Notes and words

So I sat down in earnest today to compose, working on the Mass setting I mentioned a couple of posts back. I had a few loose sketches and ideas already, and am quite pleased that tonight I was able to complete two versions of the Kyrie (I know, I know: there are three words in it; all the same…). I also got a good start on the Gloria, confirmed which text I’m using (the 1962 English translation of the Tridentine Mass), and hammered out my harmonic scheme for the work overall. I’m happy, given my nervousness over the project due to my lack of time to compose regularly… I was afraid I was too rusty to get anything done. Earnest Newman’s famous quotation comes to mind: “The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working.” Not that I’d call myself a great composer, but it really is in getting to work that the “art” of it comes. I guess that’s why people call it “artwork.”

The idea behind this Mass, by the way, is new for me. I’m attempting to involve the congregation in the music without overwhelming them. I tend to like dissonance and rhythmic complexity and such, so this takes a very intentional approach from me to make happen. So far, so good, I think. Rather than writing for a large ensemble (as is strangely typical of Masses, despite most churches having an organ at best), the accompaniment I’m using is a single melodic line, playable on any instrument capable of the notes–so organ, flute, violin, guitar, bassoon, accordion, xylophone… whatever is available. The text is sung (thus far, at least) in a call-and-response manner, heavy on the repetition for the non-music-readers, between a cantor/choir/soloist and the congregation/choir. I’m going to be regularly running it past non-composer types to make sure I’m not imagining some super-musical church congregation, but even if it did end up largely out of reach for most non-musicians, it will certainly be easily accessible for choirs.

I’m just glad to be getting my hands dirty with the music again…

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Composer of music and sonic art. Percussionist, guitarist, computer musician. Composition/theory/electronic music professor. Husband and father. Catholic. Food and beer enthusiast. Perpetually dissatisfied with the contents of my sock drawer.

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