Tag Archives: Choral Music

Sappho 31, The Demo

One of my favorite things that has ever happened in the world, ever, happens at 40 seconds into this demo.

Ever.

So, Sappho 31 is done, I’m off to rush it into an envelope with the final version of the score, but I stopped first to drop it here to you good people at the Roadhouse. The demo is unmixed, thrown together at the last possible second. Many thanks to Rebbecca (Brannon) Ginzink, Gretchen Lee, and Ashley Morgan for helping me sing the female vocals.

Sappho 31
sappho-demo-mix.mp3
download

The Score:
Sappho 31

Sappho 31

My God, how incredible is it that we get to simply pick up a pen, or click open a file, and out of nothing but hubris and time create something that didn’t exist just a few hours, or days, or months before? How fantastic is this soul that hums along beneath the surface of our human machine!

But enough of that crap. Yes, I’m composing again. Or still. Whatever. I am making notes go. I am writing for a young (Ha!) composers competition, where the prize is cash money and a debut of the piece by a pretty kick-ass professional choir.

The theme is “Romantic Love”, and I thought, what better place to start than with the dawning of fiercely bitter lesbian political love-hate poetry, Sappho. If you don’t know about her, go check it out. Awesome stuff. If you really want to get into it, check out Anne Carson’s fantastic new translation, “If Not, Winter“.

So, I settled on one of the best known fragments from Sappho, Parchment 31, sometimes called the Poem of Jealousy. Sappho is watching another man woo her beloved, and she is jealous not of her attention to him (much), but of his ability to just sit calmly in her beloved’s presence, just sit! and not be utterly consumed with desire.

The last line of the poem is tantalizing – it is cutoff, but the fragment that remains seems oddly appropriate. It is, in various versions, either “But I endure” or “But even in poverty” … you can see below how I chose to render it, but that’s almost certainly not what was intended. As I said, tantalizing.

If you’d like to see just a sampling of how people have reconstructed this poem, you can check it out here. Below is my own translation, with little attempt to be literal to the original:

Sappho 31:
He is as a god to me
That man
who sits to face you and
simply listens to
your sweet speaking

and your sweet laughter
makes my heart pound
hovering in my chest
for when I look at you
my words are fleet and away
and away

my tongue breaks
and thin fire runs beneath my skin
and eyes lose sight
and I hear nothing but
this
this
pounding heart

and cold sweat grips
and shaking grips
and pale as the summer grass
I pass
from life
to death

bereft of you
I endure

Behold, Emmanuel

So, this guy I know wrote this really cool choral piece for men’s choir.

I’ve gotten to know a very cool local choir director (she’s Zane’s piano teacher too) who roped me into playing percussion for a couple choir concerts, as well as doing a recording of her community choir singing last Christmas season’s program.

Like most music majors, I sang in the big choir at school, and was exposed to some pretty cool music back then. And like most “commercial” musicians, I don’t hear or write that sort of thing in the course of my typical pop/rock record production gigs.

So, inspired by this reemergence of “serious” choral music in my life, I thought maybe I should give it a try. Janine, the aforementioned choir director encouraged me to write something for Christmas, and offered to have the choir sing it, assuming it passed muster.

I came up with this.

behold_emmanuel_DEMO_071009.mp3

Behold, Emmanuel

Obviously this is just a demo… Thanks to Michelle, Alissa and Ryan for singing the parts I couldn’t.

Janine seems to like it. She’s offered to show it to a bunch of mucky-mucks she knows in that world, so who knows where it’ll go. I’m sure I’ll be losing all sorts of street cred as a hip pop/rock producer by dipping a toe in the choral music world, but I figure in the spirit of “lots of irons in the fire” it can’t hurt.

Let me know if you’d like to see the score… I’ll email it to you.

Our Father Session Clips

Not yet mixed, not even really edited, but here are the long-demanded rough clips from the recording session on Friday. And by long-demanded, I mean I casually mentioned that I would post them, and nobody has really said “No no, please don’t.” I take that to be a consensus for demand.

Here are 3 clips from the song. When the final mix is completed, I’ll post the whole thing in sequence, including videos of my laughably bad conducting. Joy!

our_father_vindicate_clip1.mp3 our_father_vindicate_clip2.mp3 our_father_vindicate_clip3.mp3

You Knew Me When I Was Young

Why is this so important?  What is so fundamentally important about reconnecting with people who knew you when you were young, (younger)?  

This past weekend was a gift.  

Old wounds seemed insignificant.  Old friendships seemed vibrant.  The rhythms and pace of our collective experience re-clicked into place like dismantled yet interlocking parts cut to precise tolerances.  I have often said that the friendships that mean the most to me are the ones that can simply be resumed after years and months of separation, without any passive/aggressive subtext.  I had that experience over and over this past weekend.  

Most of my friends have sharpened their musical chops in ten years.  I have never heard a University Choir with the vocal horsepower present in that room.  Ever.  Not in Bonner’s heyday, not when we were there.  Rod Cathey’s comment was, “You guys came ready to peel the paint off of these walls.”  

When Steven Reineke came into the Friday rehearsal and hit the first downbeat of the first tune, there was a moment of unmistakable, unfakable delight that crossed his face.  Surely, hearing that he was getting a pick-up choir of alums wasn’t the best news of his year.  He didn’t know we were coming to play.  He didn’t know he was getting the all-star team.    

We actually ran into him, hours after the concert, late on Saturday night (Sunday morning) in the hotel lobby.  He said we were one of the most delightful choral experiences of his career.  I don’t think he was blowing sunshine.  He gave some very specific thoughts about the ethic that we displayed.  People blowing sunshine lack specificity.  

But still, I keep coming back to this:  Why is it so important to know, and be known by those who knew you when you were young?  Does is somehow validate your adult life?  Is there something in our minds that wants to reaffirm that friendships forged as young men and women are still valid 10 years (or more) up the road?  This is not me in ironic, detached mode, in case the intertubes aren’t helping me translate my tone.  I was genuinely struck by the sincerity of the experience.  

Nearly everyone I spoke with said the same thing…  I wasn’t sure how this was going to be, but the second I got here, I just started having so much fun.  Perhaps it was because we got to actually do the thing we used to do together, rather than just sitting around and talking about the thing we used to do together.  Perhaps that’s the secret to a good reunion.  

I’d sing with these people anytime, even you babies that call yourselves college students.  I will refrain from attempting to give too much advice to you all, but I will say this:  Forget the drama.  Forget the sniping.  Forget the politics.  Ten years from now, you won’t care, Lord willing.  Embrace your friends.  Love on them.  Try not to wound them, for it does take time for those wounds to heal, and you’ll profoundly regret inflicting them when you see your friends again.  

Finally, young bucks, I will say one more thing.  You aren’t as good as you think you are, and this is a good thing.  I can tell you with complete and utter clarity that there are few things in life more satisfying than knowing that you have been allowed to become more competent at your craft as the years pass, rather then settling into a “Glory Days” mentality.  Keep getting better.  There are rewards coming that you cannot yet understand.  

This was a gift.  Thanks, Rod.  Thanks APU.