Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?

I want to write a song. I wonder what it's like to get goosebumps at hearing my own composition come to life. If I had taken that first music theory class any earlier than spring semester my senior year in college, maybe I could have made time for more composition courses and found out.

At the time, I felt I was doing really well in it. Like most of my humanities classes in college, that class was an easy A. I went through most of the semester doing my homework without aid of a piano. At the end of it, I came away with a ridiculously cute eight-measure ditty that I still have among my sheet music at home.

A funny thing that didn't go so well in that class was the piano lab. The piano lab portion was a lot of playing scales in different keys in multiple octaves. It should have been easy-peasy after my on-and-off years of piano lessons growing up. When I was a kid, I had had a particularly intimidating Eastern European piano teacher; she scared my fingers wiggly. Years later, in that first piano lab session, the instructor plugged her headphones into my keyboard and said in an Eastern European accent, "Please play me a D major scale, two octaves." All of a sudden, I was eleven years old again, with jelly fingers. I played the scales as well as I did when I was eleven, and the instructor complimented my proper fingering. Go figure.

And then there was the solfège. Man, do I dig solfège. My dad's brain is hard-wired for solfège (oïdo, he calls it), so I think I get it from him. In my high school choir, it all started clicking for me. I fell a bit out of practice in college until the sight-singing lab portion of that music theory class. Then I felt like I was in high school mixed chorus again, getting envious looks from my fellow choristers who thought I was showing off. Except in that college class, we were all nerds with our heads buried in our music. Or at least I was. And when I sight-sing now, I'm still that nerd with my head buried in my music. I feel like it's a return to that part of my teenage brain.

But, as with many things in my life, the music became one of this jack's many unmastered trades. Sure, I sing in lots of choruses nowadays. Although singing alto has been wonderful brain exercise, it decimated my upper register, both technical execution and pitch. What a mess I've become.

Singing alto has also made me appreciate good choral writing.

Yeah, so I complimented Anders on his voice leading. Yes, I am a huge dork. Shut up.

Seriously, though, I want to write something lush and pretty. I have a bunch of Shakespearean sonnets that I want to commit to memory (36, 61, 63, 116, 128, 150). I'd love to set at least one of them to music. By the way, this post's title comes from Sonnet 8.

What made me think of toying with choral composition again? Heh, what else colors my mental musings these days? Listen to this piece, Skärgårds Akvarell. The title means Archipelago's Watercolor.

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