Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Music Of My Heart

I've always been a pretty musical person. Music was always been instrumental in my life. In fact, if someone told me today that I either had to live the rest of my life completely deaf or completely blind, I would choose blindness because I couldn't bear to be without music. I would miss seeing things, but not being able to hear the sounds of so many different kinds of music, the melodies, the harmonies, etc. is something I would miss far more.

I love analyzing music and asking why a composer chose that particular melodic phrase or that particular harmony or that particular accompaniment. I love the beauty dissonant harmonies can create. I love analyzing the poetry of different lyrics. I love the different ways in which music can move me. I like a good catchy tune, but I also like listening to very intricate and hard-to-predict melodies as well.

I don't have perfect pitch, but I do have relative pitch. That is to say, if I hear a tone in relation to another tone or hear the starting pitch of a song, for example, eventually I can find it on my own without having to hear it. If I sing a song several times, for example, then my body how the notes feel to me, and I am able to find them without help. I also can recognize if a song is in a different key than the one I learned it in. Or if I have songs on a CD in a particular order, when one song ends, I know what note the next song will start on. But I can't just hear a specific note and tell you what it is (I have friends that can do that). I'm also good at immediately recognizing if somebody is flat or sharp and am also good at not going flat or sharp myself. I'm pretty good at sight reading vocal parts and once I've memorized a part, I can sing it well. This is especially useful when singing tight or dissonant harmonies (meaning I am good at staying on my part even if someone is singing something that clashes with my part. This has come in handy in shows like Forever Plaid, Sweeney Todd, and White Christmas, for example.

I used to compose music a lot. I'm primarily a singer, but I can play the piano a bit. I can sight read, but my finger placement on the piano is not very good, so my hands can't keep up with my eyes. I can play a bit by ear, too. I can hear a melody on the piano and pick it out easily. In fact, it took me some time that not everyone had this skill. I'm also pretty good at hearing harmonies or accompaniments and picking them out. Other friends are much better at it than I am, but I'm fairly good.

Sometimes I will hear a tune in my head and hear harmonies and play around until I can play what I'm hearing in my head. Occasionally I'll accidentally play a harmony I like better and substitute it. I especially like dissonant or unusual harmonies.

I took music theory and know some stuff, but I would like to take it again and refresh my memory and hone my talents a little better. I think I could compose and fake my way through songs better if I did.

When I was in high school and my undergrad, I composed a lot of songs. I wrote scores for musicals I dreamed of one day writing and often used music as a way to work out feelings I was having about various things in my life. I still have all the songs I ever completed. Some I only have on tape; others I wrote out. I also have some unfinished pieces. Some still hold up well, in my opinion. Others aren't that good. And I admit, my piano skills are not sharp enough to play some of the more complex things I wish I could play. The accompaniments for most of my songs are pretty easy to play, I would imagine. I've always wanted to get a really good music writing software program and a keyboard, but my expenses never seem to allow it, and because composing is more of a hobby, I've never actually done it.

Well I especially fall short in my earlier compositions are the lyrics. There are some good ideas, but some of the rhymes seem forced or syllables are put on the wrong stress or I try to force too many lyrics into a particular melodic phrase. Some are just plain bad, period. As I've gotten older, I've gotten better, but I would still say that I am a better composer than lyric-writer. I still have some songs I'm especially proud of. Others I've considered tweaking or reworking now that my skills are better.

And, of course, I do have a certain style, so many of my songs sound the same. I try to avoid it, and sometimes I succeed, but many of them do have a similar feel.

I don't really know why I stopped writing. I used to do it so often when I was younger. In fact, it was a nice way to work through feelings and it was something I really enjoyed doing. I think I just got lazy or wondered what the point really was.

The last major song I wrote was in 1999, I think. I diddled around a bit, but I think that was the last really complete song I wrote (and actually, it's one I still like very much). Then I just sort of stopped. It wasn't conscious; it just happened. Life just got busy. Plus I didn't always have access to a piano, so I just sort of stopped composing. I played the piano often (still do), but it was always other people's work or, occasionally, I'd pull out an old song of mine and play through it to see if I still liked it. I don't know why I never wrote anything new.

Occasionally, a melody would pop into my head, but instead of playing with it, I just let it go, forever lost to the ages. About two weeks ago, a melody popped into my head as well as an idea of what I wanted the song to be about. I really liked the melody, so I started playing around with it on the piano, and I'm pleased with what I came up with (although I do wish my piano skills were more proficient, so I could create a really interesting accompaniment. I still feel my lyrics are my weak spot. I like a lot of what I've come up with as far as ideas, but I'm not sure the execution works well with the melody.

In any case, it's kind of fun to be composing again after such a long hiatus. It makes me remember how much I enjoyed doing it in the first place. I still would like a software program, so I don't have to write this all out in long hand. I'm done with the melody, harmonies, and accompaniment, for the most part, but I'm still working on some lyrics. In any case, it's close to being done. I'm glad I took the time to do it (it helps that I''m currently unemployed (although not for long).

I'm not even sure why I posted this. It was just on my mind. It's just fun to have another creative outlet back in my life after being on the back burner for so long.

1 comment:

jen said...

I'm glad you're finding music again. I have never composed music. I have sat down at my piano and just played what came, but once I stopped playing, I could never repeat it.

I do love music though. SO much heart in it for me.