4.15.2011

Reprieve of the Gleeman


When I learned how to juggle in junior high it seemed one of those fleeting hobbies that carries one through adolescence. True, I threw myself into honing my skills with a characteristic passion, checked books out from the library, looked up tutorials online, and even said (out loud AND in public) that I wanted to grow up to be a circus clown, but in the end nothing came of it and I moved on to the yo-yo or tin whistle. (My unicycle phase was extremely short.)

Leave it to higher education to justify a junior higher's brief love affair with throwing, catching, and dropping objects! In Advanced Conducting Julian suggests that we attain independence of hands through whatever means possible: writing our class notes in the left hand and... juggling! My goal at this point is to juggle two balls with my left hand while conducting a simple 4-pattern in the right. Preliminary attempts are promising although I can feel the two halves of my brain arguing in sluggish petulance.

The project this quarter is Mass, Op. 1 by CWU Professor Vijay Singh. The genre of the modernly retrospective mass has so much to offer to the millenarian text. He uses modal flavors, a few dissonant jazz chords (he is renown for his jazz groups), additive ostinatos (including one which builds to "great cacophony" in the Credo), and a cyclic reminder of the turgid Kyrie at the very last moments of the Agnus Dei. There is a certain self consciousness about a piece like this, a certain secularism, but not in a particularly bad way. The symbols are too old, and words too ancient. It's a different time and the modern composer must traverse the chasms which separate us from that fairy tale world of pure vowels, pure words, pure intentions (at once a historical and an a-historical place). For me the texts of the Ordinary are like that, almost Platonically beyond the present and yet inexplicably bound to the brokenness of reality.

I experienced the same thing when working on Missa Magna in Santa Barbara with Michael Eglin. These modern settings are like ice cream spoons which carve something out within me and leave a sense of breathlessness. I really look forward to delving deep within.

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