As promised, here’s a sneak peek at the band piece I’m working on. First off, I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but the premise of this piece is to take the rhythm and pitch of spoken poetry (in this case, Psalm 19 in the NIV 1984 Bible) and turn it into a melody line using conventional music notation, then orchestrate it for wind ensemble. To that end, I recorded myself speaking the text, then listened to it like crazy to come up with the melody and the rhythm. I sometimes slowed down and raised the pitch of the recordings to help myself zero in on the pitches, but the one below is unaltered.
Of course, this is not a flawless system, and much of it is somewhat of an approximation rather than an exact transcription of the text. Enamored with tonality as I am, I also took into account the overall structure of the piece, harmonic considerations, etc. etc. in determining the pitches, but I tried to remain true to the melodic shape of the speech throughout. Also, one thing I noticed A LOT was that my voice would slide up or down in pitch over the course of a phrase, but not necessarily noticeably so on each syllable. To portray this musically, I often used two similar instruments and had one repeating a pitch and the other moving stepwise around it. Here are the same verses of Psalm 19 in the musical form I’ve given them (with a 4-bar intro). Structurally, this is the contrasting B section of Movement I.
Next is my cover art. The background is a picture I took out the window of an airplane during a spectacular sunrise. I’m not done scoring the percussion, which is why there are no instruments indicated next to the part names. Other than that, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
And finally, a picture of my computer screen with my new mantra, “Some beats None,” courtesy of Jon Acuff’s new book, “Start.” (Seriously – read it!) Little by little, I’m getting there! (And yes, the score is in concert pitch in this picture, so the piccolo part is not nearly as scary as it looks!)
A few notable firsts for me on this piece:
~ Writing a piano part for a wind ensemble piece.
~ Extensively featuring a piccolo solo (Movement II).
~ Writing for E-flat clarinet and soprano saxophone in a wind ensemble piece.
~ And obviously, given the premise of the piece, using mixed meters that don’t follow a repetitive pattern. Ostinati are usually my best friends when it comes to mixed meters, but this piece has given me the opportunity to explore changing and irregular meters in a more free-flowing, spontaneous way.
I’m really excited about this piece (have I mentioned that yet?!?), and I’m actually considering starting a whole “Psalm Series” and going through this speech transcription process with some of my other favorite psalms. But I guess I need to finish this one first, huh? Anyway, I’m thrilled to give you a glimpse into my compositional process, and I’d love to hear any feedback you might have!
[May 16, 2013]