Musiqa will perform The White Album by composer Mark Kilstofte, as a part of The White Album, January 7, at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Zilkha Hall.
I began to assemble the poems of The White Album years ago during a residency at Copland House where I pored over hundreds (if not thousands) of poems.
The cycle’s primary unifying element is the color white, which appears at least once in each poem. But the poems share other themes, most notably love, loss, life and death, if not some expectation of renewal. As I began to work with them in earnest I was struck by their common imagery: trees (leaves, branches, limbs), laundry (sheets, towels, clothes), light (sun, moon, morning, night), weather (snow, ice, cloud-clot, lightning) and windows with their views on internal and external worlds, to name a few. There are musical motifs as well. Of course many of these similarities can be traced to their association with the color white, but there is a kinship that runs much, much deeper. As Mark Strand’s poem concludes, “All things are one.”
That I myself am entering the last phase of life is likely one reason for the poems’ appeal to me. My father was failing while I was working on the first song and he died shortly after I completed it. His decline and death weighed heavily on me and were to become part and parcel of the cycle. Its themes have, at times, been difficult ones, but they have also helped me to grieve.
Creation of this work was made possible by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation of Harvard University with additional support from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Copland House, and the Research and Professional Growth Committee of Furman University. I am deeply grateful to Erica Funkhouser, Linda Pastan, Mark Strand, Nancy Willard and to James Merrill’s representatives for granting me permission to set their poems to music.
The White Album is dedicated to my wife, Leslie. She and my father shared a special bond.
Listen to Mark Kilstofte’s works: Ballistic Etude 3.1 and Zero to 60.
About Mark Kilstofte
Mark Kilstofte is admired as a composer of lyrical line, engaging harmony, strong, dramatic gesture and keen sensitivity to sound, shape and event. Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as “exciting and beautiful, consistently gripping,” his music has garnered a growing number of awards and honors including the Rome Prize, ASCAP’s Rudolf Nissim Award, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship and Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Aaron Copland Award (three times) and the Gardner Read and Francis & William Schuman Fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, as well as commissions from the Dale Warland Singers and the Fromm Foundation, among others. An experienced performer and conductor, Kilstofte studied with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, and William Bolcom and currently teaches theory and composition at Furman University.