Thursday, Sep 29th, 2016
by: Chris Foss (Cantus member)

Every year, Cantus learns, memorizes, and performs over 100 works for audiences across the US. Certainly, it's a lot of work, but it also affords us the opportunity to get to know repertoire on an extremely intimate and personal level. With so many musical experiences, it's rare than any one of them stands out above the rest as truly special; however, this season one work truly did.

When Music Accord approached us with an idea for a collaborative project, we jumped at the chance to work with Libby Larsen. She's had such an amazing career writing for orchestras, operas, and intimate chamber ensembles as well. Coupled with a truly unique compositional voice, it was definitely a moment of compositional kismet when she agreed.

What resulted was something quite remarkable. Written for Cantus's show Alone Together, which explores increasingly profound connections in this digital age, Larsen's You speaks to the heart of the basic emotional requirements of humanity — love, connection, self–identity, and need, (to name a few).

The text comes from the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Emily Dickinson, which, at first glance, don't quite call to mind commentary about dating apps or the advent of Twitter. However, each poem selected by Libby cuts to the core of why we have these new modes of communication, what we use them for, and how universal the drive is to express the essentials of human being.

She's also taken some words in common between the poems and used them to create meditations that precede the poems in each movement (save the last). Each rearrangement of the shared words (centered around "you"), sheds new light on the moment of the poetry, each mode of human emotional need in a profound and revelatory way. The harmony,while not rooted in traditional western major and minor chords, manages to still be recognizable as tonal to every human ear, challenging the average ear just enough to make one sit forward on one's seat and lean-in to thoughtfully consider the message and music, rather than passively allow the music to wash over and accompany any other thoughts of the moment.

We're so excited to share this amazing and profound piece with audiences across the US (and kicking it off with Penn State!). We are especially grateful to Ed Yim and Music Accord (as well as Libby Larsen) for to opportunity to bring this new work of art to light. With such an increasingly divided society, it's truly a pleasure to share in an experience that ends with the text: "You know now. You need love. You are love."

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