Monday, July 26, 2010

New Music Selected: Shadows of Venice

As you might remember from a previous post, I enjoy Baroque music, but prefer the simplicity of the Italians to the ostentatious flourishes of the Germans.  I have a special place in my heart for Vivaldi.  Maybe it's the simplicity of the music, the austere joy he conveyed, or the fact that, like me, he wrote for school-age musicians, providing them with quality material.  When I visited Venice many years ago, I came across the church where he worked and had one of my very first full conversations in Italian.  It went something like this:

[I arrive at the church, right on the Grand Canal and see a woman at the box office window]

Me: Buena sera!  Questo é la chiesa di Vivaldi, si?
Her: [nods]
Me: La sua tomba non é qui?
Her: [shakes her head "no"]
Me: Ma che un concerto da qui questa sera.
Her: [nods]
Me: Hmm. Grazie. [exit]

I thought I did pretty well for a beginner, even if she seemed kind of annoyed with me. 

So anyway, I enjoy Vivaldi and wanted to write a piece in his style.  I'm really not a good mimic of style - everything I write sounds like me - but wanted to use some of Vivaldi's techniques, like his sequences, articulation style and rhythms (I think of Vivaldi's rhythms being very "square." They're angular and require very precise, even playing).  The form that is most frequently associated with Il Prete Roso is the concerto, so I felt this would be a great opportunity for school orchestras.

Written in ritornello form, my piece Shadows Of Venice starts off with the whole orchestra playing a dark main theme.  Then, students get a chance to play solos.  Students from each section get solos and it's very easy to break the solos up into smaller parts, giving more students a chance to stand out.  In fact, there could be as few as five soloists and as many as 24, depending on how the solo parts are broken up.  The MENC guidelines warrant that students should have the opportunity to play solos, and this is the perfect opportunity for them.

Shadows Of Venice is written for late-beginner students (probably the end of their first year) and negotiates three key changes without requiring anything but the first finger pattern and only uses three strings on each instrument.  I'm rather proud of that.  I'm also happy with the title.  The "shadows" can refer to the dark, minor-key style of the piece and could describe a nighttime chase through the city, over the bridges and through tight alleyways. The title could also refer to my modern take on Vivaldi's style: The piece isn't a direct copy, but uses elements of his style, hence "Shadows Of Venice."

You can read the blog post I wrote shortly after finishing the piece.

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