homesick for music

editor’s note: yesterday at work, i was listening to the newest addition to my ipod (thanks to zachary's generosity) and got completely inspired. my wish is that you’ll read this post (lengthy as it is) and find something in here that connects with you.

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sure, i love tally hall, coldplay, queen, journey, mika, ingrid michaelson and kt tunstall just as much now as i ever have, but i'm so grateful for different genres and for the magic they individually bring to the musical world. eric whitacre is one of my very favorite composers and i always get so super excited to sing (or listen to) one of his pieces.

Eric Whitacre's Complete a'Cappella Works, sung by the BYU Singers is what i'm currently listening to. honestly, it's some of the most beautiful music i know of.

oddly enough, as i listen to this, i feel...well, the word that comes to mind is, homesick. homesick from not singing this kind of stuff since high school. i miss singing. i miss my voice and the skills that have wavered since high school.
imagine with me: you are walking onto risers on stage in front of adjudicators (judges) with your 18 other comrades in your choir. you glance around and a half-terrified, half-excited feeling of anticipation overcomes you as you take a second to sneak a glance at your audience, your fellow singers, then your eyes dart back to your director. the piano rings a lone note signifying your pitch. the director raises his arms, and looks around at all of you expectantly. his eyes meet yours for a second. then, on his cue, you are singing. you are harmonizing! through the song, you sing your heart out, knowing that you're one of only two people on your part at times. they’re depending on you, just like you’re depending on them. muscle memory kicks in and you start to remember all of the things you've rehearsed so many times. you have an adventurous feeling as you listen intently to where your part fits right in, and you nail it. you let your part soar at times, then suddenly make it mesh with the rest of the choir, and let others do the same, leaving the audience to guess where the sounds come from, before whisking them away to another part of the music. you hear the complete contrast between loud and soft, consonance and dissonance. you revel in the tension between suspended dissonant (clashing) chords, and the resolution to consonant cadences. as the song comes to a close, the last chord rings out and the director still has his arms up. it's completely and utterly silent, except for that last ringing sound…echoing into space. a sound that you've helped create….

and you feel like you’re home.

suddenly, there is immediate and thunderous applause. a huge smile crosses your face as the director presents the choir and bows. this applause makes you incredibly happy, and this is why: you understand that it doesn’t matter whether or not you are "the best" choir (that’s subjective), but are thrilled for the knowledge that you were able to share some of the wonder you just experienced with so many more people than yourself. something words alone can’t describe. the magic of music!
that's what singing whitacre (and many others) compositions felt like for me. i have always loved that, and sorely miss it. thus, homesick. it's okay though, because i'll always love it.

i’m so glad for the beauty that is captured in music, regardless of my personal longing and opportunity (or lack thereof) to be involved in such beauty. music is, after all, the universal language.

all these things…the perfectly placed dissonance, the suspension, the lyrics, the climaxes, the contrasts, the uniform constant sounds, the text-painting, the moving notes with floating suspended chords above them...mmmmmm. all of these can be experienced in whitacre’s music.

so you can experience it, too::

i especially love the song 'sleep'...one of my favorite songs we sang. though lyrics aren't always the most important part, these lyrics some of my favorites.

i also love lux arumque, another we sang. the latin lyrics, when translated, talk about light and warmth, and it's evident in the song. the first part, where all of the separate parts come in at different times, sounds like rays of light (ps, this is an example of text-painting).

when david heard tells the bible story of david and his son absalom (it was the first whitacre piece I remember hearing).

****okay, okay. one more. if nothing else, PLEASE watch this: Leonardo’s Dream. it’s a favorite that i just discovered!

why 'favorite'? because:
1) the song is about leonardo da vinci, one of my favorite artists who completely fascinates me. it combines visual art and music, two areas that are more closely related that most think.
2) in this clip, the singers talk about their experiences with the music, and it really makes it more personal and interesting to hear.
3) the byu singers are the ones singing: i know some of the people talking/singing! we live in the same building (the h-fac) since i'm an art major. :) sometimes, i wish i were a music major as well. just so i could sing like this.
4) it’s from eric whitacre’s blog! he says he loves the byu choir. heehee.

get acquainted with the wonder and beauty that is whitacre! what do you think? do you have an experience with whitacre or his music? do you have an experience with music in general? have you recently discovered (or rediscovered) a beautiful passion of your own?


Zachary said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with everyone. It is so awesome how much you really appreciate the arts, whether that be visual or performing. You are open to all ideas and points of view and make the best of each. A lot of the things that you mention about Eric Whitacre's music are also shared with my view of his music. One thing that draws me to Whitacre is his pristine treatment of dissonance and consonance, or tension and release. His dissonant chords really tug and pull at you and then, just when you think you can't handle it anymore, he resolves it and that tension is released. It really sounds good, but more than that, it actually feels good.

I have some experiences with Whitacre's music that I would like to share. I was first introduced to Eric Whitacre's choral pieces my junior year of high school. We were on tour in Seattle and one of my friends told me that I had to listen to "When David Heard." Even though it is 15 minutes long, I couldn't stop listening. By the climax of the piece where the 18-part tone cluster is being repeated, and it crescendos and crescendos, then that cluster explodes into that full, loud d minor chord, I had chills shoot up and down my entire body and I started to cry. It was such a powerful experience. Had I been by myself, I would have wept at that moment, but all of my other friends were around, so I tried to play it cool, with lots of dignity, because men don't cry...

Best 15 minutes I have ever spent in my life.

After that, I invested in some pieces of his so that I could listen to it all the time. Eric Whitacre has such a distinct voice and has an amazing ear of creating music that stirs and arouses the emotions. So cool.

My senior year, I had the opportunity to play one of his wind band pieces, October. You should listen to this. Even though there aren't any words to describe anything, the listener needs to listen a lot deeper than he is normally used to. The instrumentation (what instrument plays what), dynamics, motifs (musical ideas, melodies), harmony and rhythms all play a part in tell the story. Performing this piece was so powerful, especially at the end when the french horns have these soaring lines (I'm biased towards the french horn because I play it) that just pull at the emotions and heart strings. Not to mention the oboe solos at the beginning and middle. So good.

This was kind of long and I hope it makes sense. Yay for Eric Whitacre! Keep listening to him. :)

Becca said...

I remember feeling like that in a choir! Beautifully put.

ktln said...

Remember that one night when we went running? I do. I also remember how we got to talking about blogs and posts and the time it must take to write them. Well, I must say that I'M SO GLAD YOU DO IT! Really. Your description in this post is so eloquent and while I was reading about your experiences you took me into them - I felt like I was really there, standing with the choir and singing in front of judges. I never took the opportunity to do choir back in the high school days, so thanks for giving me a piece of what it was like. Also, I must say that the first time I ever heard Eric Whitacre's music was from none other than...YOU!! I don't know what concert it was at, but you, along with the rest of the chamber singers, sang "Sleep." Seriously, (I'm not just making this up I really do remember this) you brought tears to my eyes. Although I had felt it many times before when listening to beautiful music, when I heard you guys sing this song, I got chills all over and felt so good. What you guys created was so moving and I won't ever be able to forget it. I've noticed this "chilling" and moving quality in music ever since, but first really felt it when you guys performed that piece. And you know what? It feels good and I'm so glad I got to experience it and really learn in those moments during "Sleep" what well-written and well-performed music can do. It's a beautiful and precious thing.

So, anyway, my dear, thanks for singing your heart out for me back in the day during high school and for just now writing so eloquently about something I can tell you truly love. As I just wrote that last sentence I just realized that that is what I like most about your blog - you write about things you are passionate about it. Things that you love and your writing just spreads the love to everyone who reads your posts. For the love! (hahaha) Again, I'm really glad your a blogger. Maybe someday if I ever happen to start a blog, I'll be half as fortunate to write the way that you do. Thanks again. You rock.

Whitney Bonnett Taylor said...

I swear I saw you driving the other day... actually you were with a boy.
When are you not? haha

Debbie said...

This is why I sought out a choir to sing with regularly. It's an outlet I haven't found in any other medium (personally). There's a time and season for everything but sometimes you got to make the time and seize the season you're in when it matters that much.

Thanks for the nod to Whitacre. Not familiar but after such raving reviews from you and Zach - I would be a fool not introduce myself!

--jeff * said...

so it's been a while longer since i was in choir, and i'd forgotten some of those moments. your "text painting" helped bring back some of those memories and even a little homesickness (in a good way).
i think we sang "when david heard", too.

p.s. nice label. ; )

Carrots said...

Hey sister. So, occasionally I sneak a look at your blog and am always content to see that you are happy and writing the experiences of your life. And that's how I see it...YOUR life. But today when I read your blog posted in, um, okay it was August, but Anywho... So when I read what you wrote this morning I couldn't help but feel I was right there with you, getting on that stage and performing. I could hear the incredible sounds of your music filling the abundant air, and then that moment of magical silence, right before the audience's thunderous applause...and I could see you, glowing and smiling Mom's smile...your smile. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful moment with the world...with me. I love you 'Tisti.

Jacob said...

I know exactly what you mean. Music is as much home as anywhere else.