2018 Open/Close Choral Consortium
Final Update: The Finish Line
Good news: both pieces are done! I catch myself using the word "done" at several points in the process of writing a piece: the first time I reach a double bar; the moment when I've finished editing and formatting the engraved piece, so that it looks presentable to performers; and when I actually hit "send" on the music, so it's truly out of my hands and into yours.
When I say that Closer to Home and Faster are done, I mean this: they've hit a double bar line, and they've been engraved in Sibelius. Now I'm just making minor edits to formatting, fussing with the SSAA and TTBB versions of Faster, finishing up the program notes, and occasionally changing a note here and there.
Below, you'll find the personal history behind the text for Closer to Home, as well as what prompted me to completely revise the text for Faster this month.
The original text for Faster, mid-revision.
Recently, as I was working on Faster, I decided the text needed a substantial rewrite. This wasn't an easy decision; I'd written nearly all of the music already, and the melodies were all locked into the current text. By this point, I'd been writing this text for 3 months; why revise it now?
I'd based the initial text for Faster on the feeling of wanting more to happen in your life (and wanting it to happen now), which I described in the last update. But reading the Faster text alongside the text for Closer to Home, and considering that the two pieces could be programmed on the same concert, I wanted a stronger link between them.
Back to the drawing board (writing board? ...desk?) I went, and the new text for Faster is much more closely tied to Closer. To my surprise, I ended up not rewriting all that much of it, but the crucial difference is this: Now that feeling of wanting much more is tied to a place, rather than just a vague feeling. While the text used to be rooted in questioning, the newer version takes a more decisive approach to determining one's fate. Faster is still about feeling stuck, as if life is moving too slowly, and yearning for a change. In the end, though, the narrator realizes that instead of waiting for the right moment to make that change, they can initiate it; they're the one who decides when it's time to leave. Maybe the place they describe is metaphorical--maybe they're feeling stuck in a relationship, or a job--or maybe it's a literal location.
The new text for Faster.
Here's where the connection between the two songs comes in. As I revised the text for Faster, I was imagining a time in my life when I felt literally stuck: high school in Chatham, New Jersey, in the small town (and small house) in which I grew up. I had plenty of friends and family nearby, and I grew to love certain aspects of that town--it had an excellent music program, which I'm still grateful for today. But the closed-mindedness of some people there, combined with some particularly idiotic classmates, made me long for something much greater. I wanted my life to go at a faster pace; I wanted the world to open up to me in a way that it hadn't in Chatham.
I thought about that particular yearning as I rewrote the text for Faster. Now, some of the language used between the two texts is the same. The new Faster text is more coherent and more tightly connected to Closer to Home. In the end, the revision wasn't that difficult; I'd already channeled how I felt about the town where I grew up as I'd written the text for Closer.
The house and the dog from Closer to Home.
This past fall, my dad retired, and my parents sold my childhood home within a day of putting it up for sale; I barely had time to come visit one last time. Nevermind that I hadn't lived there in twelve years; this was a place that I still thought of as home, in the way that you can leave the place where your life actually is--in my case, Los Angeles--to go "home" to New Jersey, and then, on the flight back to California, say once again that you're returning home.
The person who bought the house is planning to tear it down and build another, bigger house in its place, and knowing that I'd never see the house again made it even harder to leave. I did go back one last time this past August, and that was the inspiration for the text for Closer to Home. There actually are two acres of woods "just over the fence." There's a river two houses down, and while the street isn't technically a dead-end, it is a no-outlet. (But who wants to sing the words "no outlet?" "Dead end" is more singable.)
Now the two pieces are truly tied together. One's about wanting so badly to leave a place so badly, realizing that you don't have to wait, and deciding to go now. The other is about returning to a place--maybe the same place--and realizing that in so many ways, you did love your time there, although you might never have realized that if you hadn't had to leave it again.
I hope these texts are open enough that, as you listen to or sing these pieces, you'll find elements of your own experiences within them. Maybe you'll think of them as referring to a person, rather than a place; maybe you've also had to leave a place not knowing if you'll return. Maybe you, too, call several different places home.
The view from the woods behind the house, looking back.