November 4, 2011

Interview with Maurice Wright

Lyric Fest presents To Kiss The Earth, November 12-13, 2011

Interview with Maurice Wright, the composer of the title piece To Kiss The Earth for low voice and string quartet

LF:  What were the most interesting and unusual aspects that you faced while working on “To Kiss The Earth”?

Maurice Wright, composer, member of the faculty of the Boyer School of Music, Temple University
Composer Maurice Wright

MW: I think that many composers who were born in the 20th century share a fascination with the Bauhaus and its artists. Alma Mahler, after the death of Gustav Mahler, married Walter Gropius, who would later found the Bauhaus. Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto was composed in memory of the Gropius’s daughter who died of polio at age 18. The swirls of romance, new art, and a revolutionary spirit imbue the people of the Bauhaus with an interesting spirit, and Marguerite embodied the passion of that place and time.

LF: How did you use the music references in Marguerite’s diary?

MW: She speaks of attending string quartet performances of Mozart, and also hearing a performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass. I quoted a short segment of music by each composer during those movements of the cycle.

LF: What are the challenges of putting diary entries (not rhymed poetry) into musical phrases?

MW: It is difficult to preserve the rhythm of the speech while creating a phrase with a musical arc. However, when I was selecting texts from the diary, I gravitated toward the more poetic passages, and grouped the words to create lines with poetic rhythm. It reads more like “blank verse” that way, and I like the effect.

LF: What dictated your choice of a string quartet for the orchestral part in the piece?

MW: The piece can be performed in several forms—with quartet or piano, and with male or female voice. It could also, I think, work well in an orchestral setting. I hope that the piece will be performed in galleries at some point, and those beautiful places do no always have concert quality pianos, but often host string quartet series. Also, some voices blend better with the quartet than with a piano.

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About Maurice Wright:

Maurice Wright ( was born in Front Royal Virginia, a small town situated between the forks of the Shenandoah River near the Blue Ridge Mountains.

His music has been performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Emerson String Quartet, the American Brass Quintet and other outstanding musicians. Wright has composed for electronic and computer media since 1967. His most performed work is the Chamber Symphony for Piano and Electronic Sound (1976), recorded on the Smithsonian, CRI/New World, and InNova labels. Wright is currently Laura H. Carnell Professor of Music Composition at Temple University’s Boyer College Of Music and Dance.

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