As My Love for Slovenia Grows

IN-Depth Update Post, not a post on the great country of Slovenia

I believe that I have single-handedly increased the views on Ambrož Čopi’s soundcloud by 34%, and you can trust that math is correct.

Promotional PDF score

One of the beautiful things about choral music is how it transcends cultures, religions, and languages. The last piece, Otče Naš, means “Our Father” and is a piece set to religious text, and the remaining two pieces are non religious. The remaining pieces are set to Slovenian poetry, which is some of the most beautiful poetry I’ve ever read. Despite all of these factors that one might think would deter someone from appreciating music, people all around the world can listen to and enjoy music from anyone. Through this project, I have also learned a good amount of Slovenian and could recite to you some Slovenian love poetry (which is really the greatest reward of all).

No one can know better than you

Why the blood in my veins is blueish red

Why my soul yearns so loudly

What happiness should mean to me.

No one can know better than you

Why there is you and I.

Marko Margon

Ti in Jaz (You and I)

As for non-Slovenian choral music (as if there is such a thing), there has been one piece that I have been listening a lot to recently, titled Hide Thy Face. It is composed by Allan Bevan and is recorded on the album Sacred Reflections of Canada – A Canadian Mass, recorded by the Canadian Chamber Choir. (click here for the recording and the website to Allan Bevan’s website). The piece does a lot of interesting theory things that I really appreciate and the music itself is quite enjoyable. Through analyzing the piece, I’ve learned some things about how to employ very few lines of text, and how form can sometimes work.

For my own compositions, I was feeling quite patriotic and arranged my own choral arrangement for our national anthem. You can find the score here, and the audio file over here. As well, I’m in the midst of arranging the folksong, Danny Boy (known aliases include Londonderry Air, generic “British Folksong”, among others). Below is a recording of my playing of the tune. You can see how I’m trying to include some ideas for some lines and chords for my choral arrangement in the recording. https://soundcloud.com/benjaminsigerson/danny-boy (for reasons unknown, this particular track refuses to embed itself, so please click the link).

AND (I bet you thought I was done), I’ve purchased two books on harmony and counterpoint, written by composer and conductor and Harvard, the late Walter Piston. Reading these books have helped me understand some concepts and learn what certain words mean and what this progression means, and so on. Because of this, I’ve been using the terms consonant and dissonant as much as I can, not only because it makes musical sense, but also because it makes me sound much smarter than I am.

With in-depth just over a month away, there is still much I can do. You can be sure that I’ll be doing a lot more composing in the time between now and in-depth. Who knows, it might even be in Slovenian…

Regarding De Bono, I often find myself “using a concept without being aware of the concept (you) are using” (121). For example, I’ll write homophonic choral lines without knowing what in the world a homophonic line is. When I use these unidentified compositional concepts in my music, my mentor will point them out to me and we will discuss their value and their potential importance. We talked about the concept of text in choral music and the great importance of it. The concept of text in choral music leads to many other concepts within composition, such as phrasing, range, purpose of the music, and so on.

In my learning, alternatives can be guaranteed. It mostly takes place in the editing process of my composition. Just like in English, there are many ways one can say something. instead of saying “Hey Jeff, how’s it going?”, one could say “Good evening Geoffrey, how is life treating you?”, or “Yo J my man, what’s hanging?”. If you were producing an R&B album then the latter greeting may be appropriate, but if Jeff is not well equipped with street lingo and is in fact recording an R&B album in Latin, then that greeting my not be appropriate. Music is same in this sense, that the way you “say” things and present yourself have to serve the text and make sense musically. This can be difficult for me when writing music, as there can be some musical ideas that I really like but might not be the best fit for the song I’m presently composing. As well, the way that I might write something might not make the most sense for singers and can/will be altered. “Progress, energy, change, improvement, and simplification are all based on the search for alternatives” (122). My mentor will point out to me when certain lines don’t make the most sense for a part, or if a line could be improved rhythmically or otherwise.

Composing will always be a learning process for me, and I’m more than happy to keep learning. I’m excited to finish my arrangements I’m working on now and am also looking forward to pieces I will write not only for this project, but for a long time after.

British Co-lost?

In the year 1864, a form a representative government was established in British Columbia. 86 years prior to that, James Cook discovered the land that Aboriginal Peoples had been living on for over 8,000 years. And in 1867, Canadian confederation took place without British Columbia. As a Canadian, born and raised in the western-most province, I’m interested to discover BC’s involvement (or lack thereof) in confederation and I believe that the answers of my questions will prove to be interesting.

  • For what reasons did Confederation happen without BC, and why did BC not appear to make to big of an effort to be a part of this?
  • Why did British Columbia ultimately decide to join the Confederation of Canada?

British Columbia, Pre – Confederation

British Columbia was populated after the last Ice Age, with records of human habitation dating back at least 8,000 years. On the coast, several First Nations emerged, including the Tagish, Tsimshian, Haida, Tlingit, Kwakiutl and Nootka, while inland lived the Carrier, Interior Salish and Kootenay.

Europeans didn’t arrive on the Pacific coast in significant numbers until after the voyage of James Cook in 1778 and the mapping expedition of George Vancouver in the 1790s.

 – Canadian Encyclopedia

1849 saw that over 50,000 indigenous peoples resided in the place we call BC, as well as a handful of european settlers who, the same year, established the colony of Vancouver Island. Up until 1858, the general location of BC was comprised of two fur trading districts, under the watchful eye of the Hudson’s Bay Company. However, that year, it all changed. Gold was discovered and hundreds upon hundreds of people came with every rise of the sun to try their luck and test their abilities in the hopes of striking gold. About 30,000 people rushed to the Fraser River and prompted Britain to establish to create a separate colony which they named British Columbia. This establishment of BC was one year after Galt, Cartier, and Ross proposed confederation with 33 articles in the Courier to Canada.

In 1984, word of Confederation had reached the west coast, and that got some of the people talking. Naturally, that year, the British made sure a form of representative government was formed in BC, and they were still a British Colony. Three years later, Confederation took place, and British Columbia was not a part of this new Dominion of Canada.

A journalist named Amor de Cosmos began a movement to confederation, which turned out to be quite popular. Forming the Confederation league in 1868, and in the spring of 1870, it was debated at legislation. The next year, terms were discussed between Canada and British Columbia, and so on July 20, 1871, British Columbia was a part of Confederation.

So now the question remains, why?

By making BC a part of Canada, that would make the economy more stable for BC, as the economy was slipping. It would also protect BC from potential attacks from both Alaska and the states below them. For Canada, it would build the transcontinental railroad, which was a huge factor for them. It would also allow Canada to have a vast hold on an enormous amount of land.

Now Canada was a nation that reached from sea to sea. Ahead was the monumental task of building a railway that ran across the continent.

– CBC

Naturally, the Aboriginals were left out of this entire process.

What’s left?

My findings show that the reasons for confederation for BC is greatly similar to the Confederation that happened on the East Coast. It also shows just how quickly things came to be for the Province of British Columbia, and how swiftly the political, geographic, and population landscapes changed. My remaining questions revolve around exactly who was involved in making BC a reality, and how that might have effected how efficiently things got done.

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/british-columbia-and-confederation/
http://www.cbc.ca/history/EPCONTENTSE1EP9CH3PA2LE.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia
https://apps.gov.bc.ca/pub/bcgnws/names/39106.html

Sing Me A Song

Continuing my competitive choral endeavours, I wrote a piece for another competition. This competition is called “Sing Me a Song” and it is sponsored by the Lieutenant Governor of BC. The purpose of this competition is for school-aged students to write and perform their own pieces about Canada, writing music inspired by this country. This theme is particularly important as it is the 150th anniversary of confederation this year. (I am getting quite good at writing music specifically for Canada’s 150). The piece I wrote for this is called “Land of Snow” and is a relatively simple chart, as it had to be learned and performed by singers in a short amount of time.

The link to the score can be found here.

(Thanks to TALONS singers Anika, Billie, Hira, Tori, and Mellissa, as well as TALONS percussionist James)

As you listen to this song, you may be saying to yourself, “Gee those lyrics are kinda ehh/weird/strange”. And you’d be correct, since I was the one to write the lyrics. I am discovering that being able to write my own poetry/lyrics would be incredibly helpful in order to write choral music that does not borrow text from another poet. That has become one of my new goals is to somewhat develop my writing abilities.

As for meeting with my mentor, we did some more editing of my previous song, just for learning and seeing how some things could have been arranged in different ways. As well we looked at some music by Samuel Barber and a bit more of Ambroś Čopi (whom I particularly like). Reincarnations by Samuel Barber is the piece(s) that we looked at and I did a bit of analyzing of. The Čopi piece, Ti in Jaz, is one of my favourite pieces of music written and, well I could write paragraphs and essays on the beauty of that piece but maybe later.

De Bono’s Many Hats

White Hat – This is employed in my mentor meetings when discussing music theory subjects, as well as looking at composers and their way of writing music. The music theoretical difference between the writing of Čopi and Bach is quite different and it’s easy to see and hear. As well when looking at certain rules in music theory, such as what intervals make sense in a chord and such.

Red Hat – I use this hat when taking initial looks at a piece of music. I’ll listen to a piece my mentor picks out for me, or I’ll listen to something on my own, and there will usually be a chord progression or passage that I particularly enjoy. I’ll look at the score and then look at it more analytically and see why I like it (or dislike it), and not just know that I do (or don’t) like it. When it comes to the arts, and especially music, initial reactions are important to both the composer and the listener, so by making note of what I like just listening it to a piece for the first time or without real analytical thought is very important and is a fundamental part of appreciating music.

Black Hat – This hat is put on usually immediately after having a purely emotional reaction to a piece of music. As alluded to before in the Red Hat section, trying to understand why a piece of music makes you feel a certain way is incredibly important as a composer and is also important to the listener. This hat is one of the more worn ones in my mentor meetings, as well as when I work independently. For example, when we were editing one of the choral pieces I had written, my mentor had stated things that didn’t make sense in the score, such as “You shouldn’t write middle voices more than an octave apart” among other smart music theory rules.

Yellow Hat – This hat is like a combination of the Red and Black hats. By looking for value in the music, you are looking for things you like, why it works, and appreciating the emotional response it elicits in the listener. In my meetings, this hat is worn when my mentor gives me a piece of music to analyse. Why would he give me this to look at and to listen to? And how can I use this in it’s most effective way?

Green Hat – Since this is the hat that helps with creativity, it is employed when I am writing music, or trying to think of ways that music works beyond the notes. What I mean by this is that when analyzing a piece of music, looking at the chord progressions and voicings is one thing, but seeing how the parts in the music serve an ultimately higher purpose that is the entirety of the song is not something that can be understood looking strictly at the intervals between notes. This sort of analyzing requires a higher level of creativity and understanding which my mentor gets me to do when we look at a piece of music. For example, we were looking at a Bob Chilcott choral arrangement of the popular Aesop’s Fables, and my mentor asked me things like “Why do you think he was able to write such polyrhythmic music and text?” and the sort of things like that, that really got me to think just beyond one or two bars in music.

Blue Hat – This hat is used at the beginning and end of my meetings. We discuss what we want to accomplish today, and then we decide on what we want to work on moving forward. This helps keeping me on task and just trying to accomplish one goal at a time, and not take on several in one go before properly understanding things that I need to know.

“Music is, for me, like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.” – W. A. Mozart