AcA’s Artist In Residence: Shane Courville

We got a chance to sit down with our Artist in Residence, Shane Courville! It was great to learn just a bit more about him and the fantastic opera he’s composed. Check out the interview transcript below.

Your opera, The Return ties into a larger concept being explored by many different artists. Why do you think the concept of Returning is so prevalent in the work of so many artists?

I think returning to where you come from is so prevalent because for some reason human beings need to feel rooted-some type of stability. For a lot of people it’s where they learned to love, for bad or for good. And I think after having matured, many 30 somethings gravitate towards home. It’s when you realize your identity isn’t just your own, but where you come from and where you’re going. We like forget where we come from early on. But eventually we crave it and return.

How has participation in AcA’s Residency program influenced your work?

Working as a resident artist with the ACA has definitely influenced my work. I’ve had to learn to edit my work in a way that fits the different circumstances that the residency puts forward such as the space we have to work with. I decided to use the entirety of the ACA building for my opera. Working with Paige Krause has been inspiring. She’s definitely been a great sounding board and has helped to be more innovative.Tell us a bit about yourself. How has your own experience of returning to Acadiana affected your compositions, particularly The Return?

I grew up in the country between Duson and Mire in a really great Cajun family where music was always playing so music has always been a love of mine. I started playing the trumpet in middle school and composing in high school then went on to get a degree in music from Loyola New Orleans. At Loyola I met the Jesuits and decided to join them, so I was with the Jesuits for almost 8 years. During my time with them, I developed my current compositional style and so of course liturgical are prevalent in my sound. You’ll hear them in the Return as well.

Your work is influenced by minimalism, are there any particular composers or pieces that you might say inform your practice as a composer?

My big three favorite composers are Philip Glass, John Adams, and Steve Reich. I think all three elicit a sense of mindfulness in their music that really guides their listeners towards contemplation. I try to bring my own listeners to the same place. Bjork is also a huge an influence on my music. She also creates spaces much like minimalist composers. Rather than a linear motion, your drawn to just sit and be with the music. I try very hard for this to come through my music.

What about the Longfellow poem?

The Evangeline story has always resonated with me. She was born in a sort of idyllic lace, was torn away because of something out of her control, and had to find home somewhere else. For me, she found a home in her love for Gabriel as tragic as that is. I think for many of us returning “home”, we’ve had to endure a sort of loss as well. But for some reason the love we find there remains and keeps us looking/searching for its meaning.

The artwork for The Return is influenced by Piet Mondrain and the philosophies of neoplasticism, How has the work of Mondrain affected your own work?

Piet Mondrian’s artwork has always been important to me. For me I’ve always connected to it in a sort of static way. It creates more of a space than a story. My compositions strive to do the same and I use his artwork throughout to remind myself and the audience of this. The story is there to remind them of the bigger question. It just so happens that the Acadian flag and Mondrian’s works have similar colors. So I thought by combining the two I would show the struggle to combine contemporary art with my Cajun upbringing.


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