New Voices @ CUA

My choral piece ‘Versa est in luctum’ was performed in January as part of the New Voices festival at Catholic University of the Arts in Washington, DC. As part of the festival website I was asked to write about the piece and my musical inspiration; below is what I submitted. Originally published on the festival website.

What inspired you to become a composer?

My earliest memory of music is discovering Beethoven’s 6th Symphony as a ten year old. I was immediately compelled to move to the music, fascinated by the timbre of the strings and the power of the orchestral sound. It wasn’t long until I started to try and create short pieces myself, experimenting how to combine sounds and early pieces were often pastiches of the repertoire I was studying as a flautist.&nbps; I wrote obsessively as a teenager, exploring the solo sonata genre and attempting to write a piano concerto!

What inspired you to write the piece, and why did you choose to set this particular text?

Versa est in Luctum was a text requested by a small vocal group (in London, of young singers called Voce Sanctis) to fit in programme they were to perform of Renaissance vocal works. The text offers opportunity for word painting (My harp is tuned for lamentation, and my flute to the voice of those who weep. Spare me, O Lord, for my days are as nothing) though I rejected such word painting and was compelled to focus on harmonic materials as a way of delivering my own interpretation of the text. The piece received its first performance by Voce Sanctis at St. Luke’s, Chelsea in March 2012.

What music, from any genre or style, intrigues, inspires, and influences you?

Teaching music to a variety of ages and abilities of musicians has been my main source of inspiration as students often inspire me with their own composing or improvisations in class. The music I engage with as a listener and what ultimately inspires me, and intrigues me varies from week to week. I thrive on discovering new and unfamiliar music, and recently Thomas Adés, Matthew Herbert, Fauré, Handel have featured heavily on my Spotify playlists. I am particularly fascinated by the voice and it is this ‘grain of the voice’ (as Barthes described it) that keeps me writing music.

Steven’s piece, Versa est in Luctum, will be performed on the Sacred Music Concert on Saturday, January 26 at 1:30 pm in St. Vincent de Paul’s Chapel. A recording of the piece can be heard here.

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