I have an opportunity to teach a four-week class for Upward Bound this summer. It's a music elective, and the topic can be anything I want it to be!
That's really exciting! but I am not yet sure what I want to teach. If you have any suggestions--there are no bad ideas--let me know. Like I said, it can be anything at all, and I am very open to suggestions.
Today I added a password to the pages which formerly hosted the downloadable .mp3 accompaniment and part files. There is nothing available on those pages at the moment, so no real content has been made less available, but those are now password-protected so that in the future, only the people who need those files will be able to get them.
If you would like the password to those pages, send me an email--stolaf (at) pacificu (dot) edu--and I will give the password to you. Again, there's nothing on those pages right now, so don't be concerned.
As I experiment more with Weebly Pro, there may be more changes. I am in the process of making a couple new pages that should be enjoyable and hopefully educational. More on those features as they become available. :)
In my travels through the choral library here at Marshfield (yes, my alma mater), I've also come across several works in English and another language (the English being a translation written into the score, not the original language used by the composer).
The question I ask myself when I open the music and start grumbling is, "Does providing a singable English version of a well-known piece limit or augment that composition?" Earlier just today I found a Brahms motet with both English and German in the score. My knee-jerk reaction is frustration that people don't learn other languages more often. Usually any English you find in an art song (speaking of solo literature now) is not something you'd ever sing, because it is usually poetic and doesn't have the preservation of the original meaning of the text as its primary goal. I could write lyrics that fit the rhythm of the music Brahms wrote, but singing those lyrics--would that really count as having sung the piece Brahms composed?
Struggling with other languages--let's be honest, it's not a cakewalk to learn to sing in another language--builds character, I think. You have to learn how to appreciate another set of phonemes. You don't have to learn the grammar or the syntax or anything much about the actual construction of the piece in order to sing it well, which is another reason I think singing in foreign languages is so cool--you don't have to spend years studying before you can say things!
You also get a chance to experience, in a way, other cultures. There are differences--sometimes subtle ones--in the ways our words shape our vision of the world. Now of course you have to put in the effort and really live with the text in order to reap some of these rewards, but even just exposing our ears to the sounds of other cultures, I think, can really do us good.
But, then, does singing a piece in a language other than the original language actually diminish its value? There are tons of books that have been translated into languages other than the one the author used initially. Does reading those books in their translated forms mean that you haven't REALLY read the book? I'm not sure whether I would say yes or no to that question, so I am not sure I can say yes or no to the same question when asked of singing. You certainly have to spend a lot of time with a language in order to be able to read and understand it, so I can definitely see a lot of value in translating books and texts so that people everywhere can understand what you want to say without having to learn your language first. So what is it about English versions of, say, the Agnus Dei that bug me so much?
Maybe there are so few translations that are both singable and true to the original text that my view of all of them has become tainted. At the same time, maybe I feel like not taking the time to learn how to pronounce the words--or at least to TRY to pronounce them!--feels like laziness.
Do you think I am missing the point of English translations? Would you say that they are more for the sake of making the meaning of the piece accessible to the audience and to the performer and are therefore rather valuable, or would you say that despite the translator's intentions, English translations are less desirable than singing in the original language? (As with all things, I don't think this is a black-and-white answer, but I am curious as to where the majority of the truth falls.)
Hello! Here's the first in a potentially limitless series of posts that represent musical issues I've had the opportunity to mull over as of late. Hopefully they will prod your brain a little! If you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to add them (please do not link to your email as this blog is public and I wouldn't want anyone getting spammed) or email me.
Lately, I've been volunteering time up at Marshfield, working on going through the choral library. Anything that's out-of-date textually or really poorly-written comes off the shelf. Even though I can't spend a lot of time poring over each title, I've gotten to see a lot of different works--about 350 so far. One genre that could be considered controversial is the spiritual.
When I say "spiritual," I mean a song that either originated as a work song during the days of slavery in the US, or one that was written after that style. Jester Hairston and Moses Hogan are two big names in this genre of music. A lot of these pieces are written with the intent that the choir sings with the pronunciation that would have been heard when the song was being sung by slaves. "In Dat Great Gittin'-Up Mornin'," "Sooh-Ah Will Be Done," "Deep River," and "The Battle of Jericho" are all examples of this style of music.
It's gotten me thinking: in today's world of political correctness, is it still socially acceptable or even appropriate to sing some of these songs?
On one hand, I think that one of the last things anyone intends to do when they set out to sing a piece is to mock or belittle the culture that the piece comes from. The pronunciation in many spirituals is akin to ebonics, and that can raise some issues for some people. Is it a form of racism to continue to use the pronunciation in the score? Have you ever heard a choir (or a soloist, for that matter) sing a spiritual piece and had the thought cross your mind? I can say honestly that I have wondered about it. I don't know very many people who want to sound like racists.
There are a lot of contexts in popular culture where the use of ebonics probably wouldn't call up images of slavery, but there are probably just as many that do. Think about what you connote with ebonics. Think about where those connotations come from. (I'm not judging anyone, I'm honestly asking for thought. Do you think ebonics make a person sound ignorant? Uneducated? How do you identify yourself with relation to people who speak or sing in ebonics? Do you yourself speak ebonically?)
So I wonder if choosing to perform a piece like "In Dat Great Gittin'-Up Mornin'" as it is written would be a social faux-pas. I think it would definitely make a statement, which brings me to the "other hand."
Slavery happened. I think that for as short a time as it has been in this country -- the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, was ratified only 155 years ago, and the Fifteenth, which gave voting rights to men of all colors and races, just 150 years ago -- we Americans love to skirt the issue and to satirize it, but serious discussion can cause a lot of tension and awkwardness.
Likewise, ebonics are not some illegitimate dialect, although their history is not generally as innocuous as, say, a Bostonian accent.
One could make a case for performing spirituals with ebonics (if written) similarly to the case one would make for performing an Italian art song with proper Italian pronunciation. If you perform a spiritual and use ebonics, you could argue that you are being true to the spirit of that piece's initial performers. Or are you?
Should we not use ebonics if they call up strong feelings of prejudice, if our intent is to bring people together? Is it more respectful to acknowledge the truth of the origin of the spiritual without singing it (or reading the text) using that pronunciation? Does what you decide to sing have anything to do with your skin color? (What I mean by that is, should choirs of "white" singers avoid ebonics and choirs of "black" singers not worry about the issue as much? Talk about a racially-charged question.) Is it cowardly or akin to denial to avoid using the words Mr. Hairston wrote in the score? How much weight should we give the ears and thoughts of today's audience, and what does today's audience think?
Hope everyone had a great holiday season and is having a great New Year thus far! I am still working as a substitute primarily in the Coos Bay School District, primarily subbing for my former director. It's good, I think, that I am doing this now, because working for someone who has been so connected with one's musical development is intimidating, to say the least!
I held a part-time job at Ross for just over a month through the Christmas season, but due to a reduction in payroll I was laid off, so I've been just a sub again for about a week now. I am still so, so glad to be done with college and working as an educator, even if it's not every day of the week, because teaching -- especially teaching music -- is just about the most awesome thing I can think of. It makes me so grateful to all the students I worked with over the years while I was in school, especially the FGHS and NAMS students who had to put up with me (hehe) last year.
Anyway. Working on a public connection, and as I have no other pertinent news for now, I will sign off. There have been some interesting things I've started thinking about musically speaking these past few weeks, and if time permits, I will post again in the next couple days -- hopefully -- about some of them.
Hope all is well with each of you.
So! It's been a long time!
Long story short, there WAS free city-based wifi at home for a while, but the connection was not fast enough to permit me to work on this webpage at any reasonable speed. About a month ago, the signal faded and has not been reliable. And when one does not have the internet around to be used to, one's thoughts about internet-based activities tend to vanish as well.
I am down in Grants Pass visiting grandparents right now, and it seemed like an opportune time to take a couple minutes and announce that I am not gone, just kind of incommunicado. I am registered in Coos Bay on the district sub list and have worked two days so far this year while the choir director was out ill. I am still in the process of looking for more employment to supplement the substituting without getting in the way of it.
Anyway. I hope you are all well! and that everyone had a wonderful summer. Thanks again to all my students and their families for making last year such a memorable, wonderful year!
Did you know:
You collectively play at least thirty different instruments and speak nine languages?
Your collective lineages represent at least 14% of the world's countries. (Here's a map of those.)
Two of you were born in Germany, and between the rest of your birthplaces (another map!), you cover thirteen of the fifty United States.
That's pretty impressive for seventy-two people, and you've all yet to live the majority of your lives!
You are all amazing people and it's been such a blessing to have had the opportunity to work with you.
So that's one less thing on my plate for the end of the year. I am still completely exhausted.
Good thing there's a concert tonight! hahaha. I think the concert will be good. I am apprehensive because I've not heard either choir in almost a week--longer for Chorale--but hey. I trust that things will work out.
Too many things going on. As much as I love the things I'm doing now, going straight through from June to June is hard, and I'm ready for summer.
The Brahms is uploaded on the Choir .mp3s page. Check out the hemiola, especially in the piano part. (A very Brahmsy characteristic.) It's still tonight, Chorale kids, so I've not broken my word. ;) Also check out the link to the Raisin Brahms commercial I posted on May 15th. Very funny!
In other exciting news, I get to walk across the stage at Pacific U. tomorrow afternoon and get my empty Master's diploma case. Once everything is done at FGHS for the year, I'll be done with my classes at Pacific, and in August or September I should get my diploma in the mail. Whee! It has been a long year.
I really love all you students. If it weren't for each of you, I wouldn't have the motivation to finish this program, and it sure makes it easier to get out of bed, get on the bus, and walk from Pacific to FGHS every morning knowing that I get to work with some of the most awesome people there are.
So I know this guy...
But seriously. Anyone who's interested in taking voice lessons this summer should email me for information. The man I know is a very excellent vocalist and a very good teacher. I will mention this in class this week, but here it is, in writing.
You can read his professional biography here, on the Pacific website. The email on the page is accurate, but in order to streamline things, I would prefer that I hear from you first and then I can get together a list and then we can do things that way. He is a busy dude, and with busy people comes the chance that your email might get overlooked accidentally.
Plus, you get a li'l discount for using me as your reference. (I never imagined I'd be a coupon. Haha. COUPON CODE: "OLAF.")
The listed phone number is the number for the secretary of the entire Arts Division, which is to say that you'd be leaving a message and making more work for people, so email me if you're interested and we can talk more.
I don't want to sound like a bummer, but if you're interested but know you wouldn't practice, save your money (maybe it's your parents'...even better!) and your sanity. He's a professional and I know that although he's kind and supportive, nobody likes a slacker.
Peace and love!