Sullivan: The Lost Chord

1 09 2010

Pipe organ in the Cathedral at Beziers, by quinet (CC)

Over the summer, I performed with the Utah Festival Opera. Despite my best intentions, I didn’t have the time to devote to this blog. Now that it’s a new month and a new academic year, I’m back on the bandwagon.

I can’t really comment on the perfect marriage of text to music in this song, except to say it isn’t quite as effective when the accompaniment is played on the piano. There are many ways in which a piano can substitute for a full orchestra, but in a piece requiring powerful, sustained harmonies like an organ, it just doesn’t do justice.

Seated one day at the organ,
I was weary and ill-at-ease;
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.

I know not what I was playing
Or what I was dreaming then,
But I struck one chord of music
Like the sound of a great Amen.

I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the organ
And entered into mine.

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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)





Ralph Vaughan Williams: Easter

12 04 2009
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The cross taught all wood to resound his name

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him may’st rise;
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, Just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied,
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

–George Herbert