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The Pit and the Pendulum, Part 2


Robert Baldwin, Music Director for the Salt Lake Symphony, Music Director for the Utah Philharmonia, and Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Utah shares more of his thoughts on the importance of rhythm, meter, and tempo in music. He shares that music is not a perfect mathematical equation and neither is time in a musical piece. There is always ebb and flow. There is always adaptation, especially in live performances.

Before the Downbeat

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I’ll be climbing out of the pit after the last run of Susannah tonight.  It’s been a great experience, and full of potential for the pondering mind.  Inevitability.  Events that lead to something else.  The Grand Finale.  That incessant beat of the clock, metronome, and human heart; counting down to a predestined end.  Is this where we find meaningful rhythm and flow?  Or is it rather a stream into which we we enter, subdivide, and play?   Always present.  Welcoming us to participate.

The problem with the first example, is that it is too clinical, too easy.  In my experience it’s also completely wrong.  The thought that music, creativity, or life itself can be relegated to mere numbers is a popular misconception.  Yes, music is math.  Life is math.  Yes, proportions, ratios and relationships certainly exist.  But as human beings, our lives simply don’t operate this way.  Science is starting to…

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Rhythm in Music


Robert Baldwin, Music Director for the Salt Lake Symphony, Music Director for the Utah Philharmonia, and Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Utah shares his thoughts on the importance of rhythm, meter, and tempo – an aspect of music often neglected when focusing on notes, pitches, timbre, sound quality, etc.

Dr. Craig Jessop, director of the American Festival Chorus, stresses this as well. Dr. Jessop uses “count singing” – a method he inherited from studying with Robert Shaw and the Robert Shaw Singers. This is where the notes are sung by singing “One, Two, Tee, Four”. This ensures the musicians keep an “inner pulse” going on inside their head when the time comes to put actual words to the music. It also helps musicians know exactly when notes are moving, beginning and ending of phrases, and note durations. Dr. Jessop swears by this practice.

Before the Downbeat

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I’ve emerged from the pit thinking about rhythm and tempo.  I’m there all week with the orchestra putting together Carlisle Floyd’s opera, Susannah.  There’s a lot that can go wrong on stage, and even more with this show as it includes live gunshots!  All in all, it was a good first rehearsal.  The only lingering issues are finding a consensus with rhythm and tempo.

Certainly, these are two things that are very important to my craft as a conductor.  Tempo control, metric organization and rhythmic precision are all something that is a great responsibility for all of us–the conductor, singer, and orchestra.  But behind all my admonishments to “watch the stick,” “play the subdivision correctly,” and  “don’t rush (or drag),” there is a deeper truth to the importance of flow and rhythm in the music.

“Time is like a superglue, keeping our story in order as we navigate the world…

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American Festival Chorus Concert – American Festival Singers perform St. John’s Passion


 

The American Festival Singers of American Festival Chorus will be performing the St. John’s Passion in the St. John’s Episcopal Church on April 6th.

Update April 12, 2012: The Herald Journal has posted an article describing the performance on April 6. Here is the article: http://bit.ly/IMtBV6
“To me, this is about three things, really — first of all, it’s about building community and goodwill,” said former Mormon Tabernacle Choir Director Craig Jessop.   “Second, the music of J.S. Bach — whom I feel is, without a doubt, the touchstone of the western music tradition, of western civilization,” Jessop continued. “This represents one of the supreme achievements of the human mind, and it’s motivated totally by both faith and devotion.”

Update March 29, 2012: The St John’s Episcopal Church in Logan, UT provides a wonderful cathedral sound. Here is an example of singing in a cathedral from Westminster Chorus:

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