For the January installment of my SoundMakers residency, I want to write about setting words to music. The piece I wrote for SoundStreams posed some interesting text-setting challenges, given the fact that it’s in Old French and every word echoes for 5–10 seconds after being sung. Text setting is an area where composers often miss the point, so I’m going to look at some of the key considerations involved, and then I’ll describe how those play out in a piece like Longuement me sui tenus.
Too many composers treat text setting like part making: an obligatory chore you have to do when you’re working with singers, but not an integral part of the compositional process. That’s a huge lost opportunity. (more…)