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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Who has all the best tunes?

V is all the teachers I didn't get at grammar school. When I fall short she apologises before she corrects me. She strives manfully (Wrong adverb, surely? Ed.) to explain "interpretation", the musical equivalent of quantum mechanics. Her compliments are technically devised. Her lovely singing voice, commanding mega power, reminds me why I'm there, standing by the piano. And she applauds my initiatives.

Not forgetting her musical knowledge and taste. Two songs I'm doing are from genres (Irish folk, Neapolitan sentimental) I would normally avoid, yet I love them both. Last Monday V handed me a new score.

Her expression was quizzical and I was under scrutiny. Clearly she had noted more than the state of my larynx.

And the new score? The Lord's Prayer, set by Michael Head.

Anyone who knows Tone Deaf knows I parted brass rags with Le Grand Seigneur ages ago. But, in my own defence, I do not prosyletise. After all I play Bach's B Minor Mass on my car radio.

Theoretically music is non-ideological even if the Prayer’s words aren’t. Perhaps I flapped my hands.

V said, "I knew you'd react."

What could I say?

She played it on the piano, singing, while I sang the easier parts from the score. Struggling over “trespasses”.

Afterwards V may have mentioned the setting’s beauty but my mind was elsewhere. I was transfixed and asked if we could re-do “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory...” We did this several times. Here typography stands in for melody.
I nodded. The setting is complex and gorgeous; I envisage much hard work. Is my free-thinking at risk? I asked VR, another non-believer. “It’s just words,” she said. Whereas music is music.

5 comments:

Rouchswalwe said...

Oh, I adore this post. Found myself singing along ... here is the version I grew up with. What do you think? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gylWFWiGt2k&ebc=ANyPxKpbtBQ02qsSTrY8jaSnDqTsFY0g885zP5kbbE2iRxubvbTOGaO8Ux1xAk5rDscW_tNqWuiPWsYyOvGaSpn_ZoWbqXfkjA

Roderick Robinson said...

RW (zS): Yes, I enjoyed that. And since I'm not the star Mahalia is (such false modesty!) I enjoyed checking out the benefits of stardom. Notably the way she adjusted the piece to her great skills.

For one thing, she sang it at about one-third the speed I do. This actually made it more difficult since tempo slippages become more obvious - but when you've got a voice like hers you like to give your fans full value.

However two other changes made things easier. Whereas I, as a Brit, am required to sing "forgive us our trespasses" (a horribly fussy non-singing type word, difficult to fit in) Mahalia, like other Americans I've heard, sang "debts" - not a particularly musical word but simpler to accommodate.

What I particularly envied was she cut out a repetition of the line "and deliver us from evil" this time on a descending cadence. There seems to be worldwide agreement about this - since both an Italian tenor superstar and a Japanese tenor, singing in Japanese, as well as several Americans, dropped the words.

Theoretically one shouldn't argue with the composer (Michael Head was a Brit) but it's easy to see why good singers do this surgery. The line that follows is the climax of the whole thing and getting rid of the repetition gives you a clearer run to show off your full voice.

I whinge (very slightly) but you have to remember V chooses songs intended to test and improve my technique; solving the problems I mention here is part of her aim. I am at liberty to sing what and how I like in my spare time.

I am of course grateful. The religious aspects of the song may be a problem for me but singing "For thine... is the KINGDOM... the POWER and the GLOR-ry..." right at the edge of my range is more than compensation.

You should listen to the Japanese tenor on YouTube, he's pretty good and Japanese doesn't seem to be an obstacle.

marly youmans said...

Heh.

That's funny....

Just words.

No such thing, "just words."

Trust a singer to think such a thing! Despite your parting of the ways with the otherworldly (though not with stories), I'll point out that in Genesis, chapter one, God makes the universe with words. Words get to do everything. The universe isn't *sung* into being. Or take this: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Words rule!

***

Did I say that I have a friend who sings in the Glimmerglass Opera chorus? She does a bang-up job on this one. (She's a painter. Some people don't hang around behind the door when the talents are passed out, I guess.)

Can I remind you of the existence of the mp3? Share?

Roderick Robinson said...

Marly: Might the phrase "the word of God" be regarded as a metaphor? After all, during the first days of Creation who'd be there to listen?

A metaphor that might include music as another unspecific form of communication, no problem for a Being endowed with unlimited powers. I might be persuaded by a musical accompaniment to the sudden emergence of plants, light, sky and the rest though you're right to say the universe wasn't "sung" into being. Singing usually involves words.

I agree also that words rule, wouldn't have it any other way. I was paid in dollars on that basis.

As to sharing an MP3 file it could be done. What's more a veritable epiphany which occurred yesterday - marvellously, unexpectedly, tearfully - means I would now be less vulnerable to those who wish me ill. But with new knowledge comes new apprehension; timidity, almost an alien growth as far as I am concerned, has started to seed itself (see Genesis). The USA is a competitive country, none more so; I was happy fighting my corner, playing games with words. But do I really want to expose myself as a debutante in any field of endeavour over there? Not that you are going to vote Trump but for those that will debutante is probably synonymous with loser.

Marly Youmans said...

Perhaps I talk to myself too much because that thought didn't surprise...

We're not all competitive! I would have organized my writing life quite differently if I had been that sort. But keep your musical flowering to yourself and V--I am very fond of being secretive about the things that are most important to me.

Oh, dear, what am I going to vote? I won't think about the slate until I must. Those who will vote Trump in my current area are residents of the economically destroyed Upstate and North Country of New York. "Take a close look at upstate New York and you’ll see a region slowly dying. Its decline over the past thirty years is staggering. Blue-collar communities from Binghamton to Buffalo that were built on manufacturing plants and steel mills have simply been gutted. The jobs have gone overseas—or to neighboring states or to the Sun Belt—and the towns and smaller cities are gradually emptying out. A shocking number of those who stay behind are succumbing to opioids and other drugs. Unemployment is up, workforce participation is down, and crime is worse in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton, and Syracuse than it is in New York City." --The Federalist