Libby Larsen's The Birth Project: a sociological contextualization, analysis, and approach to performance interpretation
Modaff, Jessica Lynne
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Libby Larsen’s The Birth Project (2015) is a groundbreaking song cycle which centers around pregnancy and childbirth. Until this song cycle, no art song had dealt with this topic in first-person narrative. This is surprising, given the total fertility rate of about 2.5 children per woman. After a brief biographical background of Libby Larsen and her output, the sociological implications of such a song cycle in the canon of music is explored. The topic is contextualized among other art forms, modern and ancient, showing that art song is the only place where such a dearth in pregnancy and childbirth stories exist. The texts are explored fully: author biographies, text sources, meaning, and Larsen’s text settings. An analysis of Larsen’s compositional features within the cycle is then presented, connecting text meaning to the theoretical elements in the music. An interview with Libby Larsen offers unique insight into the project’s genesis. This interview, combined with the author’s contributions, unite to form a guide to interpretation in order to assist performers as they prepare the work.