Lori Laitman




For me, music is beauty and amazement and akin to architecture in sound. The process for building a musical work is so complex: from the composer’s first ideas to the performer’s recreations (each so unique), to the listener’s personal understanding: it’s a miracle. And how wonderful that music is universal — it reaches beyond any language to touch every human, no matter what the genre. Personally: I try to create beauty.

Described by Fanfare Magazine as “one of the most talented and intriguing of living composers,” Lori Laitman has composed multiple operas and choral works, and over 250 songs, setting texts by classical and contemporary poets (including those who perished in the Holocaust). Her music is widely performed, internationally and throughout the United States, and has generated substantial critical acclaim. The Journal of Singing wrote “It is difficult to think of anyone before the public today who equals her exceptional gifts for embracing a poetic text and giving it new and deeper life through music.” For more information, please visit www.artsongs.com.



If you were not a professional musician, would would you have been?

I would have been a jeweler. My sisters and I inherited a love of jewelry from our father. Events were commemorated by buying a specific piece of jewelry. I inherited several pieces — whenever I wear these, I am flooded with wonderful memories and feel very connected to the past.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

Our world has changed, and exposure to classical music is certainly not what it was. I’d even say the most of the world is illiterate with regards to classical music. Yet, I believe there will always be a small core of talented musicians. Hopefully this will be enough to carry the tradition forward, and maybe even help with its rediscovery.

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

For a composer, creativity is everything. As a composer that mostly writes vocal music, I always hope to “translate” the words into music that illuminates the meaning of the words. I struggle to find the right way to pull sounds out of my head, and transcribe them in the most effective way. Then, I hope my musicians will be able to lift my music off the page and put the sounds back into the world, in a manner that touches people.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

You can certainly engage with creative projects, as you do with your visual musical films. But I think the best way to attract a young generation is to start with early education. When I was growing up, cartoons were flooded with classical music excerpts, and this really familiarized children with classical music. There is so little exposure now. I think that Music Appreciation should be taught in the schools, and each child should learn at least one instrument. The thrill of making your own music and gaining some mastery is enticing.

As for myself, I have composed several works for children — for example, the boy choir in my Holocaust oratorio Vedem, and the multiple children’s choruses in my family opera, The Three Feathers. It was so wonderful to work with the kids, and they enthusiastically embraced my music and the performances.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

I have several, but here are two: The Metropolitan Tower, my very first art song, is very dear to me. Originally I was a bit embarrassed by it, as it was so strophic and lyrical, and lyricism definitely went against the prevailing compositional grain. But I am so proud of the work, and it was with this composition that I discovered my compositional voice.

If I…, the last of my Four Dickinson Songs cycle, is also very dear to me. It was written as a birthday gift for my dad’s 80th. I wanted to create a melody that he would love, and this very lyrical song, which happens to set my life’s philosophy, has become one of my most popular. I have several versions of it, and am very happy that my dad, who lived to be almost 100, was able to hear all of them.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I have two upcoming song cycle commissions, both will use Holocaust themes. The first will set Nelly Sachs and will be for soprano and clarinet. The second will likely set Anne Ranasinghe, and will be for soprano, saxophone and piano. I want to finish my chamber opera Uncovered (libretto by Leah Lax, based on her memoir) and I want to finish my grand opera Ludlow (libretto David Mason, based on his verse novel). I wouldn’t say that I experiment, I only search for the best way to set the words.