There Some Day

I will find my way; I can go the distance.

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In honor of this being Easter Weekend, here is a new favorite sacred piece of mine: Maurice Duruflé’s Sanctus. 

A word that is tossed around by music theorists a lot is “concinitty,” which basically means how well the elements of music (including text) work to support each other. In a piece like this, everything from the orchestration to the vocal line work with the text to create a fantastically strong and moving piece. The latin is below:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus, Deus Sabaoth,
Pleni sunt coeli
et terra gloria tuia.
Hosanna in excelsis!
Benedictus, qui venit
in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis!

Filed under easter sacred sacred music sanctus choir music music theory

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"Where the Music Comes From"

MTSU’s voice professor Mr. Smith sang this at his faculty recital today, and I was instantly enamored by the piece’s lyrics. This was the best performance I could find on youtube, from someone’s junior recital. (For a Junior, she’s admittedly pretty great!)

I want to be where the music comes from

Where the clock stops, where it’s now

I want to be with the friends around me

Who have found me, who show me how

I want to sing to the early morning

See the sunlight melt the snow

And oh, I want to grow

I want to wake to the living spirit

Here inside me where it lies

I want to listen till I can hear it

Let it guide me and realize

That I can go with the flow unending

That is blending, that is real

And oh, I want to feel

I want to walk in the earthly garden

Far from cities, far from fear

I want to talk to the growing garden

To the devas, to the deer

And to be one with the river

Breezes blowing, sky above

And oh, I want to love.

Filed under music singing soprano

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Berio’s 3rd Movement of Sinfonia, sung with the Swingle Singers. 

This piece is the music realm’s surrealism. Oh in other words, it’s familiar but not obtainable— we can recognize languages (even English), but what’s being said makes no sense. We can recognize pieces, but distorted horribly—the dissonance in this music is meant to disturb, and disturb it does.

The whole piece is based off of Mahler’s Scherzo from Symphony No. 2, but if you listen closely, you can hear almost all of history’s famous works of music— Rosenkavalier, folk songs, Beethoven, Stravinski, and more combined in what my theory professor likened to a “collage.”

If you want to know more about this piece, I highly recommend the wikipedia article.

Filed under sinfonia berio classical music music music theory avant garde

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My New Project

If you haven’t already listened to this, give it a whirl—it is a cross section of a tree that has been made into a record. To quote from the website:

A tree’s year rings are analysed for their strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music. It is mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture). The foundation for the music is certainly found in the defined ruleset of programming and hardware setup, but the data acquired from every tree interprets this ruleset very differently.

Over this next week, I will be working with my old friend, Amy, to create a composition that incorporates this amazing piece of art/music into something that can be danced to for her upcoming dance recital in tribute to her recently-lost grandmother. The theme for the choreography and soon-to-be-created music is the stages of grief. 

The more I listen to the piece, the more inspired I feel. If you listen closely at the end, it has a subtle C-minor arpeggiated chord, which provides some tonality to this nature-ally atonal piece. I love the fact that it is minor because it really adds a bittersweet end to the piece—at last, there is peace (tonality), but it is a peace full of reminiscence and loss. 

Filed under music compositions atonal avante garde

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Wow! I just discovered this. Naturally after writing that huge analysis of the piece just a few minutes prior. 

Here, my friends, is a brilliant ‘analysis for dummies’ presented by none other than Bernstein himself. If you’re not able to understand all the stuff I just typed out… you may want to watch this! It’s for the general public and it’s great stuff!

Filed under bernstein music theory afternoon of a fawn afternoon of a faun

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 Entitled “Afternoon of a Fawn,” this is one of my favorite pieces we have analyzed this semester.

Isn’t it absolutely gorgeous?! You would never guess that it is the music behind the ballet about a Fawn having his sexual awakening… unless you saw it. (I highly recommend you watch it—it’s an original performance by the great Rudolph Nureyev of the Ballet Russe, which is worthy of its own analysis). 

There is so much to talk about within this piece, but I will outline some of the reasons I could just listen to it over and over again. 

Like Wagner’s operas (and a lot of this piece, no matter how much Debussy would deny it, is like Wagner’s operas), it opens with a single melody line. That very first note is what, to me, makes the whole piece— is it dissonant? consonant? The piece has barely begun, and yet we are already adrift in the ambiguity of it all!

(Note for my non-musician followers: This matters to the musician, a lot. If it is consonant, you would decrescendo through the note, but if it was dissonant you would crescendo and use the propulsion to bring you to the next note). 

Then the note (which is, indeed, subtly dissonant) goes down, not by a scale, but by a whole tone scale (with some chromatic passing tones) to a tritone below the opening note. A tritone! An interval so dissonant the early church banned it and called it the Devil in Music!

When at last the solo ends, hinting at E major, it is answered by a beautifully lush arpeggiated chord. Ah! At last! Consonance!

Not so quick. What was that chord? Major? Minor? Neither. Indeed, it is a Tristan Chord— a minor triad… with a major 6th. Within the world of Wagner’s Tristan, this is hugely important as, just as the chord is conflicted between major and minor, it symbolizes the conflicted interests of the characters within the show. Even now, we do not know what to expect from Afternoon of a Fawn. 

Will it ever get resolved? After that first arpeggiated Tristan chord, it gives us… a V7… of Eb. But recall, the solo was hinting at E major! But there’s no more development of that to help our ear find it’s footing… rather there is just silence. SIX beats of it. Well there are 6 beats on the score, but how do you count silence when there is no strong sense of meter!? This is anticipatory silence, that adds more dissonance to the music—when will we know!?

Finally, there is relief for us confused listeners—a V13 to a I chord! Yes. That’s right. This cadence—the most consonant of all cadences— has been “dissonanced” to provide so much tension that there is NO DOUBT that there is indeed a key to this piece—the key of E major. And as if to reassure us that Debussy isn’t pulling our leg (ear?), the melody is repeated… in E, with a deep E major (add 6) chord to support this. 

Later in the piece, Debussy will repeat this V13 to I cadence to provide some stability amongst all the chordal abutment and continue using whole tone melodies  that have since come to really symbolize dreaminess—a very fitting sensation for a piece about a fawn!

The piece’s recap[itulation] begins with something ironic/novel/funny (take your pick) : finger cymbals in the place of timpani.

Normally the timpani is used to mark Vs and Is, but here, Debussy throws that all out the window with the use of cymbals to show that this version of the melody is the REAL recap/end—not any of the previous false recapitulations.

 Finally, it ends with something new for the music of the time: non-directive, non-functional (aka hierarchyl) harmonies of a more concise version of the opening solo lines—over a tonic pedal.

Then, as if to allow the audience to fall back asleep from this dreamy music in peace, it ends on a solid, predictable, E major, tying the whole piece of music together. 

Filed under afternoon of a faun afternoon of a fawn music theory

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Finding my Tonal Center in an Atonal World

First off, I know and want to apologize for essentially abandoned this blog recently! I’ve been in the midst of a school with balancing a wonderful relationship, a wonderful job (RA), and a very stressful-but-wonderful major. I’ve also, quite, frankly, had no idea what to write about or post that wasn’t vocalizing the great singer-warm up of “mi mi mi mi mi”.

But with several people simultaneously asking me to return to tumblr, I thought I may as well! My business cards do, after all, include this URL. 

So what will I be posting about? Nothing exciting—things that I’ve learned throughout the day, some photo shoots I’ve gone on, favorite quotes, musings, and lots of fabulous music as I discover it. 

Stay tuned!