Compositions on Canvas: Two Art Songs

Poetry by Steven Withrow
  • Title Compositions on Canvas: Two Art Songs
  • Year 2021
  • Instr
  • Duration 9 min
  • Categories Vocal
  • Publisher ACA
  • Texts Steven Withrow

Compositions on Canvas: Two Art Songs takes its title from a slightly larger group of three poems of Boston-based poet Steven Withrow’s, upon which my music is based. His Compositions on Canvas: Three Art Songs was, in turn, directly inspired by paintings, and the two poems I chose to set had as their subjects John Singer Sargent’s San Vigilio: A Boat with a Golden Sail and Marc Chagall’s You and I and the Village. Withrow’s poems overlay imaginative flights of fancy onto the subjects and characters of these art works, and the poems are truly “compositions on (or ‘about’) canvases;” likewise, my music aspires to similar aim. The paintings themselves, of course, are the literal “compositions on canvas.” The first song seeks to reflect a particular off-the-beaten-path harbor scene that intrigued Sargent on his travels in Italy; its tone is peaceful and ruminative in nature. The second song is, by contrast, animated, and set in a modified verse form, as Withrow brings Chagall’s iconic shapes (giant noses, upside down figures and people embedded in animals) to life. The song cycle is about nine minutes in length.