Posts Tagged ‘music composition class’

Music Comp Collaborates with Visual Artists

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

(from L) Kevin, Julian, Will, Nick and Corwin gather around the piano

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Last year, Kevin Sullivan’s Honor Music Composition class collaborated with student poets and a vocalist. Those lucky enough to attend “Idyllwild Arts Day in LA” heard their interpretations live (see “From Music Comp Class to March 1st Recital” Idyllwild Me blog post dated Feb. 27, 2011).

This year, however, the three songwriting students–Will, Nick and Corwin–are collaborating with three visual artists, including Josh, Zoe and Inga.

“I thought we’d mix it up a little bit,” Kevin said. “Next year, we’re thinking of working with vocal music students again.”

Although the songwriting students have been hard at work for months and have seen the pieces by the visual artists, it was still a surprise to two of the artists.

“They’re writing songs about my painting?” asked Josh, a sophomore visual artist from Taiwan.

The one they selected of Josh’s is called “Greedy,” and features a pig eating another pig while other pigs sitting around a table are watching him. The painting is hanging on Josh’s wall in his dorm room.

He said it’s a statement about the human condition, and not necessarily about anyone in particular.

“The pig doesn’t even know that he’s eating himself,” Josh laughed.

(from L) Kevin gestures to Julian emphasizing his point

It wasn’t the first time Josh has used a pig in his artwork. He once painted a single pig with money coming out of it years ago in China.

“They’re still writing songs about our art?” Zoe asked, as she was preparing for the SAT. “That was months ago.”

Earlier this semester, Nick went through her portfolio and picked out the photograph, which features a blended image of Isaac, a writer, and Delilah, a former visual artist.

“I took the photograph right after a fashion show,” Zoe explained. “Delilah wore heavy makeup, and it was a nice contrast to Isaac, who was shot in profile and was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.”

Sometime this year, Zoe started cutting the photographs apart, and then weaving them together.

“It looks more like a bar code to me,” she said.”Photographs can be like math, so technical.”

“Yes, we’ve been working on these compositions for a long time now,” Kevin explained. “But they’ve gone through anywhere from 10 to 15 drafts. We also went on the USC Songwriter’s Tour, and there was Spring Break and such.”

Back at the piano in Kevin’s comp class, Will was listening to Julian, a fellow piano player, sight read his music. During most Thursday night classes, they critique each other, but tonight, Julian was adding his own comments.

The painting by Josh (shown with girlfriend Vita) features pigs devouring each other

“I asked Julian to play for us today to find out of there’s any ‘finger busters,’ in which a piano player has to twist his fingers in a weird way,” Kevin explained.

“It’s doable,” Julian said about Corwin’s version of  Josh’s painting, “Greedy.” However, he asked about the “voicing.”

Kevin explained that in jazz, “voicing” is the order of chords, and a pianist can play the same notes in many different ways, emphasizing different notes. He asked Julian to play it three different ways, which gave Corwin several options to choose from.

“You don’t want to leave it to the piano player to interpret your work, because then it will sound different each time it’s played,” Kevin explained.

After Julian played one of Will’s pieces, “Beneath the Window” for Inga’s painting, Kevin suggested that he and Julian play it again, splitting up the right and left hands.

“I wonder if there’s a way we can make it sound a little richer,” Kevin said.

“You need to write a good challenging piece. It makes it more interesting for the piano player,” Kevin added.

Nick reaches into the exposed piano keys to strum them

By the time they finished, Kevin, Will and Julian were pleased with with the results to “draft no. 11.”

“Now, it’s got a little more color and brightness, and not so grumbling,” Kevin told Will, who was nodding in agreement.

Nick wanted to show the others what he recently added to Zoe’s piece. With Will’s help, he took off the top of the piano, exposing the chords underneath.

Julian laughed. “Have you heard of ‘Macro Cosmos?'” he asked. “George Krumb had a woman shout, ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ into the exposed piano.”

Just for fun, Kevin repeated those words into their exposed piano keys, while Nick pushed the pedals. The result was an eerie echo.

Instead of sheet music, Nick was playing from his laptop screen. At the given moment, he reached into the piano and strummed the exposed keys. It sounded like a harp.

“It’s supposed to sound like a snake,” Nick said, pleased with the effect.

Kevin said that Janette, who will be performing their work, is interested in modern classical music, in which you do unconventional things like strum the exposed keys.

“We’re just glad that she’s willing to do this for us,” Kevin said.

Nick then demonstrated how his songwriting software plays back the song for him.

“You know instantly how it’s going to sound,” Nick said. “I can’t believe that Kevin actually sits in his room and writes all the notes out by hand. This is the 21st century!”

Just then,Kevin took over the piano and played a prelude (from sheet music that was written out by hand). It was beautiful, quiet and slow. Afterwards, there was a hushed silence among the student songwriters.

Then Nick said, “That’s why he’s our comp teacher.”

(from L) Will, Nick and Corwin embrace technology

In the next few weeks, the music comp class will finish each of their collaborations, and then present it to the visual artists and others who want to attend. In short, there will be four different views of each painting, including preludes.

The performance date hasn’t been set yet, and Kevin is scrambling to find an open spot with all of the junior and senior music recitals going on nearly every night.

Zoe, admitted that she was a little nervous.

“It’s going to be really cool,” she said. “But what can I say about my work? Sometimes, it’s just not all that deep and complicated. It’s just is.”

Josh was excited about hearing their work.

“Do you know the date yet?” he asked with a big smile. “I want to bring all of my friends!”

Will said they will likely give the musical pieces to the artists as gifts.

In the meantime, we’ll have to wait for the Music Comp performance until a date opens up.

Tonight, however, (Wednesday, May 9) Nick and Will, will be presenting a variety of songs they’ve written for their junior recital. It starts at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

From Music Comp Class to March 1st Recital

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

(from L) Comp music student, Arik, and his teacher, Kevin Michael Sullivan, discuss the merits of the class

By Marcia E. Gawecki

A new honors music composition class is quickly gaining popularity at Idyllwild Arts. Mostly because of its recent collaboration between music students and poetry students on campus. The two groups are teaming up for a performance for “Idyllwild Arts Day” in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 12.

They are taking original poems and setting them to music. However, some of their collaborations will be previewed this Tuesday night, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. as part of an Idyllwild Arts Music Faculty Concert at Stephens Recital Hall.

Each of the four hand-picked music students in the comp class get individual attention, said Kevin Michael Sullivan, the instructor. The four students are Caleb, a trumpet player; Arik and Benny, pianists; and Chris, a viola player.

“They keep me on my game,” Kevin said of the group who has helped him with his own music compositions. “They’re good kids and very sharp.”

Vocal music student, Samuel (shown here at another performance) helps out the composition students with their ongoing work

Oftentimes in class, Samuel, a classical vocal music student, sings their compositions out loud, so they can make adjustments.

“The first few class sessions were hard,” Sam said. “Mostly because the writer and the composer didn’t always see eye-to-eye.”

Benny said that his first composition climaxed too early, and it wasn’t exactly what he wanted.

“Do you think I could transpose it?” he asked Kevin, while eating lunch in the cafeteria.

“I think that would work,” Kevin said.

Sam, who sang Benny’s first song, agreed that it needed a change.

“The high ranges almost killed my voice,” he said, jokingly.

Sam said that he takes notes on the poems during the composition class to see what the best interpretation might be. He said that he considers himself a “vehicle” for the writer, in keeping the words “sacred.”

The creative writers who are providing the poems and collaborating with the musicians, include: Rebecca, Whitney and two Austins.

Benny, a pianist, enjoys the challenge of the honors music comp class. Courtesy photo.

Caleb, who is working with Austin on his poem, “New World Order,” about mankind, said that he heard it at last year’s Parallex (a student publication) reading, and liked it.

Caleb is setting Austin’s poem to modern music, using a bunch of different instruments from a sound mixer to achieve the desired effect.

“Caleb’s piece is really cool, but very complex,” Sam said.

With most of the poetry collaboration songs, Sam will sing them onstage at the “Idyllwild Arts Day in LA. However, with Caleb’s piece, Austin’s voice will be prerecorded. Austin will be reciting the words, while Sam will be singing the melody.

“Caleb decided that only my voice was right for the voice over,” Austin said.

At the same time, Sam is a little nervous about the Caleb-Austin collaboration, because he’ll be out of town with his own senior vocal auditions while it’s being completed.

“It’ll all work out,” Sam said. “It always does.”

Whitney, a creative writing student who is working with Arik, a piano player, is also a little nervous about her collaboration.

Austin is collaborating with Caleb on one of his poems, "New World Order"

“I don’t want to say, ‘nervous,’ because it sounds like I don’t trust him,” Whitney said.

She said this was the first time that one of her poems has been set to music. She is looking forward to seeing it performed onstage.

“It’s terrifying to hear your work performed onstage,” Kevin said. “You’re like a parent in the audience, and have no control over what’s being done up there.”

At the last faculty recital, one of Kevin’s pieces was performed by Idyllwild Arts faculty and students. During Tuesday night’s faculty recital, not only will Kevin’s pieces be performed, but he will also be playing the saxophone.

Even though they are not completed, some of these music composition-poetry collaborations will be performed at the recital this Tuesday night, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Stephens Recital Hall on campus.  Faculty and guest artists will perform oboe, sax and piano, along with some classical music and jazz students.

All recitals and concerts at Idyllwild Arts are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

: Feb 27, 2011 @ 10:13