Sunday, February 20, 2011

Modern Opera

In my music history classes, we have looked at the origins of opera. Beginning with operas by Peri, Monteverdi, and the musical trends that preceded them, we have tracked the evolution of opera from its earliest manifestations up to the operas of Mozart. We will be continuing, I'm sure, but so far we have gotten to Mozart. As a vocalist, I think it's fascinating to see the differences in musical style as time progresses, and I'm sure I will continue to be fascinated as I learn more.

I'm especially curious to see how the trends in subject matter progress. In the earliest examples of operas, greek mythology was a prominent subject matter (Orpheus in particular was a popular subject. The earliest operas that we have today were written on the Orphean myth). Today, the subject matter for operas is often more... recent.

That's right. An opera has been written about Anna Nicole Smith. And evidently it was quite the success. If, one day, I become a professional opera singer, I would want to be a part of a contemporary, edgy opera premiere.

I hope that works out. I think singing modern opera would be a blast.

I went to go see OU's production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum this evening. It was hilarious!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


My friend Anna has asked me to write a song for her. I'm super-excited about it, and I will post the final product here when I am finished with it.

The scanner in the library is awesome, and I like playing with it.

Piccolos are entirely too loud.

I like singing.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I have this problem, where the idea of "going to bed" is often synonymous with "giving up on the day."
So I'll be really tired, and not really have anything productive I could be doing, but I still don't want to go to sleep.
Maybe once I'm actually in the bed, I'll feel better about going to sleep.

I was looking for a piece of music relating to sleep (other than the Eric Whitacre, which I love, but I was looking for something I'd not heard before). I found this, and I like it.


I posted the videos for the Beatles concerto without having listened to them. Upon further investigation, I don't find them that musically interesting. Oh well. It still illustrates the point I was trying to make.


The word "sensibility" means "the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences; sensitivity" according to my laptop's dictionary. I realized today that I have been incorrect about the definition of this word until today. I thought that the word actually meant the state of emotional restraint and logic. In other words, the complete opposite of what I thought it meant. I'm glad that I know better now. I hope I haven't misused it or anything...

That's one of my pet peeves: when people misuse words.

A lot of composers use the folk-song traditions of their native countries to inspire their compositions, whether they take a popular folk melody or compose in the style of a type of song that is popular at the time: Mozart wrote a set of variations on "Ah! Vous dirai-je Maman" (more popularly known as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in America, or the ABC song); Dvorak, when trying to discover "American" music, wrote several newspaper articles pointing to Native American and African American melodies as the sources that American composers should be using for truly original music; Smetana, Haydn, and Bartok lifted melodies from folk songs and incorporated them into their compositions; Holst and Vaughan williams wrote entire suites based on different folk tunes; Bach wrote cantatas based on Lutheran chorale melodies, many of which were previously taken from popular melodies by Martin Luther himself; and Aaron Copland set African American spirituals for solo voice and piano.

My point in listing all of these past examples of classical composers employing folk music in their compositions is to say that folk music was the popular music of the day. The "folk" melodies were the kinds of things that your everyday citizen might sing to himself as he went about his life.

The popular music of today exists in a very different fashion: most popular melodies today have an original artist attached to them. In a lot of cases, the artist might have a copyright on the song. So, should a composer decide to write a piece of music, and incorporate a melody by an artist with a copyright on the music, would the composer have to pay that artist royalties whenever he sold a copy of the sheet music for that piece?

I know John Rutter wrote the "Beatles concerto" for piano and orchestra, that consists of a medley of beatles songs. I also know that the 5 Browns included a song on their latest album that was a medley of three Disney songs. I just wonder if they have to pay royalties for those... I know these are drastic examples, but they're the only examples of currently popular music being employed in a classical context that I can think of.


I ignored this blog for over a month. For this, I apologize. It was indirectly in response to an event that occurred last semester, in which a person whom I don't care to have communication with attempted to contact me by commenting a post I had written as a letter to that person. Although the format of the post might make it seem like I was inviting this person to respond, I was actually venting here, because I considered it to be a healthy outlet. When I saw her comment, I deleted the entire post, which is against my personal philosophy about things that I write. Everything I had written in that post was truthful, and accurately described the frustration and anger I was feeling at the time, but by deleting that post, I censored myself, as if I were ashamed of what I had written.

If the person in question is reading this, let me make one thing clear: I am not ashamed of what I said; I meant every word. My split-second decision to delete that post about you was out of misplaced frustration that you would attempt to contact me after I made it very clear that I never wanted to hear from you again. In no way was that action a retraction of what I had said.

To everyone else reading: I apologize. Although the content of my blog may not impact your life, I feel that by retroactively censoring what I have written I have somehow let you down. I won't do it again.

PS: I also did it a few weeks ago when I decided to undertake a 30-day writing challenge, got 2 days in, and decided that I didn't want to do the challenge anymore. That was just me getting bored. Again, sorry.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Click this for a really cool musical experience.
My friend Cat posted that today, and I listened to it, and it reminded me a lot of Sigur Ros, who I've only recently started to get into. However, the unmetered feel to the music puts me into a very serene state. Maybe I should investigate similar creations.

Anyway. We're about to have family dinner at my apartment, which means free food! Life is good.


While doing a little bit of research on Charlie Siem, I found a recording of him playing Manuel Ponce's Estrellita. This song is absolutely gorgeous, but it was originally written for voice and piano. I'm having a bit of trouble locating the sheet music for it, but a request to Interlibrary Loan should help me out there. It's a gorgeous piece, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to sing it sometime in my voice lessons.

My US History class right now is excruciating. I enjoy learning about history, but the graduate "instructor" whose class I'm enrolled in is a less-than-acclaimed lecturer. That said, we have an oral history assignment in the class, in which we are supposed to collect an oral history from someone. I've decided to interview my voice professor about what it was like to be a classical musician during the civil rights movement. I'm pretty sure he was studying at the Metropolitan Opera when Marian Anderson became the first black person to perform there, so I'm hoping that he got the chance to meet her.

At any rate, I've started reading about her. I've checked out Raymond Arsenault's The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America, and Anderson's autobiography, My Lord What a Morning. I've started reading both of them, and so far they're very interesting. It's further inspired me to have a huge music library when I have a house one day: not just a library of recordings and sheet music, but a library of books about music.

I've been wrestling with a dilemma lately: I really love the piano, but I also really love singing. Now that I'm studying under a teacher with whom I have meshed, I'm really interested in continuing those studies. However, I'm also interested in taking organ lessons here, because we've got such a strong organ program. The only problem is that I can't take three lessons at once: it would be overtaxing and I wouldn't ever talk to anybody ever again for learning so much music. The only thing I can think of that would resolve the dilemma is to stop taking piano lessons after my junior year of college to pick up the organ my senior year. This might seem counterintuitive, since the piano is my primary instrument. However, the degree plan I'm on only requires six semesters of lessons on your primary instrument, so I wouldn't be breaking any rules.

Thoughts? I have really enjoyed my progress on the piano over the last year and a half, but I would hate to miss the opportunity to study organ here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

WHY didn't I learn to play the violin?

One of my Christmas presents was a subscription to BBC Music magazine, which is like the Entertainment Weekly of classical music. Because I love classical music the way most of my peers like country, rap, rock, and pop music, this was the perfect gift for me. Each issue comes with a CD, and all of the latest news and gossip within the classical music world.

My first issue came the other day, and it has an ad on the front inside cover for Charlie Siem's debut album. That's him above. I am beyond thrilled to see a classical soloist performing in a formal setting dressed in informal clothing. I wrote a whole research paper on the topic for my expository writing class last year, discussing how I hoped that this would become more and more acceptable.

That said, I also hope that we can get past the age of the-complete-works-of. So many recitals and CD's I see now consist of all of the works that a specific composer wrote in a specific genre. And as helpful as that is if you're trying to find a recording of a specific piece, it doesn't make for a very interesting album. My favorite classical albums are very diverse in their selections. I'll write more about this another time, because I want to go to bed soon, and I still have one more thing to discuss...

WHY didn't I learn to play the violin? It's so portable, it's so beautiful to listen to, and there are a bajillion orchestras out there. In another video, Seim discusses how he believes a violinist should be able to take his violin out and perform anywhere he goes. It totally makes sense: spontaneous performance keeps the joy of music alive in a person's soul, and it also helps you prove to yourself that you have prepared your music adequately. Unfortunately, my primary instrument, the piano, is the second least-portable instrument I can think of (the first being the pipe organ). If there's not a piano available to play somewhere, then I'm out of luck. Further, I can't walk around playing my instrument in a whimsical fashion. As much as I like being able to play more than one independent line of music at a time with relative ease, there is that fundamental lack of mobility that irks me so.

Also, boys who can play the violin are hot. Just look at him.