Posts Tagged ‘Mathieu’

Progress on “Progress”

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

We’ve been in rehearsals the last month for “Progress Through Knowledge,” my new band-with-choir piece written for the Centennial of Oklahoma Panhandle State University. I’ve been increasingly gratified with how the piece is coming together, and I’m excited about the premiere on October 8. As I wrote the piece over the summer, not knowing exactly how the two groups would come together, I agonized over the scoring, particularly in its thickness. We’ve made a few changes to the piece as the result of hearing it in the hall, but only in scoring, and generally thinning out, not adding. The real test will come a week from Monday, when the two groups come together.
I never seem to tire of this process. The real payoff is seeming a piece come to life for the first time, helping the performers to realize my vision. I’ve said before that “Music is about people,” and over the last few weeks, I’ve come to see that I still believe this. How does one apply this in the more routine situations we face as musicians and as teachers? Simply, I think it means that in music theory class, we never present only facts… we must remember that a scale or a chord progression has an emotional, human impact on the listener. We must link what we want to know about music to who we are as human beings. It is not simply enough, as I tell my students, to know that a major second comprises two half-steps, but rather we must make the major second a part of our experience… not just understand it, but breathe it, live it. Getting my students to really do this has to be my job, at least in first-year theory. An appealing approach in this regard is found in the book “Harmonic Experience” by W. Mathieu… some of his conclusions are off, but his approach–rooted in Eastern tradition–can’t be denied.
Somewhat of a ramble, but there it is…