This made me laugh SO hard.
Hmph. If persons would do their duty and log the last meeting like they’re supposed to, this place wouldn’t look like the Newnan School of Dance’s new space.
I admire the floor. Lots of windows. Why clutter it up?
I’ll squat for a moment (ah, so many resonances) in the space and follow up on my composition method for my St. Paul’s Choir piece. I’m using a stanza from a GM Hopkins poem called Hurraghing at Harvest:
I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
Â And, Ã©yes, heÃ¡rt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous loveâ€™s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?
So I wanted our choir to have an opportun(e)ity to sound some really complex and non-traditional harmonic clusters. But I didn’t want to impose something stressful on our happy band of well-meaning avocational singers, especially something a capella with no real voice guides, etc. So I decided to built something similar to the way an Episcopal psalm is chanted. You learn a line (melodic or harmonic) and then stretch the time on the line to make the text fit.
I thought I would build a piece on a single melodic line. As a preparation, the choir would learn this line really well. But the actual four part piece would consist of the melodic line sung concurrently by each voice and each voice singing only common intervals, not common durations. It’s as if you took the melody notes for row, row, row your boat and asked each part to sing the string of notes but with different time arrangements. A round, but not. The complex harmonies are simply a by-product of the juxtaposition of tones among the voices. All the singers have to do is follow the melody intervals they’ve learned and be prepared to hold them for different durations (and an occasional repetition or omission of repetition). (Actually, doing something with the tune for Frere Jacques or another round and obtaining some unexpected harmonies would be an interesting exercise, also…)
So composition is like a serial process. I have to make sure each voice follows the melody sequence, but I string the sequences in such a way that I produce an expressive four part score that serves the text. I have my parts arrive at wonderfully dissonant places and just let them ring, anticipating a resonant space for performance. I wanted them (our choir) to have the experience of leaning in to wonderful sound tensions. Hal Hobson doesn’t offer many of those.
The “melody line” I composed is a movement from a strong tonal 4th statement to something a half-step up. Then the whole thing is modulated down a whole step. And it’s doing what I had hoped harmonically as the tones blend into complex “chords.” In my note to singers at the beginning, I will present the modulated melody and urge them to learn to sing it in unison first before starting to work on the piece. (This “melody” never actually appears in full with its original note durations in the piece…so far…it’s enough of a pleasant line that I might try and throw it in if I can arrange for all of the voices to converge).
The composition process is fun. But you have to relax into it and not try to rush. I can imagine what it might have been like for Webern to contemplate each and every tone in one of his orchestral bagatelles. But it’s not a tedious process. It’s full of fun exploration and surprise. And it’s controlled. The harmonic possibilities are wide open, but not infinite. I can play with voice effects knowing the notes I have to work with. I get to experiment my way into a different experience of inspiration. Rewarding.
I can say in support of what Marc has said that I like what I’ve heard so far.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.