Friday, December 5, 2008

With the Wind

Today has been a long and busy day for me, seeing as I spent 8 hours--yes, 8!--writing an original piano piece for my Music Theory final project for fall quarter.

Usually, when I write music (well, attempt to....) I am not really proud of it. I am a perfectionist and am very critical of myself as an artist in every aspect. Rarely do I please myself in the area of the arts. As Johnny Depp once said, "For an artist, satisfaction is death." This means that I just committed suicide because I am insanely happy with the finished product of my final project!

The process was grueling and long and quite annoying. I decided I wanted to write in a major key (this should be a review for those who read my last post, lol) because I personally find it easier to write in major and use the accidentals/naturals to make a minor progression as apposed to writing in a minor key and using the accidentals to make it major. And if you read my earlier post, it is no surprise I wrote it in D major.

At first, I do what anyone does when they first sit down to produce any piece of work, whether it be a novel, an essay, or a painting. I sat and stared at the keyboard for a good hour or so, wondering if inspiration would come at all. Lucky me! Nothing! I decided to start where my professor had suggested we try if we're stuck. I decided to make a bass line chord progression, and write a melody based on that. This process worked just fine for me for a while..... though after I had written the first 9 bars or so, I sat back and realized that it sounded like something I had heard before and was familiar with. It was basically a variation of Pachelbel's Canon in D. This disturbed me for several reasons: I do not plagiarize. I hate that song. Everyone knows it. And I'm pretty sure my professor would have thought me to be the dumbest person in the world to pass off something that famous as my own work. Ergo, I erased the entire document.

This time, I tried the approach I had tried before....slightly less organized, but just as effective. I started plunking out notes in a less than organized way, seeing if anything clicked in my mind. The notes started flowing and making what I liked as a melody. It was decent! Hooray! I then sat some more and did the simplest thing to write the bass line: I just added the chords the melody notes were based off. I had made the melody to make some sense in terms of sounding like normal song. I was pleased. Buuuuuut at the end, it was only 16 measures long. My assignment was required to be 32. Music composition, I have found, isn't quite like writing an essay where one can bullshit a few more sentences for space. I actually had to make something that sounded nice, and made sense with the rest of the song. I did the best thing I could come up with--repeat what I wrote in variation. It sounded pretty damn awesome if I do say so myself.

Lastly, the title. The most important part. The thing that everyone sees, even if they never hear the song itself. I listened through my finished product a few more times.
Wind. I could see trees swaying, leaves blowing, and the whoosh of a breeze as I played it back.

With the Wind

Eureka!!! The only word that came to mind when hearing it with the title was epic. Pure epic.

And here I am, 10 hours after starting the piece, writing to tell you all of this adventurous tale of my music writing. Ok, not that exciting, but I'm thrilled! I've successfully completed my final project, my brain is resting after it was about ready to explode, and I am actually pleased with the final project! So, until next time, when I have some other lovely thing to write about, keep listening to music and open your eyes to new things! Explore new genres. Sing along. Have fun. Music is the sound of feeling--the sound of life (that is not original...I have NO idea who said it though...look it up).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

D minor---My Natural High

Many of us have things that please us in ways we cannot explain. For some of us, it is food, others, it is watching a really good movie. For me, it happens to be choral and classical songs that are written in the key of D minor.

A minor key is any key that has a sound that we now associate with being sad, angry, or scary. However true this may be in modern music, this concept of writing in minor keys to evoke and reflect pathos did not arrive in music until the later classical period (mid 18th century). In the Renaissance and Baroque periods, minor keys were simply a way of writing the music. In fact, many celebratory Renaissance dances were written in minor keys.

The first time I heard Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, I was in 7th grade (actually, that is a lie; I heard it done by strings in Disney's 1940 version of Fantasia as a kid, but was completely unaware of it). I went out with my mom to the CD store and got a recording of the song. I was absolutely captivated by its magnificence. When I got older and had a greater understanding of music, I decided to listen to it while at the piano, and try to plunk out parts of it. I then realized, it was in D minor. Now, one song I loved in D minor, no big deal. I liked plenty of other songs, though none of them had quite the same power to hypnotize me the way that piece did, until my sophomore year of high school.

The end of my freshman year in choir, we were invited to perform at the 2006 Youth Mozart Choral Festival in Salzburg and Vienna, Austria. In honor of this, our spring concert in 2006 was named Mostly Mozart which included, yes--you guess it--mostly Mozart! My choir director at the time, Ms. Laurie Dunston (who sadly moved to New Jersey the summer before my senior year to get her master's degree in music pedagogy), had picked a song for us to sing that will forever be my favorite choral piece I have ever sung. It was Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem in again, you guessed it--D minor. It is stunningly beautiful and simply gorgeous.

About a year ago, I became increasingly interested in early sacred music, listening to the simplistic yet mesmerizing harmonics. I came across a Miserere that is approximately 12 minutes in performance length. For the longest time, I had no idea who wrote this piece. It is written for double choir (considering its length, its a wise arrangement!), and is performed a capella (without accompaniment). For the longest time, until about a week ago, I had no idea who wrote this. I just referred to it as "the 12 minute Miserere" (pitiful, I know....). It was written by Gregorio Allegri. It was banned from being performed when first written because the intervals in the harmonics were considered "daiblus en musica" (Devil's music). When Mozart was 14, he heard it performed, and dictated the entire song perfectly, note for note, further indicating his sheer genius. Anyway, last night, I decided to try and find a manuscript online of the score. Thank the lord for the Choral Public Domain Library online. I immediately found the score and downloaded it. Low and behold--Allegri's Miserere is written in D minor.

I really don't know what it is about the key of D minor that pleases me so much. It literally releases happy chemicals in my brain. I am absolutely mesmerized and hypnotized by music written in D minor. The really strange thing is that I didn't realize these pieces were written in D minor until after I had established that I absolutely loved them. I knew I liked D minor after learning about Toccata and Fugue and Lacrimosa, but learning that Miserere was also in that key was just kind of eerie.

So there you have it. A lesson in D minor, music history, and my extreme musical nerdiness.

My First Post

Hello all!

I have decided to start this blog because I need some way to discuss and spew my musical nerdiness. Usually, no one I tell exciting things to find them quite as exciting as I do. Which poses a problem for me. I am very enthusiastic about a lot of things involved with music, whether it be a beautiful song, about a composer, an musical event, or some random fact.

I've named the blog Music, Music, and Some Other Stuff because there are other things I will discuss I'm sure. My life tends to be rather interesting and exciting at times....definitely many things have happened that are soap opera worthy (though I shall save you the details for now).

Anyway, hope you music junkies and everyone else enjoy this blog!