Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Context ...

Today I made an impromptu visit to the Advanced Voice Class at Penfield High School after working with Lindsay earlier in a senior English class.  It was fantastic to see everyone and to hear the voice class perform again because (1) they are awesome, and (2) it has been a little over a week since I heard them give their stunning performance at the Women in Music Festival in the Main Hall at Eastman School of Music.   

During today’s visit, they were continuing to rehearse one of the songs from the cycle, “#18 Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” It is the beginning song in the cycle, and at the start of the class, they had some questions about the work itself.  How did we envision it?  What was the feeling?  What was the moment?  For a composer, these kinds of questions are the most powerful moments in the collaborative process because the work is “speaking” to the performers.  This is evident BECAUSE the work is being questioned. 

What this means for us as composers is that the performers are trying to “get inside our heads” in order to understand how we thought about the work as we composed the music.  By asking these kinds of questions, they are comparing their own experiences with ours to gain insight and understanding.  In the case of #18, I described an early April morning at the edge of 2008 Lilac Festival at Highland Park.  This beautiful walk Lindsay and I took four years ago was the inspirational moment that we drew upon, and what directly contributed to our creation of the music. 

For a performer, this is an exciting step in understanding “Truth in Beauty” because each Shakespeare sonnet --in and of itself-- is already a complete work even without the music.  Also, each sonnet could be interpreted or understood differently when music is not present.  However, with the additional layer of music and musical form, a sonnet is transformed, and each sonnet within the cycle is shaped and interpreted by the actual construction of the composition.  This is why clarification is needed and why composer/performer interaction is so valuable.  This sophisticated process is what ultimately helps a performer interpret the work. 

 “Truth in Beauty” is an ensemble experience for the Advanced Voice Class, and their process is creating a masterful experience.  They are thinking of the work from an individual perspective and then contributing this thinking to a collaborative experience.  This is what makes them advanced singers, and this is what makes their work as singers so extraordinary.  Their thoughtfulness is placing everything in context and taking their performances to high levels.  The result is that they are living the text and expressing the essence.  For Lindsay and me, it is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to work with such a talented director and intelligent singers and we are embracing the joy of every moment with them.

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