We’re happy to introduce Griffin Candey, composer of the winning song cycle “Two Modern Love Songs.” Baritone Jake Jacobsen will perform Mr. Candey’s cycle at the Inaugural Fresh Squeezed Ounce of Art Song on Friday, November 18th. Jake had these questions for the composer:
Jake: For you, what is the overarching message of both of these texts?
Griffin: These two poems (Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Modern Declaration and Never May The Fruit Be Plucked) paired into a wonderful foresight and retrospective on a flawed, human relationship — the former as a stammering attempt at a bold declaration of love, scattered with both self-importance and self-doubt, and the latter as a reminiscence on how fleeting the individual moments of love and affection can be, how they cannot be reproduced, how they cannot be distilled. The actual substance of love-in-real-time, the bit that lives in the middle of these two songs, maintains a strong foothold as one of the primary subjects approached by classical music, especially vocal music; that being the case, I thought it would be interesting to boil it down to its very edges. Millay’s poetry aided that petite framework wonderfully.
J: What was your biggest challenge adapting these texts? Does it compliment your composition style?
G: Both poems stood out to me as poems without a highly-formal line/stanza structure, but that possessed a hugely conversational quality into which I could dig almost endlessly. The first provided a bit of nervous chatter — the hiccuping rhythms of someone who wants to present themselves as some grand, romantic hero but gets a bit stuck in the weeds; the second provided a level-headed, somewhat bittersweet sweep of someone who has been through it all and knows the thorns of the matter.
I tend towards un-metered poetry, but there’s something to be gained from all types of poetry — honestly, sometimes its best to run up against a poem that makes you think “how on earth am I going to set this?” It really makes you throw the rules away and come at it fresh.
J: What first drew you to these texts?
G: I’ve loved Edna St. Vincent Millay for a long, long time — as I mentioned about these two poems, I find so much conversationality in her poetry. Regardless of subject matter, they all have a certain inviting quality — even the ones that dig so squarely into grief have something unmistakably present about them. (I’ve set some of her poetry before this cycle, and there are many more to come in the next 2-4 years!)
J: What piece or excerpt of literature would you want to adapt music to the most, and why?
G: That’s a toughie! I’m doing a few of my ~Dream Projects at the moment — an adaptation of one of my all-time favorite Lorca plays, a setting of some Shakespeare excerpts. One poet whose poetry has always fascinated me in a potentially-musical is Charles Bukowski: his poetry has such a raw, visceral, self-decimating quality, but also shows tiny glimmers ever so often of a deeper hope. I know that it would be outrageously difficult to set poetry with that level of push-and-pull — and of course, for that reason, I’ve love to toss myself into it. 🙂
Griffin Candey (b. 1988) is an American opera composer dutifully committed to creating vocal and theatrical works that, by approaching forward-looking subject matter, aim to both expand and preserve these genres.
Having spent his early years studying as an opera singer, Candey’s vocal music retains a level of practical vocal finesse that its interpreters praise for its “prosody that showcases both the words and the singers,” its “intuitive rhythm,” and its “lyricism and emotional depth.”
Candey’s latest opera, Sweets by Kate — described as “hilarious and moving,” “a piece with charming and elaborate complexity” and “a meaningful and beautiful work of art” — was commissioned and premiered by the Midwest Institute of Opera (July 2015,) with subsequent runs scheduled at Marble City Opera of Knoxville, TN (May 2016) and in New York City, NY with OperaRox Productions (Spring 2017.) May 2016 will see the premiere of his latest chamber song cycle (All Children Except One) at Bard College Conservatory of Music, and December 2016 sees the world premiere of his orchestral song cycle (Bagidaabii-Neyaashi) with the Marquette Symphony Orchestra (in Marquette, MI.)
Find out more about Griffin Candey with a visit to his website. Twitter: @griffincandey