Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Music Video - The Penitent

Last year, the Salty Cricket Composers Collective (SC3) held a concert of organ music. We were talking to the Cathedral of the Madeline about hosting, but for some reason that fell through. We ended up holding it at my alma matter, the University of Utah. When the call for scores went out, I was so taken with the idea of having my work performed at the Cathedral, I wrote something inspired by their namesake, Mary Magdalene, aka Mary of Madeline. She is the Catholic Saint of the Penitent. Although I am not a Catholic, as one who often needs to repent, I could relate.

In order to honor her, I took her name, Mary of Magdalene, and used an old composer trick to create the theme. I extended the letter names of the notes, A, B, C … and so on, to create the pitches for the melody. In this case, m = F, a=A, r = D, y = D, and so on.

The piece turned out to be more “in your face” than you might expect for a work on repentance, but true repentance can come with a great deal of soul searching, spiritually gut wrenching “in your face” moments, so I’m okay with it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Music and Consciousness

I miss composing. I really do. I've gone back to school and, between my day job, school, and family responsibilities, there’s not much time to make music. It sucks.

The stress mounts each day I'm unable to make music. A little time with my piano or guitar can be helpful, but I really need at least 2 hours a day to make me happy. When I'm composing music, I lose track of time. I believe my consciousness enters a different state where my focus precludes the passage of time and nearly everything else.

Performers often experience this loss of time, as well. When a work is mastered and performed well, so that the performer can stop worrying about technical issues and focus on the musical expression, something subtle changes in the mind. The fingers know which keys to press, the lungs when to breathe and the attention is focused on the emotional energy and musical thought. The performer, instrument, and music become as one.

The experience is truly amazing. Recently I was able to play one of Chopin’s Nocturnes nearly perfectly, for the first time. Sure, I made a few minor mistakes early on, but overall it was a decent performance. There are a few scale-like runs in the right hand that I had struggled with. That evening I rendered them flawlessly. Everyone else was in bed. I had the living room to myself. The house was quiet. As the last notes faded into silence, my consciousness came back to the room. A feeling of peace flooded through me. I held onto that sense of “rightness” as long as I could, but of course, it left me as the requirements of living returned.

In light of that experience, and many similar ones, I've started wondering about the nature of music, and consciousness. The experience was not unlike being in deep meditation, leading me to wonder if creating this kind of music may be a similar activity. All acts of creation may share these similar consciousness changing traits.

This sounds like a research project to me.