Shalanda Jackson interviews Dr. Benjamin C.S. Boyle, Adjunct Professor of Composition at Westminster Choir College in Princeton and Associate Director and Faculty Member of the EAMA Summer Program in Paris. He contributed two pieces to the Art Song Festival, “Ophelia” and “Le Flambeau Vivant,” and he discusses them along with his journey to becoming a composer and teacher in this interview.
- 0:10: While Dr. Boyle was born in Monte Ray California, he has lived up and down the East Coast of the United States and in Europe. His favorite place to live was Paris, France. He knew from an early age that he wanted to be a musician, particularly a concert pianist, but he soon experimented with arrangements to make music “better”! His first pieces were a set of Nocturnes for piano when he was seven.
- 1:59: He received his B.M. from the University of South Florida where he studied with pianist/composer Robert Helps, his M.M. from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD, and his PhD at University of Pennsylvania. He was always young in school because he skipped grades, and was the youngest person to receive his PhD from UPenn. He also studied at La Schola Cantorum de Paris in the legacy of Nadia Boulanger. His favorite teacher to work with was Dr. Philip Lasser, who over six years helped move him into his “mature” phase of composing.
- 4:20: Dr. Boyle is currently the Associate Director of the European American Musical Alliance, which was founded by Dr. Lasser. EAMA is a non-profit organization which runs a summer program at La Schola Cantorum de Paris. Dr. Boyle was a student there for three years and has been on the faculty since he was twelve.
- 5:31: Dr. Boyle’s favorite piece he ever composed (even though it was a difficult choice to make) is his “Opus 8, Cantata: To One in Paradise” for string orchestra, choir, and soloists. It is a seven movement piece running thirty minutes, and he is particularly happy with it. When he wrote it he had just finished his PhD and was living in Philadelphia, and it was premiered in New York City. He was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry for this piece as well as others in his career, as he felt like he always understood what Poe intended with his writing.
- 7:07: “Ophelia” and “Le Flambeau Vivant,” from Trois Chansons. “Ophelia” is a setting of some of the famous songs from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and is is one of his most performed pieces. The Trois Chansons are set to the poetry of Charles Baudelaire; this first piece translates to ‘the living flame,’ and it has a sense of both darkness and beauty like Baudelaire’s poetry. As a composer knowledge of as much poetry as possible is very important, and Baudelaire is a staple in French poetry. The meter changes and contrapuntal texture are taken from the text themselves, letting the poetry guide the music. These are some of Dr. Boyle’s older pieces, so it is fun to revisit them for this concert!