Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lost in Space

Hello readers!

I'm back at Pro Coro rehearsals this week for our "Music from Space" concert and it has been intense indeed. We have two new pieces that were commissioned for the concert, a set of three chant-like melodies by Larry Nickel called "Creator Alme Siderum, Maker of the Stars", as well, a piece set to Einstein's quotes entitled, "and Einstein said." The latter is a set of six pieces written by our associate conductor, Trent Worthington. Both of these pieces have such lovely character. The Nickel piece has an epic feel with it's use of chant and there's a musical and textual motif that plays off of the expansiveness of space united with the religious latin text. Trent's pieces are just really fun to sing. I like how it's music that's trying not to take itself too seriously. It captures the mood of the quotes from Einstein with musical accuracy and simplicity. There's a fun part in the second section where the soprano's get to sing a dance-like melody that is reminiscent of "skipping and twirling through a flowery meadow." Seriously, those are the directions in brackets above their line. I think one of my favorites is the fourth quote: "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything..." and the beginning portion has the choir humming and it sounds like the static of electrical charge. I also find it interesting that when I look at the notes on the page it resembles electrons in an orbital crosssection of Bohr's model. Extremely interesting music indeed!

We are also doing "Gloria Patri" a set of hymns by Urmas Sisask and the cool part about these chant melodies is that space images will be broadcast on a screen during the piece. I think this concert will have a very neat ambiance indeed. Our conductor, Richard Sparks, was inspired by this performance of Sisask:

There is also another piece on the program that strikes fear in my heart. It's been a while since I've been actually afraid of a piece but, alas, Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna" had me helplessly clutching my tuning fork during rehearsal last night. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of performing Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna", you may recognize it from Stanley Kubrick's "Space Odyssey." Listening to it is one thing, but looking at the music and performing it was another matter entirely to me. There are 16 parts in the piece and there are exactly 16 singers in this concert. Everybody sings within clustered semitones with one another and we usually have to come in on the 1/5 or 1/3 of a beat. Needless to say, it left me watching the conductor with fear. O.k, so it has gotten a little bit better during rehearsal, but I still have a lot of work to do before the next time we meet again in February. I think I knew it was a bad sign when he told us to take out our tuning forks if we had them. That metallic Y-prong was my musical crutch throughout the piece. However, I quickly found out that it was not that helpful and that listening to voices around me were more helpful than hearing an "A" from my fork and finding the interval I needed to be on from there. There is also an overwhelming sense of trust you need to have with the singers around you. That also means people are trusting in me to know my part. I do not intend to let them down.

My plan of action:

1. Learn the chromatic chant "cold." I should be able to wake up singing it in the morning with the right pitches.
2. Sing along to a recording or a video. I know that practicing it on my own won't be helpful. I need to be able to get my notes within the note clusters. Maybe a video might be best so then I can watch a conductor give beats and I can practice how to find my place again if I lose my spot?

At any rate, I am determined to learn this piece! If you have any music learning tid-bits, please leave them in the comments section below! Instead of looking at this piece with fearful anxiety, I will take a more proactive approach and dedicate my time to learning it.

Feel free take a listen to it here:

Until next time, take care!

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