Apr. 5th, 2007 01:05 pm
sen_no_ongaku: (Rant)
Since I began writing for voices (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] wavyarms), I've found that I very much prefer to set unconventional texts. The idea of setting poetry has little appeal to me[1]; when left to my own devices, I've chosen:

- silly cat haiku
- spam
- a molotov cocktail recipe
- a list of names

For my current project for chorus, string quartet, and electric guitar (due in December, to be premiered in March!), I'll be setting an amalgam of excerpts from:

- Executive Order 9066
- Relocation instructions
- A Supreme Court decision
- A loyalty questionnaire
- Postcards and letters from interned Americans[2]

And it recently dawned on me that in part, I choose the texts I do because I'm not interested in expressing myself directly, but in expressing myself by expressing others[3]. This was made more clear to me during the Abbie Hoffman Estate incident. I feel now (though I'm not sure I consciously realized it then) that, as a composer, it's more powerful to speak through somebody else's words than your own, and having to use (however disguised) my own voice diminished the impact of Cocktail[4].

But setting somebody else's poetry is speaking through them, right? Somehow, I feel it isn't, and I can't exactly put my finger on why. I think it might be because when setting poetry, to a large extent I'm speaking as the poet, taking the poet's voice as my own (or vice versa), and so I'm basically still expressing myself.

Another issue might be that poetry is intended as art, art that I'm subsuming and substituting with another media, whereas the texts I find compelling to set are not intended as art, and so there isn't a weird sense of refraction and imposition in using somebody else's creations.

(1) Though I once had ideas for a couple of song cycles on E. E. Cummings and Jane Kenyon, but nothing ever really came of them.

(2) Though I actively try not to follow any role models in terms of musical material, development, and technique, I do follow Steve Reich's lead in terms of what kinds of texts to set.

(3) One of the pieces I'm proudest of is a setting of a love poem by E. E. Cummings; and I think I was able to do it because it was written to express [livejournal.com profile] dietrich and [livejournal.com profile] imlad.

(4) Certainly for me, anyway, since nobody got to hear the original version except the performers.

Me on Me

Jan. 11th, 2007 09:26 pm
sen_no_ongaku: (mike)
Thanks to those who indulged me by responding to my previous post. Here's my own perspective, with the caveat that I often believe that the person least qualified to talk about someone is h/hself.

Warning: Rambly )
sen_no_ongaku: (mike)
A few days ago, I asked [livejournal.com profile] wavyarms to look over a piece of mine for three women's voices. After she plunked through it at a nearby piano, we had an exchange that went something like this:

wavyarms: Uh, you're probably not going to like my first impressions.
me: OK.
wavyarms: It's very pretty.
me: Good.
wavyarms: Oh.

Maybe I would have been insulted or disappointed by that response 10 years ago, but these days I'm glad to hear it. wavyarms has known me since I started composing, and I'm almost certain my views on how I want my music to be received have changed since then...and continue to change.

Many -- if not most -- of you almost certainly have no opinion on the matter, but if you can answer the question, I'm curious:

How do you think I want people to react to the music I write? What do you think I want to accomplish?

Then again, I'm not certain what my answer would be.
sen_no_ongaku: (mike)
For the first time, I am being paid to write a piece of music, for The Arlington-Belmont Chamber Chorus, thanks to Barry Singer, whom I met while engraving and arranging for crap pay. The parameters I've been given: the piece should be between 9-20 minutes long, and finished by the end of 2007. All the rest is up to me: the text, additional instrumental accompaniment (though practically speaking, 8 is probably the limit), harmonic language, etc., is my call.

They're used to performing modern music -- they premiere a piece every year -- so I can range a bit further afield in my demands...though I still have to be careful, of course.

As for a text, I had first considered realizing a project I've been thinking about for years: setting a deCSS algorithm to music, or something related -- and I still may -- but what's currently more compelling is the text of Executive Order 9066, probably interspersed with a related loyalty questionnaire. I'll need to make up my mind soon.

Also, a fellow I met in Oregon last summer wants to include the third movement of Honey Glazed on a CD of saxophone quartet music he's releasing.

I agreed.

It's sufficiently rare that someone else is professionally interested in what I'm doing that even though this is the first step in a long process, I'm pretty excited. If I'm lucky, the quartet making the recording will become interested in performing the entire piece on their concerts.

In other news, my engineer is currently in London for a few weeks, so I'll have to wait on finishing up our splicing job on Three Sketches until he's back. Someday this frustration will end, and another will arrive to take its place.



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