Awakened by Woolf

I have a sixth sense for knowing when I am going to love something. The first time I saw the DVD cover of ‘American Beauty’, I knew it would become really important to me, and that I absolutely had to see it. When I saw a mysterious grey hardback with nothing on the cover but the word ‘Stoner’ in gold lettering, I knew I had to read that book. I felt the exact same ‘knowing’ when I picked up a copy of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’, several years ago. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get through this one. I’ve had the same frustration with Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, and at the time of writing I still haven’t read it, but when I do, I know it will be a momentous occasion, an orgasm of a literary experience.

One of the first things Virginia Woolf’s writing has taught me, is that there will come a time when you are ready. The second thing I learnt from her is that things, or at least your to-be-read pile, don’t always go the way you expect, and that deviating from expectation will be one of the most rewarding things of your life. And so, the first book of Woolf’s that I read was not Mrs Dalloway, but Orlando.

I came across Orlando first of all by searching for a light read just over a month or so earlier, which of course led me to Fried Green Tomatoes, and then from that I began searching for books about women, and books about sexuality. We read Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Dolls House’ in my A2 English class, and I read ‘The Help’, and I read ‘The Colour Purple’. These individual books formed a snow capped mountain in my head, and Orlando was the catalytic earthquake that set me off.

Perhaps the first real thing Woolf taught me was about the value of a struggle, because I found this book so hard to read, and a lot of reviews on Goodreads say the same thing. There was no way I was giving up though. I’ve been dying to read a Virginia Woolf since I was around 13, and now was the time. I think Orlando may have been harder than I used to find Mrs Dalloway, actually. This was because the chapters were pretty massive (the books isn’t huge, but my edition is around 250 pages of actual novel, over 300 with the annotations, and there are only 6 chapters) and in parts, it just seems to go on and on. I was shocked when I looked on my goodreads and realised that it had only taken me a couple of days to read, because it really felt like I had been at it for weeks. Then again, the book does span nearly 400 years, and the way Woolf writes is so beautiful, it’s what I imagine every ‘sexy’ yoghurt advert wants to convey to women when they show beautiful ladies in draped in fine fabrics, floating carelessly away on pink, feather down clouds. Of course, Woolf is slightly more convincing, and so much sexier.

So then I got the end, I thought ‘huh’, put it to one side, and went to sleep. But over the next couple of days… oh. my. god. It just hit me how incredible this book was. I genuinely feel like my whole life has been changed by this book. I feel so awakened by this novel. Truly, I am so grateful for this book, and I urge everyone to read it.

It was a life-changing read because it challenges gender norms, it challenges the role of women, it challenges the roles of men, it challenges the role of clothes. I felt especially enlightened on her presentation of clothes – ‘there is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking‘. This is something that I don’t think is really discussed in the main stream today, and here Virginia is, talking about it so beautifully, in 1928! I think her literature is truly revolutionary. Woolf has opened my eyes to so many different kinds of oppression that all of us face in 21st century life, and has invited me, in the most stealthy of ways, to rise up against it, so that before I knew it, Virginia had entered into the very core of my being and changed me, irrevocably. I would use the word insidious to describe this transfer of knowledge, if it wasn’t one of the most beautiful things to have happened to me.

I think that throughout my teenage years so far, I have been a little bit of a feminist, and I have been breeding anarchism, in my own ways, but I didn’t really know it. In my early teens, I rarely dressed like a girl would, and I tried to remove aspects of femininity from my life, even the colour pink, because I suppose I didn’t want that gender norm thrust upon me, and I saw that it didn’t suit me at all. I think, even without thinking about it, that I saw the effects of that sort of lifestyle on mothers of girls I knew, but instead of it awakening a sense of compassion, it bread a prejudice against women, because I didn’t want to be like that. Why did every other young girl think I was crazy for not wanting kids? Why had they dreamt of their ‘dream wedding’, and I had not? Perhaps thats another issue altogether, but I wish I had had Virginia around when I was younger, so that she could’ve helped me understand that what I saw as weak and stupid was not really their fault. Now I’m not mad just at women, I’m mad at everyone. I really can’t believe that we’ve let it go on this long.

Reading Orlando encouraged me to read more feminist literature, such as Kate Chopin’s ‘The Awakening’, which was another astoundingly beautiful novel. I think many women (and men) struggle to see the relation between the feminist movement that existed in the early and mid 20th century, and the lives of women today, but read ‘The Awakening’, with the knowledge that Chopin received such biting criticism that she did not write another novel and pretty much gave up writing altogether, and try to reconsider that view. ‘The Awakening’ is tame when held up to the standards of media we consume today, but Chopin received criticism like ‘one more clever writer gone wrong‘ for writing a book about the liberation of women from the oppression of marriage. What does that say about the state of women? To me it spoke volumes about the legacy of the feminist cause, and Kate’s story troubled me so much, as an aspiring artist myself, I try to imagine for myself the crushing effect of such harsh criticism, for writing something that she believed in. Even though it affected her life in a negative way, I am so grateful that she wrote this book. I was born 100 years after it was published, and reading it 118 years after its publication, it felt so fresh. It’s an absolute must read.

 

I really don’t think I can do justice to the profound effect that Orlando has had on me. I suppose all I really can say now is that it is amazing. I am happy to report that I finished reading Mrs Dalloway a few hours before writing this, and that was also amazing, in so many different ways. I urge and implore every single person to read her novels. The work of Virginia Woolf is truly life changing.

 

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Deleting Social Media 

I have decided that I want to delete all of my social media accounts. This includes my twitter accounts, one of my instagram accounts, my snapchat, and even my Facebook.

One of the things that has bugged me about social media for pretty much the whole time I’ve had it is that I don’t think it suits me at all. I’m a very introverted person, and I hate to draw any amount of attention to myself, so I’ve often felt quite fake in having multiple social media accounts. I can barely bring myself to talk in group conversations, so the idea of sharing many things to the internet a day is a bit weird. I suppose you could see it as a platform for liberation for someone like me, who struggles with social interaction, but sometimes it just didn’t feel right at all. I also think that by posting by social media, it gives the impression that you want to be noticed, acknowledged, and validated by people’s reactions to your posts. I’ve never felt the need to be validated by the number of likes I receive on a post, but it has annoyed me that a picture of my face will receive waaaay more appreciation than a beautiful picture of nature and a piece of wonderful poetry attached to it. I think part of the problem is that I think that I don’t matter that much, not in a negative way, and so to have social media contradicts my personality because it’s actively saying ‘hey, I think I matter!’ when really I think that I don’t matter at all, personally. There’s no part of me that intrinsically matters, but what I think does matter is the impact I make environmentally, emotionally, and artistically.

I suppose blogging goes against that, because I am sharing my opinions, and to do that, I must think that my opinions matter. But how can they, when there are seven billion people on the planet. Surely someone, somewhere, must have had the same thoughts as me. I think it’s because I don’t think things belong to me. It’s not my opinion. When I am performing music as a soloist. I believe that the things that we send out into the world do not belong to us, because when we send anything out into the world, we are sharing. I don’t want to do things that are just for me, because I don’t matter. Because there are seven billion other people who do matter, just as little as I do.

And therein lies a great problem with twitter; every tweet is an experience shared with the world, but so much of what is tweeted is complete drivel. One of the reasons I created this blog was to expand upon ideas I was having on my twitter. I used to tweet about things that interested me, and I used to be a lot more outspoken, but that was a few years ago, when not as many people had twitter. I’ve had twitter since February in 2011, I can even remember making my first account, and since then, lots of people have made their own twitter, which is great, but I’m an introvert, and it’s no longer a place of retreat for me. I think generally, the internet used to be a place of retreat, and even though I don’t have a huge amount of followers on any platform, I feel like I am thrown into shark infested waters whenever I am online. People from school started to follow me on instagram and twitter, and all of a sudden I felt almost as anxious at home as I do at school, and that’s without aggressive comments about being ‘pretentious’ and waking up in the morning finding a message from a school colleague telling me to eat a steak. I used to be able to pick and choose who I interacted with, and I have gone through phases of blocking everybody from my social media, but I don’t want to block people, I just don’t want them around 24/7.

Since I have had twitter for so many years, I worry that the way I think will have been affected by it. I often find myself thinking in tweets, thinking in 140 character snippets. I worry that all my thoughts are being processed by some sort of twitter bot in my head, ready to be tweeted. I don’t want to have my thoughts and words butchered and processed like that.

Another problem is that I really don’t have many friends at all, so social media for me loses much of the social aspect right away. Although I don’t have that many friends, I don’t like that on a platform like Facebook, absolutely anybody can reach into my personal space and talk to me. This sounds really rude, and don’t get me wrong, I really do love talking to people, but I don’t like that anybody can start talking to me, whenever they like. You wouldn’t come knocking on someone’s door at 10 at night. For me, I find being contacted like this pretty terrifying. I would love to have more conversations with people, but on my own terms.

The flip side of being able to message anyone, whenever you like, is that it doesn’t happen. I think people take for granted that they have 24/7 access to anybody they like, and abuse it. I was thinking about this when I was deleting my accounts, and I thought about what would happen if someone did want to talk to me now. There’s no way that they could. And maybe they would have thought about it before, but if someone deletes your access to them, that opportunity has disappeared. I think through social media, all the immediacy of life disappears. We don’t need to secure any sort of relationship with anyone, because we can go on their instagram and like their pictures instead.

There are a few other, smaller reasons for deleting my social media, one being the adverts. Every single social media platform has been inundated with adverts, and I don’t want to expose myself to them. It’s also a humongous waste of time, as we all know.

So for now, I only have a few bits of social media left. I may reactivate some accounts in the future, if I miss them and feel like I can justify it.

Literarily Liberated by Fried Green Tomatoes

The type of reader that I have been in the past, has perhaps not been a very healthy reader. I am naturally very harsh on myself, and books do not escape my self-inflicted wrath. While my bookshelves might look quite impressive, I do not read anywhere near as much as I’d like to, but then again, I’m tough on myself with that, too. 

So, after 18 long years of trying my hardest to read classic after classic, trying to force my way through the many pages of Moby Dick, and getting lost amongst the single, solitary chapter of Mrs Dalloway, I thought that maybe all these ‘other’ books that people are reading can’t be that bad after all. Sceptical, I took a huge leap of faith and googled something along the lines of ‘uplifting stories’, and got nothing. Nothing that I liked the look of, anyway. I have previously found reading the blurbs of books a persistently disappointing endeavour. Or perhaps it is the blurbs that are disappointing. I find now, that a good story simply cannot be summarised in pretty print on the back of a book. A good story needs to be thrust upon me by some overly enthusiastic bookworm. I can trust the glimmer in someone’s eye, whose cause can only be the most heartfelt love for the story, and enthusiasm to share it with me. I know because I find myself in this state frequently. I cannot, however, trust a blurb. This is probably also due to the fact that blurbs are SO boring. They’re all written as mini sales pitches, but that doesn’t work on me, and I don’t think there’s a single advert I’ve seen that has actually made me want to go out and buy a product. The reviews by big name newspapers aren’t any good either. They may as well stick their hands into a hat, containing stock reviews of no more than ten words, and slap them on the back of every book ever written. I don’t want to know what the ‘Daily Telegraph’ thought of The Help, mostly because the Daily Telegraph is a newspaper and I don’t imagine that it has any sort of capacity to form opinions for itself, but also because it means absolutely nothing to me as a living, breathing human being. I want to know what my neighbour thought of the book, or my friends. Maybe it’d be better if actual, real people, with name, wrote in with reviews, real people with real opinions and a real glimmer in their eye. But I suppose that’s the point of things like booktube, and reviewing books online. Which is what I set out to do here.

I gave up on my search for a warm, uplifting story about the good nature of humanity, until my mum finally found something. The strange sounding Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. It took me until the end of the book to be able to remember the title. Anyway, I was dubious. If I had read the blurb for this book, there’s no way I would’ve bought it, or read it. Why on earth would I be interested in a story set in the 1930s, in Alabama. But I was forced to get myself a copy, and I suppose I knew deep down that I would undoubtably enjoy it. When I took it to the counter in Waterstones, I was surprised by the man behind the counter suddenly lifting the book into the air, a little bit like in the Lion King, and then waving to another man right at the other end of the shop. This other man came running over, the little glimmer in his eye clearly visible across the room. The two Waterstones men went on to tell me how they had laughed, and they cried, at this book that, had I been on my own, would’ve put back on the shelf in an instant. This meeting was definitely a sign.

And laugh and cry I did. I finished all 500 pages in two days, and I loved every word of it. Even though I have read quite a few books, because of the nature of books I’ve been reading, I can’t recall many stories. So, I’m really glad that I read this beautiful story, and I know that I will have it stored in my heart forever. No, not the story as such, but the people. I’m sure everyone but me, it seems, knows what it’s like to root for characters, and have your heart broken by them, but this isn’t something I’ve experienced much before, because I was too harsh on myself, because I felt like I had to be bettering myself every second of every day. 

But I know now, that I have added to myself just as much as if I’d read a seminal piece of literature, just by getting to know Idgie Threadgoode and all the other people who stopped for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.  

No Time for Tears 

One of my favourite things in the whole world is to be out, at concerts, meals, events etc, with people I love, and to be surrounded by other people, and the people they love. I thank that this congregation of loving experiences, happening to several people all at once, all in the same place, is one of the most beautiful things in the world. When I am out with family and friends, I am frequently overwhelmed with emotion, and gratitude, but I am greatly troubled by one problem. 

I cannot cry.

It’s certainly not because I am unable to cry. It is because I feel that is unacceptable to cry, because it seems to me that it is, in some way, shameful to become overwhelmed with emotion. That is not to say that there haven’t been times when I’ve cried in public. The most, let’s say, excessive time was when I saw my first opera – La Boheme. Luckily we had box seats, which meant that the rest of the public didn’t have to clamber over me as I remained in my seat for a further half hour, crying my eyes out. Most recently, I saw one of my favourite works of my favourite composer performed; Janacek’s ‘Taras Bulba’.  It seemed to everyone else that I was a sobbing mess after that, but inside I felt like I was restraining myself. It felt as if I had to put a cap on how much I was feeling. And what’s worse is that there isn’t any time to sit down, cry, and contemplate. If I built concert halls, perahps I would design designated rooms for crying in after the concerts, although personally, I think there’s nothing better than sitting on the curb, in the cold, and having a good ol’ sob. To me, this is absolute heaven, but I’m rarely granted the opportunity to enjoy these raw moments of life, because everyone is too busy rushing from one thing to the next and posting online about it, that there’s no time for having any feelings.

It seems to me that people are more concerned with being able to tell other people that they’ve ‘experienced’ something, than actually enjoying the real experience itself. This is something that hit me really hard whilst I was visiting a few of the major art galleries in London recently. I was in the National Gallery, in the room where some of the most amazing, and famous Turner paintings are on display. Beautiful sofas are available for visitors to sit on and look at the paintings, but the sofas were empty, but the visitor’s camera rolls certainly weren’t. But I don’t blame them, I suppose. It feels like we’re all being dragged along by this invisible current… being swept off our feet, and before we know it, we’ve done a whole load of walking, but not very much looking at the beautiful world around us. 

It’s this current that’s suffocating me, every time I go out. There isn’t the time for me to cry. I can’t just cry on the move. I need the time to really consider what I’m feeling. Today, for example, I saw the film Moonlight in the cinema, and it was beautiful, I really loved it. But why on earth do people just get up and leave after they’ve seen a film. What can be more important after just witnessing something as beautiful as Moonlight, than thinking about it. Where does everyone feel that they need to be? I feel like I’m truly missing something, because whenever I am overwhelmed, I feel like it’s just a source of amusement for people, as if I’m just being silly. It upsets me greatly, because I wish for nothing more than for everyone to be able to feel as strongly as I do, to be able to see life’s little miracles, even if taking half an hour out after every event, just to cry for a bit, is time consuming. I don’t believe that it’s because people just don’t feel anything, either. Maybe it’s just because we’re all rushing about too much to enjoy the precious time we have. 

Now that’s something really worth crying about. 

The Music of Ceilings

My favourite place to look when I am at a concert is not at the players, or the conductor, or even at the wonderfully informative programme notes.  At each and every concert I attend, I throw back my head, soften my gaze, and look directly at the ceiling.

I could be at a concert to study the technique of a master musician, and in order to do so, it would probably be best for me to look straight ahead, eyes glued on the master, the one. For one hour, I could allow this person to transcend humanity, to become like a God to me, and for one hour, I could lose myself completely to intense admiration.

But what is the point in that? Is that what the concert is really about? I don’t think music is about me and my struggle for immaculate technique, nor is it really about the performers. I believe that the ceiling of any concert hall can teach me so much more than an hour with any performer or programme notes ever could.

Each time I am at a concert and I tilt my head back to the sky, I see the four walls we are surrounded by, and I imagine the music we are hearing is floating up the sky, floating out beyond the walls of the building, and up into the atmosphere. I imagine that all around the world, there are people in concert halls, in cosy pub venues, and grand halls, and music will be floating up from each and every one of these places, and that all across the world, handfuls of people will all be sharing something spectacular with one another. I imagine that I can see all across the night sky, and that the sky is beautifully illuminated by music, all over the world.

When I look up to the ceiling, it becomes not about the players, they’re not in sight anymore. All I can see is the beautiful sounds rising, like leaves falling in reverse. All of a sudden, the concert has gone from a somewhat boring way to spend an hour, spent perhaps twiddling my thumbs, and mindlessly reading the programme notes again and again, into profoundly spiritual. In a split second, the concert hall becomes like a home for my soul. In the concert hall, I am surrounded by my friends and my family, and it’s amazing to me that we are all here together under one roof, experiencing the same amazing thing together. Nothing matters anymore, when I come to realise the profound beauty of what I am experiencing.

Although the concert is not about the performer, nor is it about me, the student, it is about all of us, coming together to experience, in my opinion, the most beautiful thing in the world; not just the beauty of music, but also the infinite beauty of oneness. There is so much love in the concert hall, if only we reach out and notice it

 

Music & Mathematics

Review/Book Discussion

of ‘Music and Mathematics’

Recently I have taken an interest in the mathematics of music, due to studying more advanced harmony and struggling to find books with enough depth. Amazingly I stumbled across a book I had on my amazon wishlist, although in the most overpriced second hand book shop I have ever been in.

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This is the book I picked up. I was immediately drawn to the thought of fractals relating to music, but in the end this turned out to be one of the chapters I liked the least. The maths was a bit complex, but I felt that it in no way related to music, just in a contemporary sense of experimentation, not a leaning on something heavenly to listen to. It also focused on computer generated fractals, and to me, computers have very little to do with the making of music, other than to print it out. Maybe I’m old school, but I don’t think computers have developed enough for them to be granted the title of ‘composer’ (and I don’t think they ever should).

Before I bought this, I had some idea of what musical maths I wanted to read and learn, such as Kepler’s ‘Harmonices Mundi’. Luckily this book covered a lot of Kepler’s ideas, with examples of his mathematical working, and images of his idea of the harmony of the planets, which, from a composition point of view, I was so excited to look at! Apparently, Kepler’s ideas about music theory were far from perfect, but the maths he used regarding astrology was ‘state of the art’. I think it’s amazing that an idea, which to me is so artistic and beautiful (something some people may only associate with music as an art, and maths as a science) can arise from a mathematician applying a somewhat abstract thought to a musical idea. The planets may not have their own melodies, but I think it’s beautiful to think of them in that way, waltzing through the solar system.

I think the most useful thing I took away from this book is knowledge of the tuning systems we have developed. One of the things I love about more in depth music theory is that you have to consider history and period all the time, and it made me appreciate maths so much more to think about the development of maths as a language, just as composers have developed music. I think if everything I had to learn for my GCSE maths had been named after somebody and called their ‘theory’ I would’ve been so much more interested in the mundane exercises. In fact, I know I would’ve spent hours poring over mathematical philosophy at 14 instead of 17 years old.

Anyway, I am so excited to know all the set ratios for different note intervals now! As a flautist, I feel that it’s important I know how to be in tune, not just to be able to physically adjust my instrument, but also to have an appreciation of where notes lie within the equal temperament system. What shocked me the most was to think that in instrumental music, we never hear a perfectly consonant major third, but that it’s always a little bit flatter than it should be, in order to have a perfectly equal, spaced 2/1 ratio between the unison and the octave, and each note in between. I didn’t think it was possible, but this knowledge made me love choral music even more, since a cappella singing  is always naturally in just temperament, unless the voices accompanied, and then the singers automatically adjust to equal temperament, due to voices being able to sing any pitch within their range, and instruments being created to fit perfectly within the equal temperament system. Choral music has always felt special to me, but I love it so much more now knowing that the intervals are so pure and beautiful. I feel such a sense of awe looking at the universe in this way, and listening to choral music in beautiful just temperament makes me feel like I’m listening to the beauty of the universe. I do wish the history of tuning was taught to young musicians though. It’s not something that I’ve ever come across at either the RCM or Chetham’s. Perhaps not everybody would find it as dazzlingly beautiful as I do, but I know it would be so useful. It gives notes a place, a context, and I love the importance it places on the relationships between the notes.

Furthermore, the history of this is a fascinating subject. Quite a few mathematicians have had a go at trying to create a mathematically pleasing ‘octave’. We take for granted our 8 note, 12 tone scale, but there have been many different versions, such as Mersenne’s keyboard created with 31 notes to the octave, and Bosanquet’s enharmonic harmonium, with 53 notes to the octave! It had never occurred to me that the octave was something that needed to be figured out in this way, it seems so perfect and beautiful now, but I wonder if it will ever be perfect. There are some things the equal temperament system lacks, such as a perfectly beautiful major third, but it does a pretty good job.

My favourite part of this book was to be found in the chapter on the science of musical sound. Like the Pythagoreans, I find myself drawn to the idea of consonance.

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This graph/chart whatever it is, was the most beautiful thing in the whole book for me. Before I read the chapter I glanced over it and thought ‘what the hell is that!’. It looks more confusing than it really is, but just by looking at it you can get an idea of the beauty beneath it. Basically this graph is a graph of two notes, the straight, thick black line is a constant note, say a C, and the sloped line upwards is another note gliding up the octave/C above. The rest of the lines are difference tones, which are the frequencies that occur in response to two notes being sounded. I think that’s the gist of it! I’m going to have to read this book a few times because there’s some kinda complicated maths and physics. The numbers (a), (b), (c) … on the X axis represent frequency ratios, the consonant ratios for a perfect fifth, a major third etc. That huge gap at (d) is the the interval of a perfect fifth. Look how truly PERFECT it is. No difference tones, just pure consonance. It is so beautiful. I hope you can see how amazing it is. I almost cried just looking at it.

If, for a second, you forget that we have so much collective knowledge, and just look at this. You’re experiencing this for the first time, you’re exploring the universe in a sense, and you get this back, this beautiful, perfect graph. Sometimes I wonder if we take our knowledge for granted, nothing shocks or amazes people like I feel it should. We know that the perfect 5th is consonant and beautiful, and if you think about it for a second you can say ‘yeah, I suppose that makes sense’, but this is proof of the universe’s impeccable beauty. It’s not just the rotation of the planets, it’s not quantum theory, it’s a simple distance of 5 between one pure sound and the next, and this is the result.

 

This entire book was just incredible, and I gave it a solid 5 stars on Goodreads. I’ve always been aware that the universe is beautiful, but I’ve never seen such gorgeous, simple proof on paper, and with such relevance to my life and passions. The rest of it was interesting too, I learnt more than I thought I’d ever need to know about bell ringing, a much better understanding of the 12 tone Schoenberg system, and I listened to some pretty ‘out there’ contemporary compositions, such as this. However, the most important thing I took from this book was awe. It is perhaps my favourite feeling in the world. The beauty of the universe makes me feel like any worries I have are irrelevant, how can they matter when something as beautiful as that graph exists? It also places me in that beauty, whether I like it or not. I have also come away from this absolutely dying to do A-Level maths, despite hating it at GCSE. Whether I do that or not, I am going to search out maths texts to read for the rest of my life, seeking the awe I found in this wonderful book.

 

Opus. 1

Today I pretty much completed my first composition. Like I’ve said in other posts, I’ve always wanted to compose, but I just haven’t really allowed myself to in the past. That is all gone now. I have become addicted. This is the first of many, and I cannot even begin to express my excitement at the thought of that!

This all came about six days ago when I was looking in a notebook of mine, and found the words of a short Tennyson poem written in as an idea for some music. Here is the poem:

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It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? I find myself being drawn to smaller poems delivered in quatrains, like this one, and many by Emily Dickinson. I feel that there’s a certain ‘sass’ about delivering something poetic in a mere four lines, and find that I often get that feeling of the stomach dropping, as if on a roller coaster, or a sort of mental gasp, at the end. I think if a text can give me butterflies, then it is certainly good enough to put to music.

I was drawn to this text because it has two themes, which I thought could be put to music nicely; the wind, and the streams. There is also lots of imagery which I associated, not only with the landscape, but with musical line, such as the ‘rolling earth’. Furthermore, as someone who is a kind-of believer in the ideas offered by pantheism, poetry of this nature (lol) is very inspiring. I definitely get butterflies on the last ‘we are free’, and this was actually the first bit of music I wrote. I almost couldn’t wait to get to the end because I was so excited about my chord progression. That’s probably a little sad, but who cares.

As I wrote this, I have realised just how much I love choral music. I’ve always been a big fan of contemporary choral music, especially works by Tavener and Arvo Pärt. I have also had the opportunity to sing many amazing pieces of choral music. During the past six days I have been pouring over all the poetry I have in my house, gathering up all the Shakespeare I can get my hands on, and marking up all the texts I can see music in. I already have another vocal piece in the works too, on a Rossetti piece. I think it’s because I love the idea of program music so much, plus I have a huge love for literature, so I get to combine two of my greatest loves, whilst being creative. It’s perfect! I like writing, but I’ve always thought ‘I don’t need to write, because there’s so much amazing literature out there already.’ I’m sure I will write some stuff of my own, but at the moment I am quite happy to nerd out to Dickinson and Tennyson!

I found writing this quite easy; with my background in choral music I felt in familiar territory, and I think the text is an incredibly inspiring prompt. The only thing I found difficult, or required a little thought, was the tenor line. I sing both alto and soprano, and the bass has an obvious function, so I had to think a little about the function of the tenor line, whilst also making it beautiful, and enjoyable for the performer. I really hope I have achieved these things.

I have also learnt a lot. At first I found myself wondering if a bar was too ‘boring’, thinking that each and every beat of music had to be as valuable as the other beats. I haven’t changed my mind, but I did adjust my idea of boring, and found that just because one bar, perhaps, has more rhythmic movement than the last, does not necessarily make it more exciting. It’s like life I suppose; everything has its place, there are good and bad days, slow and fast paced days, but it’s all a part of the beauty.

I still have to put the dynamics in, and make sure I have all the words in the right place. I can’t wait to take this to my school’s composition department and receive some feedback. So there will be some revisions, well I hope there will be! I want to always be improving, and learning! Hopefully this will be performed before December, and I’ll be able to get a recording and post it to my Soundcloud. This has been so much fun, and I can’t wait to wake up in the morning to carry on thinking about opus. 2!  🙂