Words on WordSong

WordSong is a new concert format in which one text is presented in multiple, newly composed settings and is the focus of directed conversation among composers, performers, and listeners. This format can be applied to various venues, from nouveau salons to educational forums to public concerts. WordSong’s goal is to reconnect musicians and audiences through shared, active artistic experiences. It is a public conversation about intuitive musical understanding.

We at WordSong believe that contemporary American society has lost the connection to artistic experience as an effective means of personal and social reflection. Composers today have, in large part, failed to engage listeners in an appealing and thought-provoking way; they have traveled down wonderful yet often very foreign roads of musical expression and simply expected audiences to follow without question. As a result, new music is often simply played at the audience, when it needs to be presented with the audience as an active participant. WordSongwill help begin to bring about this change.

WordSong presentations — called Forums — focus on multiple settings of single texts, usually poems. Ideally, these texts are familiar to many listeners, works that are part of our cultural consciousness, something about which we all have feelings and ideas. Each forum involves roughly four composers, each setting the chosen text to music, reflecting his or her point of view on the words. These songs—multiple settings of the same text — then serve as the basis for forum performances and discussions.

Here’s how a forum works: After a brief introduction, the composers ask the listeners to consider the text and share their points of view on it; the listeners, rather than the composers, lead the discussion. This is followed by performances of the songs, during which listeners write down their reactions to the music. Following a short break (for refreshments and individual conversation), the discussion resumes based on the listeners’ points of view on the music just heard; listeners, composers, and performers all engage in a conversation about the music, the words, and the interaction between the two. Each work is performed a second time, in an order spontaneously determined by the course of the discussion.

Three forums are produced each year. Each forum is presented three to four times in various venues—big and small—in an effort to cultivate a diverse audience. At the end of each year, a public concert is produced featuring the works from all the forums, followed by a recording project.

While the organization is run by composers Howard Frazin and Tom Schnauber, along with our administrative staff, WordSongis neither a composers’ collective nor a chamber music ensemble with fixed performing members. Instead, WordSong seeks out guest composers and performers from the musical community at large for each new forum. We are especially committed to collaborating with pre-existing music presenters and educational institutions of all kinds, as well as individual hosts for more intimate nouveau salon presentations. We do all this in an effort to expand the influence of our idea and to create and become part of an extended arts community.