From the spring course, “How to Write a Song” led by poet Paul Muldoon and composer Steve Mackey

Students in the spring 2017 course “How to Write a Song,” offered by the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Creative Writing and the Department of Music at Princeton University, will present original songs at a concert on May 2 at 4:30 p.m. at the Frist Campus Center Theater on the Princeton campus. The 25 students will perform selected new work completed over the past semester. The concert is free and open to the public.

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Students from a past “How to Write a Song” class. Photo by Denise Applewhite

Co-taught by Pulitzer-prize winning poet Paul Muldoon and Grammy Award-winning composer Steve Mackey, this enormously popular course required students to write new songs throughout the semester inspired by a broad range of varying emotions. Each week the students, all with varying levels of literary and musical backgrounds, split into different groupings of two to three participants and wrote lyrics and composed tunes on an assigned emotional topic, such as remorse, joy, despair, or desire. At each class, the students performed their pieces for Muldoon, Mackey, and their classmates, who then provided critiques.

“It’s been a delight spending the past semester with these students,” notes Muldoon. “They have demonstrated amazing creativity and dedication in bringing new work to class each week, and have offered incredibly insightful comments on one another’s work. At some level, Steve and I could step away and this group of artists could continue making exciting new work.”

Muldoon is the Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Creative Writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts, and Director of the Princeton Atelier. He has been described by the The Times Literary Supplement as “the most significant English-language poet born since the Second World War” and has published numerous volumes of poetry, among them The Annals of Chile (1994), for which he won the T.S. Eliot Prize, and Moy Sand and Gravel (2002) for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the Griffin Poetry Prize. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in England and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Since 2007 he has served as the Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.

Steve Mackey is a Professor of Music at Princeton. The significant influences on his work as a composer are his experience as a rock/blues guitar player in early 1970’s bands and as a renaissance and baroque lutenist in late 1970’s early music ensembles. He is regarded as one of the leading composers of his generation and has composed for orchestra, chamber ensembles, dance and opera and has received numerous awards, including a Grammy in 2012. Mackey’s orchestral music has been performed by major orchestras around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco and Chicago Symphonies, BBC Philharmonic, Concertgebouw orchestra, Austrian Radio Symphony, Sydney Symphony, and Tokyo Philharmonic. As a guitarist, Mackey has performed his chamber music with the Kronos Quartet, Arditti Quartet, London Sinfonietta, Nexttime Ensemble (Parma), Psappha (Manchester), and Joey Baron.

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