This piece is exhausting.
First I have to deal with concerns over the text that I better work out now, because I won’t be able to work it out later
For example, I’m looking at the text and think the line “Love is a friendship that has caught fire” is a bit off to the side and might need to go. I loose the “fire,” which I think can be a tremendous word to play with, but I can live with that knowing it is also the last word of the last line, “set your life on fire.”
I mentioned before that I don’t want chords to bully the tune, but I am also seeing that I don’t want the tune to bully the text. You could look at the whole of choral singing and say what you are dealing with is a group of people speaking strangely. Some call singing a form of speaking. Others find that analogy totally wrong. But in both cases the text needs to be central if you are composing anything remotely conventional.
Text temporarily aside, right now I’m working on harmonic and melodic language I can use for “There is a morning inside you waiting to burst open into light.” I”m a little concerned that we just talked about dancing with shadows and then go into light being superior. I don’t know what to do about this. There is some chance I have to search more and build a whole new text. Adding separated quotes into what sounds like one poem is hard to do. I don’t love the idea but I”ll take it for now.
With this harmonic language, in painting the word burst, I am looking at polychords in eight parts. Figuring out what notes are legal when takes some deep listening. By polychord I mean there are two chords happening at the same time. My big winner here so far is Eb Major with D minor 7. I think this might actually not be polychordal, I think you could also see the structure of these two chords as one really rich and complex Eb chord. In any case the challenge comes in figuring out how these chords can move, which is sort of tough, but the real kicker is that they need to be melody led. It’s just plain hard.
Maybe I should say it’s hard for me because I haven’t done it yet. If I go through this process in a disciplined way I think I’ll walk away having figured out how to manage and migrate polychords melodically and by then it won’t seem hard anymore. I’m skill building.
(3 minutes later)
I’m now finding something that could allow this to be less claustrophobic. I don’t have to change chords and melody at the same time. I can hold a chord with 6 voices, and then have some melody changing over the chords in octaves, soprano tenor. This is really close to what I did in a piece that didn’t make it – Crystal Songs – and to a reference I made to this in Be Still, page 2. This will give the melody a chance to breath a bit and let the chord progression move more slowly, which would keep this from being tyrannically hard to sing and being that hard to sing can be nails in the coffin. I’m already at risk with my octatonic opening, which I think I am going to stick with it although it is a little impossible to get much tune out of it, for me at least.
It might be implausible to think something this tough could make money for a publisher from a composer who does not have a big name, BUT this might be a good piece to enter into competitions. That is something I never have done but I think that is one valid destination for very hard choral pieces. As long as they aren’t hard just for the sake of being hard. If I think of this as a piece for a competition that frees me up from needing to obsess over market value.