Composer Xanthe Kraft of Spokane spent most of March participating in the Monastery of St. Gertrude’s artist-in-residence program.
Inspired by the monastic day that is arranged around morning and evening prayer and midday Mass or prayer, Xanthe created a schedule that included time to write in the morning and time to compose music in the afternoon.
“An artistic journey is also a spiritual journey and moral journey,” she said. “The Holy Spirit that inspires goodness and truth also inspires beauty.”
As part of her time at St. Gertrude’s, Xanthe composed a Mass that was part of the liturgy of the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25. Her main goal was to create music that would most compliment the congregation’s voice. “What’s going on in Mass is the most incredible thing ever…at the very least music should not detract from that.”
Xanthe sites influences in Celtic melody and Gregorian chant. “I tried to make a simple song,” she explained, also referring to Hildegard of Bingen’s compositions and aesthetic philosophy. “God, who at once is the simplest and most all-encompassing, delights in a simple song.”
Xanthe, who is 24 years old, recently graduated with a master’s in music composition from Dartmouth College. She describes the spiritual journey as questioning oneself as a creative being, finding God’s imprint on the self — and through grace having revelations about God through contemplation that inspire works of beauty — or as Xanthe says, “to react to all this beauty with meaning.”
“I have been wanting to write this Mass for awhile and I wouldn’t have without this artist’s residency,” she said. Initially the residency was challenging as she was confronted with a lack of her usual distractions. “I really tried to go through this residency as a spiritual journey.”
Xanthe has composed music since she was five years old. She was raised Catholic and describes coming into her faith while at college at Dartmouth. She found the party culture rather bleak and a crisis of purpose among her peers. Through participation in campus ministry and a music ensemble, she developed a prayer life that also inspired her music; the compositions became a response of gratitude and celebration to God rather than an endeavor of isolated artistic achievement.
“The result is always better when you do it for God rather than people,” she said. “As with a lot of journeys of finding Jesus, you don’t discover him there you discover he has always been there.”
Listen to excerpts of the Mass of the Annunciation by Xanthe Kraft…