juliana Hall for taking time out of her schedule to talk with our artists and share her insights into her songs.  Please come to our upcoming show, "Women's Voices" live at Syntax Physic Opera on March 9, 2017 at 6 p.m.

No comments:

Post a Comment