We’re happy to introduce Rain Nox, composer of the winning song cycle “Water Songs.” Ms. Nox lives in Austin, Texas. Jenny Ohrstrom, who will sing “Water Songs” at the Inaugural Fresh Squeezed Ounce of Art Song on Friday, November 18th, interviews the composer:
Jenny: How did you get in to composing, and what inspired you to write the Water Songs cycle?
Rain: I started playing classical music when I was fairly young but don’t remember really being aware that composers were still producing classical-style music. In my late teens I started pop-style songwriting and that eventually segued into classical when I started studying music academically. I majored in instrumental composition but by the time I graduated I knew it was actually vocal, choral, and musical theatre composition that most interested me.
I grew up on Long Island, NY. As a child, I was never too far from the coast and I spent many a happy day simply staring out into the ocean, looking for sea glass, or walking up and down the beach. I have always been drawn to water and the sound of a waterfall or a babbling brook is the most peaceful sound to my ears. I love living in Austin but I often miss the ocean.
J: How did you pick the texts for Water Songs? They come together perfectly – were there other texts you were considering that didn’t make the cut?
R: This may not sound very romantic, but once I knew I needed to write about water I used a key search on a poetry database for water, stream, waterfall, etc. I read literally hundreds of poems looking for ones that were the right length, style, tone, and ones that sparked something in me. Poetry by nature has a musicality to it so for me it is more a matter of the poet’s own musicality matching mine. There were many poems I really liked but could not see how I would set to music. In addition, I didn’t want poems that simply described a pretty water scene but ones that used water as a representation of a deeper meaning.
J: I love how the scores reflect the waters in the songs – from the rain to the ocean waves, you can hear the differences in the piano and feel transported. Were the water motifs created first, or did you start with the texts? How did these pieces come to life?
R: It’s different for each poem. I don’t think of the piano and text setting as two separate things, I think more about the music that would come right before the text, or support the text. For instance, in the poem “The Ocean” by Nathaniel Hawthorne I hear the sound of the waves under the words in the poem, so I knew the piano part should set that up for the listener before the singer begins. In “The Single Hound” by Emily Dickinson, there is no piano intro because when I read the text it starts right away with a feeling of a boat rocking down a stream. For the poem “In the Rain” by William Wetmore I wanted the listener to feel the relentlessness of the rain so I used the constant sixteenth notes except for when the speaker dreams of clear skies and mountain views.
Rain Nox received her Bachelors of Music in Composition from the University of Texas at Austin. Since graduating she has composed six one act musicals, including Sisters of the Sea that was featured in Best of Fest at Fronterafest, and three full length musicals, including Crazy Like a Person, which won Best Original Play at the City Theatre’s Summer Acts festival. She is also the lead singer and bassist for local rock band Rise from Fire. Growing up on Long Island, the ocean was a constant in her life, and even after twenty years in Austin the ocean is the one thing she misses. Water Songs is homage to the special place that water has in her life and is based on five different poems in which water-related imagery plays a key role.