Andrea Clearfield was commissioned by Lyric Fest to compose a work for Lyric Fest’s 10th Anniversary Season. We thank John and Sandi so much for their generous support in making this possible.
Andrea had a packed day at Yaddo Artist Residency where she was composing and also rehearsing for Lyric Fest via Skype(!) with Laura, Katy and Randall. We are grateful that she was able to take a bit of time out to answer a few questions for us.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the work you created?
The work is a large-scale song cycle consisting of nine songs, arranged in three large movements for mezzo-soprano, baritone and piano. There are 7 solos and 2 duets. It is commissioned by Lyric Fest with generous support from Sandi and John Stouffer.
Q: So, as a composer when you are asked to specifically compose a piece in response to another work, is it restraining, or does it take you to places you might not have gone?
I enjoy working with the parameters of a commission, and in this case, in response to another work. Most definitely it takes me to places that I might not have explored otherwise. I like the challenge of creating a sound world that is informed by another work. Winterreise is such a strong and beautiful work with rich, deep archetypal themes about the human condition — this commission became its own journey of contemplating these themes and identifying poetry that expresses them in soulful, evocative, ironic, mystical and colorful ways. It was also a daunting task to write something inspired by such a great masterwork! It took several months to find the right texts and construct the overall architecture and dramatic trajectory.
Q: What do you look for in a given text that makes you feel it would be a good song?
This varies — I look for a number of things which include space for the music to breathe and develop, rhythm, form, emotion, evocative image, a text that lends itself to layers of meaning, a poem that moves me or opens up a new world of meaning/sound. I can read many, many poems in preparation for a work like this. From those, I will choose the ones that sing to me; where I hear music inherent, where there might be a transformative element.
Q: How important is it to you that you connect to your listener/audience — and does that affect how you express yourself or make choices?
I write music that moves me, that feels true, and hope that it will also move others. I also think about the singers, that the music can communicate to them, and that they can then express the work from a personal place of their own.
Q: Are there any specifics about what our listeners will hear from your work?
For “The Drift of Things; Winter Songs,” I chose themes from Schubert’s Winterreise such as winter/nature/storm, pilgrimage/roads/paths, love and change, solitude, contemplation and loneliness, the seeker and the wanderer. These themes are expressed through the poetry of Robert Frost, Rainer Maria Rilke, John Keats, William Shakespeare, Friedrich Hoelderlin, David Wagoner and Mary Kancewick.
Q: What are you working on now?
My first opera, as a composer fellow at Yaddo artist residency in Saratoga Springs, NY.