1A Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead.
◦a musical composition setting parts of a requiem Mass, or of a similar character.
◦an act or token of remembrance.
I am deeply into my requiem’s resurrection. Blessed by a time of sabbatical from St Paul’s and with Tommy Starr’s typesetting (and opinions), my requiem setting for choir and organ is being edited and published for a premiere performance in 2020. I call this editing project a resurrection because I “completed” the requiem in 2014 and, until now, it has languished where it was stored- in Tommy’s old green high school “my science folder.”See pic.
This blog is about what I have entitled “All Saints Requiem”. I will share process information from inception through completion including the serious and silly things about musical composition.
I begin by reflecting on the general notion of writing a Requiem setting and bringing it back to life after it slept for almost 5 years. Later postings will discuss each movement hopefully avoiding technical jargon but sharing my thoughts about the text and musical rendering of these eternal words.
First, I have followed the advice of writers and composers throughout history. “Write something and put it away!” Wilbur Held, my organ and liturgics professor at Ohio State, confessed that he placed each new composition in a drawer and took it out much later to edit away all extraneous musical materials.This is exactly what I am doing and similarly finding a treasure of notes, particularly in the organ accompaniment, that don’t belong. They distort the clarity of the choral and solo parts.
Was it Frank Zappa who said that a composer is merely rewriting everything that has already been written? As I edit this work I am searching for my own compositional voice but I am haunted by hearing the sounds and procedures of my favorite composers.All those cross relations, augmented triads and blues-like scales in the Introit sound an awful lot like Herbert Howells! Should I change that? But change it to what? No I can’t change it because it expresses the text as I want it to be expressed (see next blog).In the Recordare I quote an old Sunday school song, “Jesus loves me.” Is this an explicit homage to another of my favorites, Charles Ives, and should that be rewritten? No, again, for the same reasons expressed above (see forthcoming blog.)
So, as you see, this resurrection and editing of a completed work is driven by both aesthetic and technical judgments. Next week I will blog about these previously mentioned Requiem movements and, among other things, try to justify my decision to not eliminate the hauntings of Howells and Ives.
Although there is no place here for comments, I welcome your thoughts and/or questions if you care to express them. Send them to my church email. It will reply that I am on sabbatical and now you know what I’m doing. Send to [email protected]