News Center

News from the Reed College public affairs office

Search: or

Press Release


Media Contact

Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications

Composer David Schiff performs an excerpt from his song cycle All About Love,

The performance also features mezzo-soprano Milagro Vargas and is followed by a commentary on Elizabeth Bishop’s "One Art" by Schiff and Reed professor Ellen Stauder

TITLE: "Music is the Food of Love"

WHAT: Composer David Schiff is joined by mezzo-soprano Milagro Vargas to perform "Music is the Food of Love," an excerpt from Schiff's song cycle All About Love, which premiered in July 2004 with Chamber Music Northwest. Inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s poem "One Art," the performance will be followed by a commentary by Schiff and Ellen Stauder, professor of English at Reed College, on the interconnections between American music and poetry.

"Music is the Food of Love" is sponsored by Reed College’s department of American studies, the office of the dean of faculty, and the Pacific Northwest American Studies Association.

WHEN: 6 p.m., Friday, April 15
A reception follows the performance/commentary

WHERE: Reed College Chapel, third floor of Eliot Hall
Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., Portland, OR

COST: Free and open to the public

CONTACT: For more information, visit the Reed events website or call the Reed events line at 503/777-7755.

David Schiff’s "All About Love," which premiered in July 2004 with Chamber Music Northwest, is a song cycle which examines love from many angles: straight, gay, jealous, wise, tender, heated. His unusual inspirations for the songs include sonnets by Petrarch and Louise Labé, poems by Keats, Martina Tsvetaeva and Elizabeth Bishop, and passages from Melville's Moby Dick and Proust's Swann's Way.

Elizabeth Bishop’s sestina "One Art" is one of the great elegies and love poems of the twentieth century. Written after the suicide of Bishop’s Brazilian lover and companion, Lota de Macedo Soares, "One Art" reflects the increasing rejection of consolation after World War II by American poets. While the opening of Bishop’s tightly controlled poem insists that loss of keys, continents, and loved ones is "no disaster," the poem obsessively circles around the poet’s loss and rejects easy consolations. The poem has become a benchmark for what it means to love and lose in the twentieth century.

This performance explores composer David Schiff’s exquisite re-visioning of Bishop’s masterpiece on love and loss. Schiff writes, ""Music is not only the food of love, but love's mirror as well. I have been fascinated by the way composers have depicted amorous and erotic feelings in operas, songs.... All About Love is something of a cross between a song cycle and a chamber symphony.... I chose the poems to illustrate the many phases, the ecstasies and the agonies, of falling in and out of love. ... In terms of style, the music reflects my desire to break down the wall between 'art song' and 'popular song'"(David Schiff, Program Notes to All About Love).

David Schiff

Since he composed Scenes from Adolescence in 1987, David Schiff has worked to develop "an idiom that is jazz and rock, not just a nod to them." In addition to his work as a composer, he is also a renowned and prolific author, scholar, and critic, whose articles on music history appear frequently in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and other publications. David Schiff is the R.P. Wollenberg Professor of Music at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Schiff has a B.A. in English literature from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in composition from Juilliard. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Merrill Foundation, and others. He won the 1979 ISCM League of Composers National Composers Competition for his Elegy for string quartet, and was granted the ASCAP Deems Taylor book award in 1984 for The Music of Elliot Carter.

Milagro Vargas
Milagro Vargas is associate professor of voice at the University of Oregon, where she has been on the music faculty since 1992. A native of New York, she completed her undergraduate degree at the Oberlin School of Music, studying with Helen Hodam, and received an M.A. from the Eastman School of Music, where her teacher was the highly respected 20th century song specialist, Jan DeGaetani. Vargas was a soloist with the Stuttgart Opera from 1983-1992. As a soloist, Vargas has appeared with the American Composer's Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Beethoven Halle Orchestra, Residentie Orkest (the Hague), Staatsorchester Stuttgart, and Saint Luke's Chamber Orchestra. An avid proponent of vocal chamber music, she has appeared with Da Camera (Houston), Chicago Chamber Players, the Amsterdam Chamber Festival, the Saarbrücken Festival for New Music, and festivals at Aspen, Marlboro, Bard, and Chamber Music Northwest.

Ellen Stauder
Ellen Stauder, professor of English at Reed College, received her B.A. from the Eastman School of Music and her Ph.D. in English from University of Chicago. Her primary focus is on modern poetry, prosody, literature, and the arts. She is currently working on a book on Ezra Pound and rhythm.

Elizabeth Bishop
Poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) turned to poetry with the encouragement and tutelage of poet Marianne Moore. The first of her four volumes of poetry, North and South, was published in 1946. In 1951, she took ill on a trip to South America. A freighter in Brazil left her behind, and she made that country her home for the next eighteen years. Her lesbian relationship with Lota de Macedo Soares gave her life stability and love, and she established residences in Rio de Janeiro, nearby Petrópolis, and, later, Ouro Prêto. A Cold Spring, her second volume of poetry, appeared in 1955. Brazil became the setting for many of the poems that were collected a decade later in Questions of Travel (1965). After the suicide of Lota de Macedo Soares, Bishop increasingly began to live in the United States, and became poet-in-residence at Harvard University in 1969. A close friendship with Alice Methfessel began in 1971 and continued until the time of Bishop's death in 1979. Her final poetry volume, Geography III, was published in 1976 (George S. Lensing, "About Elizabeth Bishop." "One Art" deals Bishop’s love and loss of Lota de Macedo Soares.


Reed College
Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes Scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915). For more information, visit