“A Gesture on the Poem’s Behalf” is a class that composer Ricky Ian Gordon teaches for composers of Art Song . It highlights his process and inspiration for composing, the text. Composers in the class are asked to pick a poem, memorize it and recite it to the rest of the group. When the group feels like the composer has delivered the poem in a way that expresses truth and full understanding, then the composer moves to the next step of setting the poem to music. This encourages the composer to fully inhabit the language, the breath and all the underlying meaning of the poem. Each musical gesture made is then truthful to the text, and the text alone. The music only enhances. Ego is left behind.
I have always felt incredibly connected to Ricky Ian Gordon since I was a young singer discovering his songs for the first time, and perhaps this is why. The way he approaches setting a poem is filled, literally, with his breath and cadence. He allows a singer a window into his inner life. This singer, in particular, has always felt welcomed in that world with open arms. The opportunity to tell a story, my story, in a very vulnerable way through a veil of another’s words and musical gesture is an honor. It’s cathartic. The human condition is a shared experience and Ricky Ian Gordon’s music has always made room for me to commune there, even when I had stopped singing.
I have lived with many of his songs for the better part of two decades. His music moved me through some of the darkest moments of my life. Never in a million years would I think I might meet, let alone, perform with him!