Vesper Sparrow

Missy Mazzoly

Vesper Sparrow (2012)

For chamber choir

            At the first moment I heard Missy Mazzoly’s Vesper Sparrow, I was immediately attracted by the way the voices evoked the sounds of nature. As its title suggests, the purpose of this piece is to represent the vesper sparrow´s song. The bird sings from the top of a bush, or another high place to demarcate its territory. Its song begins with two pairs of repeated notes and ends with a series of guttural trills. This pattern can be heard throughout most of the piece.

            The texture is polyphonic most of the time, but there are homophonic moments in the beginning, middle, and closing sections. This variety of textures, plus the timbres and colors created by the combination of syllables and vowel shapes in different voices, envelops the listener in a relaxing and satisfying sonic environment. Each section of the choir has a role. The melody is primarily carried by the sopranos, who introduce a rhythmic motive that is later echoed by the other sections. The bass section acts as an accompaniment, forming chords in imitation of the bird’s guttural sounds during climactic moments of the piece. The alto section acts as harmonic and melodic support for the soprano and bass. The tenors have the same role as the altos, in addition to taking over the melody from the sopranos in certain sections of the piece.

            It is difficult to establish the style of this piece because its structure isn’t obvious. When I heard the music for the first time, it gave me the impression that there was no tonal center, or that these were changes between tonal centers. However, as it developed further, it was easy to identify a tonal center and harmonic functions.

Talking about the elaborate choral voicing is essential. Having listened to the work several times I only find two possibilities: SSAATTBB or SSAATBBB. I arrived at these formations by taking into account the colors and timbres present in the work. I am inclined to hear it as an SSAATBBB arrangement, due to the predominance of the bass in the male voice, which serves as accompaniment to the melody carried by the sopranos and tenors. Although this formation (SSAATBBB) is not typical in traditional choral arrangements (since it can cause balance and blend issues between choir sections), in this piece there is a perfect balance between sections. Several points help to identify a choir with perfect balance. The shape of the vowels, the onset of the notes, and the number of members in the choir are in my opinion the essential points for a good balance and blend. Other important points are the coordination of breaths and the use of consonants, among others.

            I do not find this piece strongly connected with western music traditions. However, there are specific characteristics, such as the pursuit of a tonal center and functional harmonies which are related to the practices of western music. The use of the tenor and alto voices as support and as harmonic connectors, the bass as an accompaniment, and the soprano as the main melody are directly related to the traditional practices of western music. These characteristics reminds me some on Johannes Brahms´ works. The use of baroque era practices but adding new compositional techniques gives  Missy Mazzoli’s work the best of both sides, old and new.

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana

Nico Muhly and the Anglican music tradition

Nico Muhly has grown as a composer and has gained fame in the world of contemporary music in recent years. He has received commissions from the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, St. Paul’s Cathedral, among others. Nico Muhly is an active collaborator in the choral tradition of the Anglican church writing works such as Bright mass with canons, Looking Up, among others. His collaboration with the church has given it  an update on the sacred music composition method without breaking its stricter rules.

Sacred choral music is initially designed for the service of the church, with simple musical form and language so that the people can sing in the service. Nico Muhly uses minimalist ideas to change sacred music. However, without breaking the essence of sacred music, he manages to create a work for service and performance following the norms of the Sacrosanctum Concilium. ¨When I compose, I find myself returning to this tradition, particularly as it relates to creating musical drama without a Romantic sense of ebb and flow leading to a climactic moment. You can have a thrilling 90 seconds with roller-coaster harmonies focusing on two words only, followed by a single line of plainchant, followed by counterpoint outlining harmonies entirely at variance with what we would understand to be the rules. “[1]Muhly clearly expresses respect and the understanding of the rules, but what is mentioned again is the precise combination of new ideas with the old traditions. This idea reveals THE influence oF romantic composers like Brahms, who created works returning to the traditions of the folk music, a good example on that are Brahms´ 49 Volkslieder.

A clear example of this is in his Bright Mass with Canons. Muhly uses influences from composers such as Byrd and Weelkes in his work in addition to using his method in the creation of this work. The composer uses minimalist canons in combination with the structure of the sacred liturgy to create a spatial and perfect work for the service. However, also ideal for performance, becoming part of the standard repertoire of professional choirs, because it can be perfromed in concert at the Cathedrals or any space that shares the same acoustic.

A Good Understanding is aspecialized work for performance that respects  the use of the biblical text. Based on two psalms of the Bible, Muhly mentions that this is a work that evokes the reward for obeying the rules — composed initially to share the program for children’s mass. This piece Follows the form of the psalm in the mass. Divided into two halves, this work help the people to understand the norms of the church, and to thank for the good things obtained thanks on how it is structured and also because it is easy for th audience to hear.

No doubt Nico Muhly is not only one of the highest representatives of contemporary classical music, but also of Anglican music. Like other composers of his time, it will not be known if Muhly’s versatility will have any limits.

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana

Bibliography

Muhly Nico. ¨A Good Understanding.¨ The web site of nico Muhly. http://nicomuhly.com/projects/2007/a-good-understanding/ (accessed April 16, 2019).

Muhly Nico. ¨Bright Mass with Canons.¨ The web site of Nico Muhly. http://nicomuhly.com/projects/2007/bright-mass-with-canons/ (accessed April 15, 2019).

Muhly Nico. ¨Biography.¨ The web site of Nico Muhly. http://nicomuhly.com/biography/

(accessed April 15, 2019).

Muhly Nico. ¨Nico Muhly on Why Choral Music Is Slow Food for the Soul.¨ New York Times, April 1, 2017.

Muhly Nico. ¨Nico Muhly: the Power of Taverner´s soul music.¨ The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/nov/13/nico-muhly-tavener-soul-music-tribute

(accessed April 14, 2019).


[1] Muhly Nico, ¨Nico Muhly on Why Choral Music Is Slow Food for the Soul,¨ New York Times, April 1, 2017.

Dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana

Dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet (2016)

Choir and chamber orchestra

Dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet, is a piece of music in which meditation space drew all my attention. The piece is saturated with dissonances and unisons, and shows a good number of contrasting timbres. During the piece, it is easy to identify general layers in terms of which ensembles are present. I heard two layers: Orchestra and Choir. When the two layers split into more specific ones, like orchestral and choral sections, it is almost impossible to identify those sections. Because of the split, the choir remains in a unison That is present in the first part of the piece, while the orchestra plays stable long notes in the background before it starts to play a duet along with the choir.

A very important characteristic of the entire piece is how these organic and artificial timbral combinations create a homophonic texture. In order to make those characteristic timbres, the composer uses electronic instruments like electric guitar and keyboard in combination with the orchestra. This use of electric instruments represents a common characteristic of this composer. There are some moments when the dynamics in the choir create different phrase shapes in order to enhance the harmonic tension. Those climax points create a deeper connection with the text. Another characteristic is the lack of rhythm.  Regarding rhythm, the lack of rhythmic patterns helps to maintain the homophonic texture, but there are moments in the climax points when the percussion creates a contrasting polyphonic texture with a contrapuntual mix of rhythms.

As a singer and choral conductor, I found it interesting how the choir keeps the balance and blend perfectly to sound as one voice, even when there are constant changes of colors. There is an evident connection between dynamics and vowel contrast. Every time that the dynamics rise, the vowel shape starts to become wider and open and it goes back to being more closed and taller when it goes soft. Something important that I realized is that sometimes I cannot identify what the text means. This is because the choir took out the vibrato and connects each vowel by just touching the consonants to maintain the texture. After I realized that, I decided to look at the text. It is written in the libretto format. I discovered that the text is not long. This challenges the performer to express the meaning of it and make the diction clear to the listener.

I found this piece not fully representative of the classical western choral tradition. The use of unusual orchestration it is not part of the classical western music traditions. But the repetitive change of vowel shape, and the lack of clarity in the text put it in another stream of the choral repertoire which it can be related to the western choral tradition. It is necessary to add that the use of non-vibrato is a common tool in the contemporary and classical choral repertoire. I was impressed by the beauty and complexity of this work. This inspires me in to look and learn more about this really talented composer.

Caroline Shaw

Many times the work of a composer is influenced by a certain musical style or compositional technique that makes them unique. Caroline Shaw is an American singer, violinist and composer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music and the youngest to win this award in music. Most of his pieces are musically easy to hear for the audience. Extensive harmonies, variety of timbres and textures are some characteristics that make her music accesible  to a wider public. But what composer or musical style can directly influence the work of this great composer?.

In an interview, Caroline Shaw explains that her favorite music is the music of the 17th and 18th century, due to the essential contributions to the choral and vocal repertoire. Among the characteristics that she mentions are the use of extended chords and vocal sounds, in addition to how the text enters correctly while the vocal lines stand out.

The music of the 17th century continues to stand out today for the performer and the composer. Cesar Garcia Alvarez, professor at the University of Leon (ULE), comments that the musicians of the 21st-century ¨are heirs¨ of the baroque musical forms. The clear example of this legacy is Caroline Shaw, besides expressing her favoritism for the music of the Baroque, it is also heard in her work. Her choral works are the best example of this. It is motion keeps, Partita for eight voices, and  Music in Common Time, are the best examples since they demonstrate vocal and choral qualities typical of the Baroque in combination with the extended techniques. Other characteristics that demonstrate the influence of what is the correct use of counterpoint, the use of children’s voices helps to recreate the timbres of the sacred music of the 16th and 17th centuries.

In addition to the 17th century, also within the work of Shaw are influences of 18th-century music, for example in her Entr’acte string quartet. It does not matter if this piece is not from the vocal repertoire since it demonstrates the clear example of the inheritance of the style in contemporary music. Entr’acte is inspired by the opus 77 no. 2 From Haydn. The composer sought to recreate the fundamental characteristics of the minuet and trio using modern technology, then make a transition to a trio in D flat major and then return to the minuet. It is merely interesting how it combines the musical forms of the 17th and 18th century with profound harmonic changes as well as using the extended techniques to add even more contrast in the music.

It does not stop being attractive as the material of past ages comes to influence composers in different ways. However, the influence of this music on Caroline Shaw is interesting. Reaching the characteristics of the 17th and 18th century in its purest form are possible by combining them with the modern technics of tonal music to create a unique voice in its type, reaching more variety of audience than other works.

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana

Bibliography

Allen, David. ¨ A Composer Who Finds The Soft Sighs in Haydn.¨ ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (December 2015): pg. C4. https://0-search-proquest-com.lib.utep.edu/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/2074618421/2473807A1761450APQ/1?accountid=7121 (accessed April 29, 2019).

¨PBO SESSIONS: An Evening with Caroline Shaw.¨ Youtube video. 1:45:37. Posted by ¨Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale.¨ April 29, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH3vbYCTKB8

¨What Influences Caroline Shaw?.¨ Youtube video. 1:11. Posted by ¨ MendelssohnClub.¨ April 29, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpc6liKQmgg

The Digitization of Performing Rights

The bussiness of licensing public performance-rights had an important growth during the last  few years after the new millennium. Part of that evolution is thanks to the inclusion of new technologies. All this gave the business more and new possibilities of how to get, collect, and track licensed performances through the country. To have a better understanding of technology´s role in this business, it is necessary to know first the business position during the beginning of the new millennium.

William Velez stablished in his essay Performing-rights collectives that in the years between 1990 and 2000, the competition between organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC took an important role during the performing-rights history. ASCAP and BMI were sharing 90 percent of the performing-rights market so they didn´t had the necessity of making improvements in their systems, even though new types of music were starting to be included in the performing-rights system. On the other hand, SESAC was the first to launch new technologies to improve counting musical performances, giving SESAC the lead in the mainstream of the radio format.

With the arrival of new technologies, people inside the music business began to think about how this would impact the market of performing-rights in the first years of the new millennium, so they made predictions of how this would have worked.

In my perspective, I partially agree with Velez´s perspective. I agree that new technologies changed the ways music is listened to. he also mentioned that companies will make the transition to new technological methods to get lower cost production. Technological advances open a huge variety of possibilities of how to update systems of tracking objects, including performances. Technologies like the internet helps to develop new tracking methods.

As mentioned before, the internet helps people to develop systems for tracking performances methods, but before that happened, the internet opened new ways to change how people listen to music. The most important change is the use of digital software to improve actions like writing, reading, among others. Those systems expanded into more sophisticated actions like communication with the development of the cellphone, email, etc. That expansion arrives to the music performing rights business. The internet grew to a scale that companies started to create digital platforms which gives clients access to a good amount of music in exchange of a monthly fee. The digitalization of the music has made such a huge impact that ASCAP and BMI joined into the digital world by making licenses contracts with companies like Spotify and Apple.

With the new way to make business, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC made the decision to digitize their tracking systems, for example, ASCAP uses a system called Census survey that allows them to precisely count performances with a low-cost production and it´s conducted using state-of-the-art technology. With the new systems working well, companies started to become stuck with royalty payments because the process of payments remained in the analog world. That problem remained until October of 2018 the Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act was signed into law. This proposition modernizes the copyright law and the complete process of performing licenses and helps composers to receive improved royalty payments for their works when they streamed.

The point of this is to notice how everything has changed in just a few years. The digitalization of the music opens new ways to track licenses, to hear music, and to make new contracts in the industry of the performing-rights and it is growing so fast that even the law  changed to keep surviving in a constantly changing digital world. If those changes remained, we can probably watch the disappearance of actual analog/digital services like Radio, TV cable, CD´s business in exchange of utilize full digital format files of audio and video. 

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana

Bibliography

Mcfarlane, Gavin, and David Sanjek. 2014 “Performing rights societies.” Grove Music Online. 19Feb.2019.http://0www.oxfordmusiconline.com.lib.utep.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-1002257791.

 Velez William, ¨ Performing-rights Collectives: Dinosaurs of the new millennium?. ¨ in Reflections on American music. edited by Michael J. Budds, 365-373. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 2000.

Bromley Jordan, ¨The Music Modernization Act: What Is It & Why Does It Matter? (Guest Column) ¨. Billboard. https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8216857/music-modernization-act-what-is-it-why-does-it-matter-jordan-bromley (accessed February 18, 2019).

BMI, ¨BMI Explains What the Music Modernization Act Means for Songwriters and Composers. ¨ BMI. https://www.bmi.com/news/entry/bmi-explains-what-the-music-modernization-act-means-for-songwriters-and-com (accessed February 18, 2019).

Vesper Sparrow and the connection between two techniques

Missy Mazzolis´ Vesper Sparrow is a choral work that employs two vocal techniques to create unique sonic colors. As its title suggests, the purpose of this piece is to imitate the territorial song of the vesper sparrow. The composer combines Eastern and Western vocal techniques to achieve the right effect for the work. The result is a polyphonic texture rich in guttural timbres that combine perfectly with the pure timbres of the Western technique. However, how is it possible to get the choir to change between techniques during the performance? The answer lies in the similarities between both techniques.

The Eastern vocal technique, better known as  overtone singing, is the one that the singer manipulates the resonances created as air travels from the lung to phonate sounds and create melodies. To achieve this phenomenon, it is necessary to alter the vocal tract in the same way as in western classical vocal technique to produce the required sound. Like classical singing, the study of the overtone singing centers on the same bases of breathing, posture, and phonation, but differs in resonance. In  overtone singing, the resonance focuses on the alterations of the vocal tract to phonate the overtone. In classical singing, the vocal tract alteration works for changes in the vowel, register, and timbre. These are some differences and similarities between both techniques to show that they are not different. Both techniques seek the correct, natural, and safe phonation for correct performance. However, this is only the beginning of the answer to the question of how to change between techniques during the performance.

When the chorister and the conductor find the similarities in the techniques, it is time to make a vocal exploration to achieve the change between techniques. The exploration begins with vocal exercises that are set by the conductor for the connection between registers using pure unmodified vowels. The guttural vowel is open and bright, but entirely placed in the chest area and phonated in the area of ​​the vocal tract. When finding the correct opening of the vowel, automatically start listening to the overtone at the same time as the main note. In the case of this piece (Vesper sparrow), it is necessary to make a different modification in the opening of the vowel to avoid the resonance of the overtone. To avoid the overtone resonance, it is necessary to remove a little bit the brightness of the vowel; One option is to round the vowel shape to give that effect. Once these explorations have mastered, the practice of changing registers with their respective modifications to sing the desired sounds has to begin immediately. It is important to do several repetitions to get the correct muscle memory to be able to sing these dramatic timbre changes instantly. The result of all these processes is an immediate, healthy, and quality change between open guttural vowels and pure and covered vowels.

It is impressive how the composer manages to exploit the maximum potential of the human voice, leading to perceive the vocal technique in different ways to achieve a unique sound. All this can only be possible if the choir and the conductor have a vast mastery of the vocal technique to achieve these modifications healthily. It is not recommended that amateur choirs  try these modifications, since it can cause problems that are difficult to correct.

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana.

Bibliography

Hinds, Stuart. ¨How to Teach Overtone Singing to Your Choir.¨ The Choral Journal  Vol. 51, No. 3 (October 2010): 34-43. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23560424 (accessed March 28, 2019).

Hinds, Stuart. ¨New Music for Chorus with Overtone Singing.¨The Choral Journal  Vol.47, No. 10 (April 2007): 20-31. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23557310 (accessed March 28, 2019).

Hirokawa, Joy. ¨Teaching Vocal Technique in the Choral Rehearsal.¨ The Choral Journal  Vol. 56, No. 4 (November 2015): 73-77.  https://www.jstor.org/stable/24769327 (accessed March 27, 2019).

Skoog, William.¨Use of Image and Metaphor in Developing Vocal Technique in Choirs.¨ Music Educators Journal Vol. 90, No. 5 (May 20114): 43-48. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3400023 (accessed March 27, 2019).

Silent Night´s j’ai perdu ta photo and the relation between the composers´ life and work

Every event in the Human´s life,directly affects his personality. With a composer, these events transofms into a new art form according to the composer´s sense of necessity or personal satisfaction. A clear example is Kevin Puts’ opera, “Silent Night.” It is based on “Joyeux Noël,” a film that tells the true story of the truce that took place on Christmas Eve in 1914 during World War I. When considering Silent Night, a musician seeks to learn about the compositional techniques used for the creation of such a work; but personally, how does these evenst influence the composer´s compositional process?.

Kevin Puts is an American composer known for winning the Pulitzer Prize for his opera “Silent Night,” evoking impressive emotional experiences that placed the composer at the top of the music world. Puts mentioned in an interview that his compositional process is linear from the beginning, with each idea connecting to the next. However, there is a moment in the opera which Puts felt the need to set his work aside and complete it later. That moment is in the scene of the aria j’ai perdu ta photo (I lost your photo). The scene takes place in 1914 after an arduous battle on the border of Belgium and France. Lieutenant Audebert laments the loss of a photo during the battle – a photo of his wife, who is pregnant with their first child. The aria expresses the suffering Audebert feels for the loss of his only connection to his family. Puts mentioned that at the time he was writing the aria, he was away from his wife who was pregnant with his baby, so he became emotionally connected to the aria.

The experience of being away from his wife and drawing parallels to the aria is one example of a cognitive process underlying a compositional process. This sense of connection affected his choice of compositional techniques, including decisions about style, orchestration, melody, rhythm. The composer’s personal response also encapsulates the connection that he desires to see transmitted in the music at the moment of the performance. Through the music, Puts’ emotional experience is communicated in a way that is relevant to others. It is relevant because part of the audience will respond by remembering any event in their lifes that affects them in a close way like the composer lived when he was composing that aria.

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana

Bibliography

Correa Feo Juan Pablo. ¨ Reflexiones sobre la cognición en la creatividad musical.¨ Anuario N. 29, Univesidad de Carabobo. (2006) 403- 426.

Duckles, Vincent, Jann Pasler, Glenn Stanley, Thomas Christensen, Barbara H. Haggh, Robert Balchin, Laurence Libin, Tilman Seebass, Janet K. Page, Lydia Goehr, Bojan Bujic, Eric F. Clarke, Susan McClary, Jean Gribenski, Carolyn Gianturco, Pamela M. Potter, David Fallows, Miloš Velimirović, Gary Tomlinson, Gerard Béhague, Masakata Kanazawa, and Peter Platt. 2001 “Musicology.” Grove Music Online. 3 Mar. 2019. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000046710.

Tommasini, Anthony. ¨ Tenors Amid the Turmoil of war in the trenches,¨ New York Times (New York, NY),11 Feb. 2013.

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/arts/music/silent-night-by-kevin-puts-at-opera-philadelphia.html.

¨Full-Length Biography.¨ Kevinputs.com. Accessed March 2, 2019.

http://www.kevinputs.com/bio.html.

Kevin Puts. ¨ About the Opera. ¨ Silentnightopera.com. Accessed March 2, 2019

http://silentnightopera.com/about.html.

Weaver, Michael. 2015 “Puts, Kevin.” Grove Music Online. 3 Mar. 2019. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0002277531.

The Bright Mass With Canons

Nico Muhly

The Bright Mass With Canons

For Men and Boys Choir and organ

After researching the catalog of works by the composer Nico Muhly, I found the choral work titled, The Bright Mass With Canons. I was interested in this work because the inclusion of canons within the Roman Catholic rite, which is also used by the Anglican Church. This work follows clearly, and precisely, the traditional structures of sacred music, destined for the liturgy of the Roman Rite. I will focus on the Sanctus, which, within the movements of the work, is considered the most important in the liturgy of the Mass.

When I first listened to the Sanctus of the Mass, I found that there was an mistake within the form and shape of the piece and the text. This mistake happened, because the composer do not set correctly the text with the form of the piece. When someone compose a mass for a service, they need to follow preestablished forms of the text and the music . The correct musical form of the Sanctus is in binary form (A-B), which can also be subdivided into a compound form (A-B-C-B). In this case, it is obvious the presence of the compound form in this work.

The text of the Sanctus has an already established form too (mentioned before). The following text has the structure that the composer should follow:

    Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,             

    Dominus Deus, Sabaoth.

    Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloriae tua.  

    Hosanna in Excelsis.

    Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini  

    Hosanna in Excelsis.

In this case, it is possible to hear the same text, clearly, with some variants in the part of the Hosanna that is allowed in the norms of the church. Many times it is more important to be exact with the form of the text than with the musical form because it is the one that transmits the message to the audience that are present durign the service. In resume, this piece may be not correct for the service, but it fits well for a concert program.

According to the composer, the canons of the Sanctus are abstract and spatial creating a sound that manages to fill the space of the religious sanctuary. In addition, the composition presents a homophonic texture, even if there is a canonical counterpoint present there. Because the counterpoint is abstract and designed for the acoustics of a temple. The composer adds these canons in the piece to act as an accompaniment to the melody, which is not common to hear in a canon.

The Sanctus textures remind a lot of the works of Eric Whitaker, specially to his Lux Aurumque. I feel that this work is strongly connected to the traditions of Western music — because is using compositions tecniques of the baroque era in combination with 21st century musical ideas . The texture of this piece is created exclusive for use in sanctuaries, and also having the presence of a tonal center are characteristics that connect it with Western tradition too. And last, the timbres that are present in the piece also reminds me the masses of classical composers like Bethoveen and Mozart, a good example can Mozart´s Coronation Mass in C Major.

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana.

Partita for 8 voices- Allemande

Caroline Shaw

Partita for 8 voices- Allemande

For Chamber vocal ensemble

Partita for 8 voices-Allemande. The first time I heard this work, I was impressed with the use of all the potential that the human voice can give. It is written for 8 voices, specifically for 4 female voices and 4 male voices with a possible formation of 2 Sopranos, 2 Altos, 2 Tenors and 2 Bases (SSAATTBB). Composer Caroline Shaw shows us that music can be created using more than just the singing voice.

The combination of the speaking voice and the singing voice creates  unique polyphonic and homophonic textures. The speaking voice establishes the tempo and the rhythmic patterns used in the rest of the piece. Also, some sections of the ensemble act as a rhythmic accompaniment of certain melodies sung by the soprano and the tenor. The singing voice mostly serves as a melodic and harmonic support for the other choral sections. All these characteristics help to create a counterpoint full of rhythmic ostinatos and variation of timbres. It is easy to distinguish in which parts of the piece goes from one texture to another. The polyphonic sections of the piece is when you have the combination of speaking and singing voice. In the homophonic parts, all the voices are heard entirely singing without the presence of the speaking voice.

After listening to this movement several times, I identify the presence of different vocal techniques that help the ensemble to achieve all the timbres desired by the composer. In general, two unique techniques are used: the classic vocal technique and the overtone singing technique. The overtone singing is used so that the ensemble can achieve the transition from the speaking to the singing voice without gattering tired, thus creating overtones in those sections. Also, overtones are detected in some vocal changes in which different vowel changes are appreciated. The classical vocal technique is present in most of the time; with it, it is possible to create several colors in the singing voice, in addition to projecting the presence of the rhythmic ostinatos of the speaking voice.

All the combinations of timbres present is thanks to the combination of words, vowels, and consonants used in the piece. The text used does not make any poetic or literary sense in general. In my opinion, the composer chose or wrote these texts with the purpose of achieving the required rhythmic accents. Adding, also, that the vowels used in the text create a sound mass that contains a good variation of timbres which is comfortable for the audience to hear. Concerning consonants, the use of voiced consonants, such as M, help create a more opaque and dark sound compared to others. The vowels most present in the piece are those that are more open, like the A and the O, creating more wide and bright sounds that contrast with the sounds of the voiced consonants and the text.

Despite the modern techniques used in this work, I feel that this work is connected to the traditions of western music. In  most rhythmic sections of the pieces, they resemble specific characteristics of the Allemande as the use of the rhythm in 2/4, also the use of pickups and repetitions of particular patterns of the piece. Its connection is also shown by the presence of the typical vocal polyphony of Western music. Even for the formation used in the ensemble, you can say that it is chamber music. All this combination of timbres and textures reminds me a lot of the choral works of Palestrina because of the counterpoint, the formation of voices, and these are also points that remind me of the works for 8 or more voices by Palestrina.

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana.

J´ai perdu ta photo

J´ai perdu ta photo (I lost your picture) from Silent Night (2011)

Aria for Bass-Baritone with orchestral accompaniment or

piano reduction accompaniment

            After reading the title of  Silent Night´s Aria J´ai perdu ta photo, I was interested in listening to this piece. I should say that this was because of the language variation in the title (English and French). It was written for Bass-Baritone with an orchestral accompaniment but it offers a piano reduction accompaniment that is usually found in most of  Operas scores. I listened to the Aria with the piano accompaniment because of the lack of orchestral recordings. The first time I heard the first notes of the piano it evoked in me the sensation of nostalgia and suffering, the clear ostinato in the right hand involves the listener in the nostalgia enviroment, while the chords in the left hand gives the depth of the suffering that involved in the feeling of losing something important. The piano has no real movement in its melodies,  but the voice overflows in contrast between motions, which is possible because the melodic line was created based on the inflection of the text, which helps the vocal line to transmit what is happening during the Aria. 

            The principal characteristic is how different and connected are the accompaniment and the vocal line; they are different in how the composer established one part with a slow rhythmic motion and the other with a faster tempo. The first connection between piano an voice is with the meaning of the text. The piano involves the listener in the environment of the  text meaning (previously mentioned) while the voice communicates everything directly. Something interesting in the piece is the dynamics. The contrast is present and parallel in both parts in the way that you can identify every climax point of the melody. Is important to know how the composer builds the texture of the piece, the accompaniment offers a firm homophonic texture that when you combine it with the voice, the result is in a colorful polyphonic texture.

This Piece fits well in the Western tradition because how the sections are developed  in an A-B-A form. Moreover that the harmony is constructed in a similar way to the French composers used in their impressionist melodies and chansons, you can hear and feel in every musical moment the Anguish, the loss and the dignity, in the voice, in the orchestra, in everything you can imagine what happens during the scene of this Aria. As a Baritone, I found this Aria challenging because of the deep meaning involves the piece, the variation of melodies, the rhythm and how the is established the range means that only professional baritones can perform this masterpiece.

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana

J´ai perdu ta photo youtube video

Lawson Anderson, Baritone

recorded 1.12.17 at Manhattan School of Music.

French Lieutenant Audebert’s aria from the 2011 Pulitzer-prize-winning opera, Silent Night, by American composer Kevin Puts.

Posted by Lawson Anderson.

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