It's been about a month since I last updated and life has been CRAZY!
I finally get to share the news about Voices of Hope and the New Music Initiative for Black Voices!
I'm super excited about these projects!
Voices of Hope are prison choirs in the Minnesota Correctional Facilities. The piece I'm writing is for 2 voice parts (either S/A or T/B so it can be sung in both the men's and women's prisons), snapping/clapping, (optional) bass guitar, and piano.
Have I mentioned I LOVE writing for voice??? I love having the structure and guidance of having a text. I've worked with my composition teacher about having more of an analytical process with my composing instead of just waiting for divine inspiration.
There are ways to "properly" set a text. For example, you want the stressed beats to happen on the correct placement. When I was in high school, I went to a reading of students' choral works. It sticks with me because someone set some sort of text, I don't remember what, but he put the strong beats on "your" and "but" (sounding like your...butt). Funny the things that stick!
I'm working on making the composing process more analytical, so I'm attempting to write out my text setting process:
I've been running a low-level mania (hypomania) since March or so. On one hand it's great because I don't need as much sleep and I'm hyper-creative, but on the other hand, I'm not sleeping much (takes me 3 hours to fall asleep and I'll frequently sleep 2-3 hours then can't get back to sleep) and eventually the downside of mania is the crash that typically follows the high. I'm churning out a ton of high-quality music, but this level of productivity isn't sustainable. While it feels great at first, the racing thoughts, obsessive working, and lack of sleep is starting to wear on me. I'm working with my therapist and psychiatrist to try and get things regulated again, but so far nothing is working. Stress is one of my triggers, so I work hard to live a low stress lifestyle. The problem is, good stress is a trigger, too, so every good news I get fuels the hypomania. I wish there was an easy answer. *Sigh* C'est la vie!
Can you believe it's been 5 weeks? I've been reflecting this week.
"Angels Sang to Me" (soprano and string quartet) was my first "grown up" piece, stretching me to compose music I didn't know I was capable of composing.
"The Sun Will Rise" (vibraphone and string quartet) is my next major piece. This work felt like it was reacting to "Angels" and trying to find the balance between finding what worked in "Angels" but not replicating it.
"[Piece yet to be titled]" (soprano, viola, and piano) is what I'm currently working on. I've learned I very much prefer to write for voice. I turn 31 in a week and I feel like I'm starting to relax into writing and not worrying about style, as much as writing for the performers and staying true to the text.
Now what I'm working on is trusting my ear. I rely too much on other people to tell me if my music is "good" or not. I struggle with confidence. But, I'm working on it.
Update on the piano front. I bought a Kawai digital piano and I LOVE it!!!! When I bought the piano from Schmitt Music, I got a $100 gift card! So, I bought piano etude books (Hanon and Czerny), Keith Snell's “Essential Repertoire" level 2, violin Suzuki books 7 and 9, manuscript paper, damp-its for my violin and viola, and wall mounts to hang my violin and viola.
The piece I'm working on composing is for soprano, viola, and piano. Not gonna lie, the piano intimidates me. SO, I decided to up my piano game. I'm really trying to slowly but surely train my fingers to think like a pianist. I've always wanted to consider myself a "competent" pianist, so here I go! Trying to do an exercise each week from the Czerny and Hanon. The Hanon reminds me of the Sevcik books for violin/viola. I like the Czerny better. The Hanon is predictable. You can memorize the pattern easily. The Czerny requires more brain power. I enjoy the thinking. I've done a couple exercises already and the hardest part was remembering which fingers were which numbers!
I've always been more of a melodic writer and don't think harmonically. Yesterday I sat down with my melody and came up with harmonies at the piano. The harmonies I came up with were much more creative than what I would've done just writing in Finale. I love being able to sit down at the piano and plunk out melodies or harmonies.
The other exciting thing this week is my husband bought me a new tablet! Part of my compositional process is to print all my parts and play them on my viola/violin or piano. With writing more frequently and in a larger scale, I ended up wasting a lot of paper. I'm super excited to be able to just send all my parts to my tablet and play and edit from there saving oodles of paper!
For the past couple months I've been rapid cycling (bipolar). I've been hyper-productive during this period. I'm in love with what I've been writing. Now the question is, is it actually good or is it the hypomania thinking I'm on top of the world?
Have exciting news to share this week! It's been made public that the Artaria String Quartet will be premiering my piece "The Sun Will Rise" for vibraphone and string quartet May 8 & 9, 2022! (www.artariaquartet.com/)
I met with the vibraphonist yesterday and talked a lot about articulations and pedaling, and she played through the vibraphone part. It's an amazing feeling to listen to your piece being played on actual instruments!!
The next piece I'm starting is a setting of four poems for soprano, viola, and piano by poet Walter de la Mare.
1. A Song of Enchantment
4. A Fiddler
I had a music composition lesson last night and worked with my teacher on an analysis of poems "A Song of Enchantment" and "Snow."
My next step is mapping out the rhythms.
My compositional style is to jump right in and just write, BUT I'm working on being more methodical in my writing and doing the groundwork first.
So my music keyboard decided to go kaput on me. It was the weirdest thing! I would play the same key 4 times and get 4 different pitches. I got a temporary keyboard I can use, but I think it's time to invest in either a digital piano or an upright. In an ideal world, where moving a piano was cheap, I'd definitely go for the upright, but I think the more economical choice is the digital piano. I'm hoping to get something purchased by the end of the week. Wish me luck!
From my hotel room in Augusta, Georgia to the comforts of your home, welcome to week 2 of my blog!
My husband (F) and I flew into Atlanta yesterday and drove about 2 hours to Augusta. When we first started travelling we would frequently just go to chain restaurants that were familiar to us, but after a year, we set a rule that we only go to places that we don't have in Minnesota. Last night did not disappoint. We went to TBonz Steakhouse (www.tbonzofaugusta.com/) F got rainbow trout and shrimp and I got steak and shrimp. When they first brought out the meals, I thought there was no way it would fill me up. Plates looked stingy on the food. Boy was I wrong! F and I were both so full after the meal we barely made it back to the rental car! Haha
Tonight for dinner, we're going to do a short drive to South Carolina. We've never been to South Carolina before, so that will be state #27 F and I have visited together.
Musically I'm on a big music listening kick. One of the pieces I'm working on is in the waiting-for-the-read-through phase and I'm in the pre-composing stages of my next piece, so I've had some down time. I've been listening to a wide variety of vocal chamber music to collect colors. One of the most interesting pieces I've come across is a piece by the (now deceased) Minnesota composer Eric Stokes recorded in 2017 by two of my favorite people: Maria Jette (soprano) and Merilee Klemp (oboe). I like this piece because I never would have thought of putting that instrumentation together.
Another piece I've come across that I really like is Requiescat by George Butterworth.
The next piece I'm writing involves writing for piano. As a violist whose piano skills peaked at class piano 4, the piano intimidates me. I've been doing a lot of listening to piano chamber music and the complexity of the piano parts are beyond what I can grasp. Then I came across this piece. I love the simplicity and beauty of the writing.
I decided to try my hand at chronicling my musical pursuits, travels, and culinary exploits in a blog! Here it goes:
Every Monday I start over my list of 7 things I want to accomplish before the end of the week. They are:
For my research I have two papers I've been working on for awhile. Both have some epic quotes:
"Wilma Neruda: Gender and Violin Performance in 19th Century England"
"The 18th-Century Germanic Viola Concerto: A History and Pedagogical Study of Four Selected Movements"
This week the husband and I went to Columbus, Ohio. First observations: the airport was a ghost town! We just went for a day, so we landed, ate breakfast at Sunny Street Café, drove around the city, saw the capitol, went on a short hike, ate a late lunch at an Ethiopian place, then hopped back on a plane and flew home! The hike was a definite pleasant surprise. Only 12 minutes from the airport, it was shockingly secluded.
What's to eat? SALSA!
We went to the farmer's market and loaded up on peppers (italian peppers, sweet banana peppers, poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, and shishito peppers), red onions, garlic, red and yellow tomatoes, and sweet corn. Added from the grocery store added lime juice and a generous swirl of honey.
I like my salsa mild. What I've learned with the peppers is that it's the seeds that are spicy, so I de-seed the peppers before chopping them up for the salsa.
For my bridal shower, my mom hosted a Pampered Chef party and I got oodles of gadgets that I LOVE! To chop all the veggies I used the manual food processor, to get the corn off the cob, I used the kernel cutter, for the garlic, I used the garlic press, and to juice the limes, I used the juicer.
A snapshot into the life of composer, baker, mental health advocate, music historian, and traveler.