One week later than promised, but here it is…
My second semester project is complete, and my first year of graduate school is almost over. Quite a feeling, mixed feelings actually, but mostly consisting of happiness and contentment at the moment.
My project turned out a little shorter than I expected, and much shorter than I wanted, but I met the 10 minute minimum requirement of music for the semester. I am excited about that; it is the most music that I have ever produced in half a year! I am exceedingly proud of myself, but I also look at (and listen to) my fellow students’ work and immediately see how much I still have to learn.
It is hard for me to describe what I wrote this semester; I feel the need to explain the dances because each dance movement that I wrote is connected so much in my mind to it’s specific dance. But I’m going to try not to take up space with that, unless I really need to. If you want to know about each dance, please look them up; there’s plenty of information online and off. My music (the instrumentation that I chose), I very quickly found out, is unconventional for most Ballroom Dances. The usual music is more percussive and like pop music than my chosen medium of string quartet and piano (piano quintet). Therefore, my dance movements sound much different than typical Ballroom dance music. But I still attempted to capture the musical styles and techniques used in the typical music for each dance. Each of the five dance movements that I wrote will be recorded during my residency in August, and I will post them as soon as I can afterwards. Until then, I will try my best to describe the music.
Some (especially dancers) have asked why I chose the five dances that I did, since two of them are classified as “smooth” dances and the others are classified as “rhythm” dances (just as different in look, character, and music as their categories imply). I have two reasons. For four of the five dances, I had specific musical ideas in mind. In my dancing experience, I did not have any musical problem with “smooth” and “rhythm” dances being next to each other in a dance line up. And I wanted it to be a sort of line up, but more actually a “suite,” like it could be a little dance party in and of itself, like dance suites used to be, especially in the Baroque Period. So, I chose the dances and ordered them in the best way I thought possible, musically, rhythmically, and so as to not purposely fatigue the dancers. Consequently, the mix seems a little random, but I have thought it out and am happy with it. The order is Foxtrot, Samba, Rumba, Tango, and Waltz. Stay tuned for their descriptions.
My new goal is to post once a week…about anything, even if it’s not about my own music. So here goes!
I had a great conversation with a fellow artist in which her main point was: Great and true art is 2% doing and 98% thinking. I’m finding this to be more and more true of my own compositions. The more I think each composition through until I finish it, the better it turns out. My fellow artist is finding this to be true in her art as well, and she is also still a student like me. It’s like looking before you leap, thinking before you act; the result always turns out better than if you hadn’t done the preparatory thinking or looking. My only hindrance with this new knowledge is that it still takes me a very long time to think things through in my compositions. The more I let it “simmer,” so to speak, the more good ideas I can sift through to find the right ones needed at the time for that composition. But right now, and for much of this current semester, I am rapidly running out of time for my slow thinking process.
In the rest of our conversation, my fellow artist split art into two main categories, based on how it is produced and perceived: Fine Art (art with a deeper meaning attached to it that causes you, the observer or audience, to stop and think) and “Shiny” Art (her term, which means art with no deeper meaning initially intended; it just looks cool). The 98% thinking and 2% doing is most evident in the Fine Art, and as she listed off contemporary artists and their seemingly strange (at first glance) works, I easily recalled contemporary composers and some of their strange musical works that fit into the same kind of “98% thinking” art category. The obvious obstacle in this kind of Fine Art is to the uneducated lovers of the arts in the general public because of the intellectualism of the art. In much contemporary classical music, the sounds are very different (and many times repulsive) from the usual classical music sounds that the general public is used to hearing. To some, those sounds make the music more interesting instead of being boring classical music. Certainly, the contemporary classical composers feel this way about the new sounds (yet they never ever call classical music “boring” and always respect the great composers who came before them). But back to the audience…if the musically uneducated audience has trained their ears to “pleasant” musical sounds (as my ears have been originally trained also), new (harsh and repulsive) sounds filling contemporary classical compositions very often confuses the listener. However, if the audience listens more carefully, getting past (at first) the initial negative emotional response to the sounds, and is musically educated in thematic listening, then the themes, flow, and structure within the piece become clearer to the audience and the composer’s intents in writing the piece can be illuminated.
Fine Art may almost be coming out of this phase, finally (I believe). I have learned to appreciate these intellectual pieces; however, my ear (and heart) still mostly yearn for tonal (nicer sounding, in non-technical music speak) music. As for it coming out of this phase, I have found that more meaning (more easily understand by the general public) is being composed and inserted by design into more recent pieces, giving the audience more direction, creating a clear path for them to begin their musical journey within that piece of music.
“Hello, World!” I’m in the process of constructing this blog, which will mainly serve as my website with an added feature blog about my musical exploits, adventures, and thoughts. I plan to blog my thoughts about teaching music, performing music, and composing music. I would love to read your responses and thoughts on the same as well, so feel free to comment.
Along with this webpage, my life at the moment is also “under construction.” I am recruiting more music students for additional income, sharpening my performance skills with a band, and have started a Masters program in music composition with lots and lots of homework.
So, my thought for the day? Homework.