Listening to music in a different way

The New York Times is a paper I go back to fairly regularly in terms of music related articles. In the Opinion Section of the website is a blog, Measure for Measure which has a variety of different articles dealing with music writing. Andrew Bird wrote one, Without Words back on 21 June that I keep coming back to.

He initially talks about concern over how much he likes one of his recent projects, then moves into how adding drums changes the feeling of a piece. Bird eventually ends up talking about how words can change a piece and not sure if he will very really like instrumental music - and yet, he's been listening to an instrumental version and liking it.

During the initial compositional process of "It Must Be Fate" there were a lot of decisions made about what the music should do. As we rehearsed it, I was surprised to hear so much of what I wanted in the music to actually be coming out. Then, during the performance, I was so focused on the performance I didn't really listen to the music in that way. However, the recording sheds yet another light on the music, in how it blends and moves and seems to be relentless. The opera really needs some spaces to breathe, but I didn't get that while I was composing or rehearsing the piece. I also was able to work with the mixing engineer on the recording, so I was able to hear how the blends worked (or didn't). I'm happy to say they do (for the most part) just what I'd wanted them too in terms of vocal lines. The accompaniment is too much and needs to be thinned out a great deal (which should make the pianist happy as it is currently a pretty difficult score to play). It will also be re-arranged for more than just piano, but for the working process a piano works.

All of these thoughts are (in part) stirred by the above article by Andrew Bird, with the idea of learning to listen to music in different ways. It's one thing to play it all together, but quite another to take it appear and understand the pieces. And yet another to hear the piece together but in a different mix, bringing out different lines and how that changes the feeling of the piece. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury to keep performing the opera again and again while I work it to perfection. Hopefully, I will get a few more chances to workshop/preview sections of it before it's premiered. It is coming along really well, but I need to keep listening to get it right.


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