Lori Laitman: They might not need me

6 01 2010

Hidden smile

by focus2capture, used under Creative Commons

Since I try to highlight works in the public domain, I have essentially been ignoring anything published after 1923. This is a pity, because there is so much wonderful and exciting music that has come along since then! Lest you get the wrong impression that we might not need them, I’ll try to be better about incorporating them.

Several years ago, I performed at a national convention, and composer Lori Laitman approached me afterward, suggesting I look at some of her songs. I was not disappointed, as her music covers quite the range of expression, from humorous and lively (as in this song from the cycle Night and Day) to dark and somber. All her songs have a lot of heart, making it easy for both singer and audience to connect with them. Additionally, Laitman selects excellent texts, demanding equally excellent diction and commitment to character from the singer.

They might not need me — yet they might —
I’ll let my Heart be just in sight —
A smile so small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity —

–Emily Dickinson

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Music and technology — Eric Whitacre: Sleep

16 09 2009

I’m using the Concordia College Faith, Reason, and World Affairs Forum to begin posting again. It’s my new place of employment, and this blog is one way in which I answer the following question:

This summer, I sang with the Utah Festival Opera, and it became painfully obvious how integrated technology has become in the arts world. The entire apartment complex had complimentary (although slow) Wi-Fi. Email was the backbone for all official and professional communication. News was received via the web, be it through individual web pages or through an aggregator like Netvibes or Google Reader, or by streaming audio/video or Podcasts. We saw the wide reach of the web when the director of the company was both lauded and vilified in comments made on the local paper’s site.

When it came to communicating directly, I wasn’t surprised that those with iPhones and GooglePhones always seemed to be a step ahead of the rest of us. I watched one colleague use his new account on Google Voice to set up a NYC phone number that would forward to his Houston-based cell phone for business purposes. The number of people who used Skype surprised me, and the fact that one colleague used Skype to take lessons from a teacher in New York City proved to me that we have moved into a new era of communication.

Less formally, everyone (including the artist coordinator) used Facebook to keep in touch with friends far away and friends just around the corner — my upstairs roommate and I would have entire Facebook conversations in the comment sections of a friend’s photo or status update after our other roommates had gone to bed. Texting was more than a luxury; I couldn’t have coordinated rides to the theatre or been alerted to an impromptu gathering without it. Twitter and FriendFeed hadn’t really caught on with the artists, but I tried them out, which left my personal journal virtually abandoned. I did some virtual gardening via Flickr — I was able to look at pictures of my garden and say what needed to be pulled and what needed to be kept.

We relaxed to shows and movies on Hulu, or the latest delivery from NetFlix, or to MMO video games like World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Team Fortress. Some liked to kick it old-school and play old DOS, Nintendo, Sega, and arcade games on their laptops backstage, while others played games on their phones. Pandora provided the soundtrack to many evening get-togethers. No gathering was complete without sharing YouTube videos, both the ridiculous and the sublime.

It is in that spirit, then, that I want to look at what the web has allowed us to do. It serves as inspiration; it allows for individual expression; most impressively, it allows us to collaborate in new and unique ways. The way that these singers have been brought together into this one video is, to me, one of the most amazing uses of “Web 2.0” techniques I have ever seen. Technology can be overstimulating, but it can also be positively transcendental.


(I know this isn’t technically an art song, but Wednesdays on this blog are “wildcard Wednesdays” and this was too cool not to share)





H.T. Burleigh: Deep River

25 03 2009

Red River Flooding #1, by Cobber99 (CC)

The Red River flooding is on my mind today. I recently sang with Fargo-Moorhead opera. I have friends in Fargo. My parents are from Bismarck/Mandan, where the Missouri is flooding, too.

I woke up with this song in my head this morning and found it comforting. “Oh, don’t you want to go…?” Yes, I do. But I must stay home and work on finishing my doctoral thesis. My thoughts and prayers go out in support of those living and helping in these communities.

Deep river, my home is over Jordan.
Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over into camp ground.
Oh, don’t you want to go to that gospel feast?
That promised land, where all is peace?





Charles Tomlinson Griffes: An Old Song Re-sung

23 03 2009

I

"The summer wind was failing and the tall ship rolled"

A grand pirate ship sails by and the crew drinks merrily. For whatever reason, the ship begins to sink, but the crew takes no notice. Finally, the ship goes under and only the floating bottles remain, clinking against one another. Griffes captured all these moments deftly in this gem.

As a young singer, I patterned my voice after singers I liked the sound of. Before formal study, it was David Gayne of Depeche Mode; when I started singing in earnest, I copied Thomas Hampson, to the point my teacher regularly reminded me, “Stop trying to sound like him!” This piece shows well what I liked about him — the dedication to the text paired with a warm but powerful vocal instrument capable of an extremely wide range of dynamics and colors.





John Alden Carpenter: The Sleep that Flits on Baby’s Eyes

16 03 2009

the sleep

"does anybody know from where it comes?"

I was listening to an interview on MPR Mid-morning in which psychology researcher Dacher Keltner, discussing communal structures, mentioned that “babies ensure their own care” by being cute and helpless. And if you’ve ever seen a sleeping baby, you can’t help but smile and say, “AWWWwwww.”  Carpenter captures that sense in music paired with Tagore’s magical/mystical text.

Carpenter is a minor figure in American art song, but his handful of songs are well-crafted, and a pleasure both to hear and to sing. This particular song comes from his cycle of six songs, Gitanjali.





Richard Hageman: Do not go, my love

9 03 2009
I fear, lest I lose you while I am sleeping

"I fear, lest I lose you while I am sleeping"

The feeling of not wanting to fall asleep because you’d miss being conscious in the arms of your beloved, that’s what this song is about. Hageman captures the fear, the sadness of potential loss, the dreaminess.

I wanted to link a full performance by an established professional and hesitated to link only to a YouTube video of a young singer, especially since there are other professional recordings available on CD (John Aler, Thomas Hampson, to name a few). Mr. Bershatsky does an admirable job, though, and is the best I could find.