In honor of this simultaneously tacky, yet endearing weekly holiday social media has contrived (the one we call “Throw Back Thursday, or, as the kids are hash-tagging it, TBT) I write a memory that carried me through High School: Music. I remember music be the element of school I got most excited for when I finally entered that final chapter of my high school career, and for good reason. There was a building-up, a buzz about what to expect in the High School music scene. In 8th grade we got a few visits from the band teacher for the upper-class ensemble and she would even conduct while our band instructor (who also taught at the High School) was away. She would tell us what to expect in High School and tell us about the fluidity of dynamics and the way a piece could swell when you played around with the tempo. I was sold. And let me just say, when the marching band came to my 8th grade gymnasium to play some songs from their half-time routine, I might have been the only one of my peers who was actually enthralled at the sight of the black capes the Drum Majors wore and the powerful drum cadence they played coming in. Sign. Me. Up. Ked.
Cut to my high school story. The daily: When most kids were giving high fives to the track stars and the football heroes in the morning, I was quietly ‘mirin’ the prodigal clarinetist when he walked by, obsessing over the latest lead in the musical, marveling at the vocal abilities of the A Capella singers, and just looking forward to any exposure to music that school could offer me. Like many (or should I say all) people, high school had its tumultuous moments, months-okay, years. But through it all, music was my foundation, my salvation. I remember the joy at the thought of going to wind ensemble because people couldn’t pick each other apart and have a mouthpiece in their face hole at the same time. People who could absolutely make my skin crawl with their words could make my heart soar with their instruments and songs.
I’ve come to realize so much about myself and my abilities, not to mention the beauty of others, through my exposure to music; and never was that more prominent than in High School where there was an entire department dedicated to the craft. In loving of memory of those beautiful times when I felt so afraid of who I was and what that meant, I’m going to drop in some of my favorite compositions and songs and leave you some descriptions of my relationship with them.
October by Eric Whitacre-I. Love. This. Song. I remember hearing the intro for the first time and being swept away. Ethereal realness is how I can best refer to the feels I get from this piece. Unfortunately my graduating class didn’t perform this piece, but we got some real gems to play in competition in Canada and New York.
The Divine Comedy-Inferno by Robert W. Smith-If October was ethereal realness, Inferno was the complete opposite. It was Hell. Literally. I crack myself up. We played this in, I think, Canada and received a Superior rating which felt pretty good. So many funny memories of our music teacher grilling into us the importance of dynamics because without them, the song sounds “poopy.” I can remember feeling pressure to keep the pace fast consistently. That was basically always my job as a flutist in high school. We get high pitch notes and fast sixteenth-note runs. And this song had an ample supply of both. I remember hearing our conductor shout over the music for the timpani player to hit that head harder and for the chain bearers to slow their roll down. I remember watching in amazement at the piccolo player during his solo. And dying watching the bassoons hold out their 10-measure-long whole notes. How is this all humanly possible? I thought. The trumpet soloist was 2 rows behind me, but when she held that bell up and blasted those chops playing that dirge, it felt like she couldn’t have been closer. This piece made me realize something about LIFE (bear with me) we can all experience the same emotional experience (a song about hell) but have such different experiences with it (having to keep your flute upright when your palms and fingertips are sweating from moving so fast is completely different than having to keep the beat on the drum, or modify the aperture of your clarinet to get the reed vibrating at the right frequency); and even though you’re all sharing this experience, it hurts or heals something different in each person. Wild, man.
You don’t have to listen to the whole thing; just pick one or two movements out. When I listen to this choral repertoire I feel CHALLENGED. I remember this being a turning point in my perception of music-learning this song, learning to “do” chorus. I was new to the challenge of choral music, but I was adamant about dipping my foot in the water in High School. I was given some amazing opportunities, and challenges. I remember thinking, “why did I ever think playing an instrument was more challenging than singing? EVER?” Trying to modify your own voice to fit the dynamics of a song and blend with the harmony all the while matching the pitch of the vocalists around you. Good lawd, chorus gave me a run for my money. I admired anyone who made it look easy. And there were a lot of you.
So I hope this throw-back gives you some insight into my love of music; my jack-of-all-trades, try anything once personality; and ya know, the window to my soul, as the blog title implies. If you take nothing else away from this, please give new music a chance. I can CHANGE you man.
BYE FOR NOW!