David Mason

from The Scarlet Libretto (Red Hen Press, 2012)

These days art songs may in some circles be a little known form of music. Related to the lieder tradition in Europe, they involve setting the text of a poem— or, as Laitman has said of her own work, “My goal is to create dramatic music to express and magnify the meaning of the poem.” They are a musical expression of what we find in the words, but like a film adaptation of a novel they also become wholly new works in their own right. Gregory Berg notes, “Laitman clearly loves words and treats them with such reverent care even as she works so tirelessly to enhance them as only music can.”

Over the years, Lori has set poems by canonical writers from Emily Dickinson to Richard Wilbur, as well as many lesser-known poets. She has made hauntingly beautiful song cycles and brief bursts of comedy. Poets love her settings because she is so attentive to the words. Singers love them because they stand out as performances and are clearly intended to be sung—“a simple-sounding proposition,” Berg adds, “but one that defeats many modern art song composers.” Many of her settings come across as mini-operas or dramatic scenes; they evolve tonally and emotionally even in a relatively brief time. Because this composer respects words and thinks both musically and dramatically, she is perfectly suited for opera.