So it’s March, which means we are well into 2018 now. Theoretically, I should be able to write the date without crossing out the year… Anyway, I have been a busy little creative bee ever since I put out my last blog post. Which is good!
So what have I been up to this month?
I wrote a new piece for unaccompanied SATB voices called Be Still. It is about hearing the voice of God in the silence. The text is my own, largely adapted from God’s speech to Moses in Exodus. (I watched the Prince of Egypt the week before….) I wrote this piece for my mother, who is unfailingly supportive.
I have also decided to (finally) enter the world of YouTube. It was time, after all. You can listen to Be Still and a few other pieces now! The current plan for the next few months is to update once a week. Right now, I’m using screen grabs, but one day, I will venture into more advanced movie making.
I finished another choir piece using Lewis Carroll’s wonderfully quirky poem, The Lobster-Quadrille. This is another unaccompanied piece and it is light-hearted and fun. The poem basically set itself to music. It will be coming to my YouTube channel soon.
All in all, it has been quite the productive month.
That’s all for now!
Happy February! I can’t believe it’s already the end of February. I mean, I know it’s a short month, but still!
I wanted to talk about writer’s block and how I (attempt) to get myself out of it. As you may know, I moved to Canada a year (!!) ago. And while I am waiting for all of my immigration paperwork to be sorted out, I am unable to work. Which is fine. I find ways to keep myself busy. I sing in two choirs in the area and I spend a lot of time with new friends and family. So it is kind of a blessing and a curse because it is up to me (and only me) to motivate myself into writing.
Sometimes the music flows like a river and I can get two or three pages of notes down in an hour or so. And that’s great! Other days the river runs dry as a bone and I hate everything I put on the page. And that’s okay too. It’s all part of the process. What I’m finding, however, is that it becomes so easy to tie in my self-worth as a composer to my weekly productivity. And that’s not good. That is a recipe for disaster.
So this month, I have been experimenting with new ways of starting my own creative flow. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- I have to be nice to myself. I need to cut myself some slack on days when I feel like a musical failure. Because I’m not. I have to constantly remind myself that I have a degree in music composition and I have a personality that makes it easy to connect with other musicians. And even though I’m still learning, I have a voice and talent to offer to the musical community around me.
- Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing my scenery. When I’m sitting in front of my piano and nothing is happening, I get up. I move. Sometimes it’s a walk to the closest shopping center. Sometimes, it’s as easy as moving to a different room in my house.
- I can edit other scores. It is no secret that my least favorite part of composing is page layouts and score editing. It is the bane of my existence. But it is a necessary evil. And few things bother me more than a poorly edited score. So when a new piece isn’t coming together the way I want it to, sometimes I will take a break and edit the layout of other pieces to get them ready for publication. This was a suggestion from my composition teacher at Campbell. And it does work for me. It’s a sort of productive procrastination.
- Always, always, always listen. I listen to music while I do almost everything. Cleaning my house, knitting, reading. I always have music going. And when I’m not listening (or sleeping) I work on choir music. As I said, I am a member of two choirs in Ottawa and I work on choral music particularly when I feel I can’t write.
I am not saying this is a foolproof method of curing writer’s block. But these are things I have found work for me (7/10 times).
In other news, my newest choral piece, A Lullaby, will be available for purchase soon!
I can’t believe it but here we are in 2018! I am excited to share with you what is going on in my life as a composer!
My choral piece O Come! debuted last month in spectacular fashion! The Bytown Voices did an amazing job! I am truly humbled that they were willing to and enthusiastic about singing my piece.
I am currently working on an SATB choral setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Bells. It’s coming along (mostly) swimmingly. I am also working on a SSA setting of a lullaby, text by myself.
I have also (roughly) recorded my piano solo Festival Dance, which you can watch on my Facebook page.
Well, that’s all for now!
So I have been living in Canada for about seven (seven?!) months. And in that time, I have not been allowed to work. Which has given me a lot of time to write. And I have completed three pieces: a piano solo and two choral pieces.
This is a fun, light-hearted piano solo in 7/8 time. I wrote it for my kid brother who loves weird time signatures. As its name implies, it is a fast dance with heavy chords in the left hand and light flourishes in the right. And it is so much fun to play!
Wade in the Water
I think I have already mentioned this piece several times. But it is a choral arrangement of the African spiritual for unaccompanied SATB and body percussion. I wanted to set the spiritual but because it is such a famous and oft-performed one, I needed something different. A schtick. And thus, the body percussion section was born. Because the choir needs their hands (and feet) to perform this piece, it is best performed memorized.
O Come! is a choral arrangement of five traditional Christmas hymns set to an original piano accompaniment. What a joy this was to write! The hymns used are as follows:
- O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- Sing We Now of Christmas
- What Child is This
- Carol of the Bells
I have wanted to write this piece for many, many years because Christmas is such an important holiday in my family. And this came together quite nicely. The biggest (and most exciting) news from all of this is that the Bytown Voices, a community choir I joined in Ottawa, is going to read this piece in the upcoming season!
This amazing feeling is how I know I’m a composer. For information on purchasing these (or other) scores, please see the Scores page on this website!
That’s all for now!
If you know me well, you know that I do a good chunk of my writing directly on the computer. If you know me well, you also know that I don’t always take the best care of my computers. I have been working from a laptop/tablet combo for the last few years and it seems to be working out okay. I did have one crash which meant I lost the first draft of Wade in the Water (luckily I had a hard copy) and a few other pieces I was working on (Say goodbye to The Lullaby of the Duchess…).
I’m the type who works on a piece almost nonstop and then laments when my computer fails me. But luckily, I am also the type to print out and revise from a hard copy (shout out to Dr. C for that habit). That being said, I nearly lost Wade in the Water a second time because my computer malfunctioned this weekend. Yes, I had a hard copy but I discovered errors in the piano reduction that needed to be fixed. Plus, I hate putting files back into Finale from scratch. It’s the bane of my existence.
Anywho, this morning when I finally got my computer booted up, I immediately saved everything I have been working on to my trusty flash drive. This flash drive is magic and somehow in three years, I’ve never lost it. Thought I did. Especially when I was stressing through my recitals and everything I had ever written for my recital was saved on that flash drive. I have been lucky with it though. Left it in the computer lab at Campbell once while working on my electronic music final project. I went home and forgot it and all night I panicked because my final project was on the drive and I had no idea where it was. Got to school early the next day (in case I had to start over) and there it was. My beautiful (lucky) flash drive.
So worry not, dear friends. My files are safe and backed up and my computer looks like it shall live to write another day.
It is a well-known fact among my close friends and family that I like weird time signatures. Partly because my kid brother (who played euphoium in high school) loves music with weird time signatures and partly because it’s just something different. I don’t hide it. It’s who I am. I try not to write in weird time signatures too often because I know its complicated and people don’t like complicated. (Ha!) But I had to with Jabberwocky. Because Lewis Carroll was a weird guy and Jabberwocky is a weird poem. So too, should the music be. For those who don’t know, smack dab in the middle of my choral setting of Jabberwocky is a section in 10/8 for a rhythmic chant. And it worked out beautifully.
So I wanted to write more stuff in weird time signatures. That is how Festival Dance, my newest piano solo came about. Sometimes, when I’m writing music, it just flows from my brain onto the paper (or computer) without interruption. These are the pieces I know I will write fast and well. It happened with Jabberwocky. It happened with Inferno. And it’s happened again with Festival dance. It is a light and jovial piece into which I tried to capture euphoria and joy. I set it in 7/8 with a few measures in 4/8 for good measure (ha!). As soon as I put the finishing touches (dynamics and page editing, ugh!) I will put it up on here for all to witness. I think it’s safe to say I have made my kid brother proud!
So it’s been a few months since I last updated anything. And a lot has happened very quickly. So I will hit the highlights.
- In June 2016, I got engaged to a wonderful and handsome man. We set a wedding date for January so suddenly my life became about wedding planning and whatnot.
- In November 2016, I was offered a tiny raise and more hours at my retail job. With a wedding to plan, I took it.
- In January, 2017, I quit my retail job (sadly) and I got married (twice!) to my wonderful man. Which brings us to
- February 2017. I am staying with my husband in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada!
So needless to say, a lot has gone on since I’ve been away. But things are slowing down and I want to continue updating this page. So, the question everyone is asking (I’m sure) is “What are you working on now?” Great. Here’s a list:
- Mama’s Girl: My musical is kind of an ongoing project. Slow and steady, after all.
- Wade in the Water: That’s right. The piece I was working on last year is still in progress because I had a minor computer crash. It happens. Luckily, I had a hard copy. Also, in rewriting, I have had a lot of revision opportunities. So I added body percussion, changed the key, added new harmonies, the works. So that’s nearly done. I hope to have it finished by the end of Black History Month.
- Miscellaneous piano pieces: After finishing Inferno I wanted to write more piano music. So I’m working on a piece in 7/8 called Festival Dance. So far, it’s going pretty well.
- Other than composing stuff, I’ve been checking out the music scene in Ottawa. I’ve even joined a community choir. All in all, life is good!