2018 Open/Close Choral Consortium

First Update: Closer to Home

Welcome to the Open/Close Consortium! I'll be writing two new pieces titled Closer to Home and Faster. Right now, my progress in composing Closer to Home is edging ahead of Faster, so for this first update, I'm going to share with you the evolution of the text for that piece, along with a little preview of the score-in-progress and two videos of how it's coming along.

 

My goal with these updates is to let you in on how both of these pieces come into being, to de-mystify the composing process, and to have these pieces seem like familiar friends by the time you're actually holding a score in your hands.

To your right, you'll see three drafts of the text, moving from a very early two-page draft to the final version of the poem. My true first draft of a text (or of a piece) is always even less fleshed-out than this; it starts with just fragments, little phrases of music or words that may or may not find their way into the end result. 

My first step for setting any text to music is this: print out the poem and scribble ideas for text-setting all over it, as I try out different ideas at the piano. These ideas might contain a melodic gesture, a tiny rhythmic motive, an idea for which section I'd like to carry the melody, or a more broad idea of how to approach any given line.

 

The process for setting this text to music has been a little different than usual: I've been writing the text and the music simultaneously, so they're evolving together. As the music takes shape, you'll see I've been crossing out words that I don't think work. At first, that's big sections of text that either strike me as clunky or just plain don't fit with the music. As the music develops, I make smaller and subtler changes to the text, too; you can see that the changes between the second and final drafts of the text aren't as major.

Finally, here are two little videos with excerpts of the music, one from the very beginning of the poem ("To the garden full of lavender...") and one with the chorus ("And you're closer to home...").

What you can expect in update #2: The evolution of Closer to Home as it moves from sketches to an engraved score, plus how an SATB piece changes in arrangements for SSAA and TTBB chorus. 

Update #3 describes how Faster evolves from just a few phrases to a fleshed-out piece.

Moving on to the score: This, too, is in the draft stage. Unlike with writing texts, I've been relying on one big piece of staff paper to hold all of my evolving musical ideas as I compose at the piano. In future updates, you'll see how the composing and editing process shifts as I start entering these sketches into Sibelius, my notation software. 

This page might look like chaos--it is! I don't often write a piece from start to finish. I tend to work in sections; usually I'll work on the beginning of a piece, then the ending, and then fill in the music in the middle. 

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