We are so excited be sharing two works by American composer, Andrew Maxfield for the first time. We filmed our audio recording sessions to present as ‘backstage’ videos – we hope you enjoy the music!
Invitation to Love
Paul Laurence Dunbar’s lovely poem wins on at least two accounts: First, it expresses a universal yearning to be loved, to be visited by love, to be completed by love—no matter the time of year or the season of one’s life. His petition is as gentle and honeyed as his imagery is inclusive: who hasn’t seen a starry night, a tree in bloom, or been weighed down by a heart full of grief? He writes to and from our most basic, shared, human experience. Second—from a musical perspective—Dunbar, knowingly or not, makes life easy for us composers. The word “come” centers itself in an elegant, singable vowel, like a meditative “ohm,” that can be stretched and colored endlessly. As that “ohm” repeats (many times) throughout the piece, I hear it like a reassuring wave at the ocean’s edge or pulse in my own heart. Further, the text—a series of couplets with end-rhymes—sits naturally in a larger, three-stanza form: please come; you are sweet; please, please come. This becomes a musical form, then, as the text itself guides the repetition and juxtaposition of music, doing something like half of the composer’s own work! For my part, I attempted to set Dunbar’s text in music colored in golden yellows and soft grays, contoured to match the poet’s urgency and vulnerability, with some attention to mirroring the text’s imagery in the music, such as a bird returning, through the air, to its welcome nest.
The Blue Bird
I composed ‘The Blue Bird’ in 2018 for The Gesualdo Six. The text—a beloved poem by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge—evokes “blueness” not just in its title; every image is blue: the lake, the bird’s wings, the sky above and beneath. Far from being monochromatic, though, this poetic meditation reveals a multiplicity within the narrow spectrum we label “blue.” Royal. Navy. Cobalt. Tiffany. Sky. Midnight. All of these flash, but only briefly, as our winged protagonist catches his fleeting reflection in the lake’s glassy surface. Blue, then, is the subject and substance of my musical setting. Harmonically, the piece hovers, as the bird does, in what feels to me like a cool, gentle, blue sound—little variations and reflections on the wings and water here and there, but the piece attempts to remain “blue in blue” (or what Miles Davis might have called “Kind of Blue”) and, after not too long, disappears, as the birds shifts, glides, and vanishes. Melodically, this bird nods to another: to William Byrd, one of the great composers of the English Renaissance, whose contrapuntal inventiveness inspires me. And—I couldn’t help myself—my setting alludes to Joni Mitchell’s song “Blue,” but I leave it to you to locate the reference.