A very simple instruction that has been issued to many a composition student over the years. I remember this being said, and the mixed response from my peers. Some had a song writing background and instinctively leapt in that direction, others took a more analytical approach and began looking at strong and weak beats, stresses and accents – annotating the text with a variety of symbols.
The art of writing an art song, however, is to remember that it isn’t just about setting a text. It’s about crafting a story. It’s forging the right mood and atmosphere, somewhat akin to the work of the impressionists, while still allowing the text room to be expressive in its own right. The role of the piano (and any additional instruments) is just as key as that of the vocalist, and that must be reflected in the music.
Head to the Cracked Voices blog to read more about Setting the scene – musically!