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Topic: My very first attempt at "art" song

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  1. #1
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    My very first attempt at "art" song

    Before we begin I have to say that I am not a singer. In fact, I can hardly carry a tune in a hand-basket. However, I did want you to hear how this would sound with vocal part. I doubled the voice with a cello, so if there are any questions about pitch or rhythm (a few syncopations I know I screwed up), refer to the cello line.

    I’ve been studying Romantic era art song (lieder) and song cycles, such as Schumann’s Dichterliebe, and decided to try my hand at a song. This is my first attempt at this type of thing.

    I had Schumann in mind, was listening to Chopin, but decided to go a little more contemporary, particularly since the poem refers to something 20th century.

    Oh yes, the poem. I used a poem my mom wrote. Before you snicker, I have to say that my mom has had a few things published, has won a few contests, but most importantly for the discussion here, the composer H. Leslie Adams has used about a dozen of her poems in his art songs. If he can, so can I. Anyway, here is the poem:

    Theme Song
    Joette McDonald

    If you ever write
    a song for me
    let it hold a smile.
    I’ve had enough of dirges
    to last me for a while.
    I’ve heard the blues too often
    played low and mean and cool.
    So write an upbeat,
    catchy tune
    that’s grinning like a fool.

    I picked it mostly because it is short . It is also very simple, almost to the point of being silly. Or so it would seem….

    Anyway, here it is – Theme Song

    Besides my ugly voice, what did you think?
    Trent P. McDonald

  2. #2

    Re: My very first attempt at "art" song

    Round of applause, Trent - "Let it Hold A Smile" (a favorite line from the poem--hope you don't mind me arbitrarily naming your un-titled song that at least for this post) - just got through playing. And as I applauded I felt like I should have been hearing an audience of 15 or 20 applauding along with me in a large parlor where we're having Art Songs this afternoon.

    And it was genuine, spontaneous applause. I love this. Wow--has Anyone ever posted an old-fashioned "art song" here before? Not that I've heard.

    What an entertaining form it is, and without rushing to books or recordings to double check what I'm saying--something I hardly ever do after hearing music anyway--I'd have to say that it sounds to me like you have definitely captured the Schumann, Chopin (but "a little more contemporary") flavor you were intending.

    Nice piano arrangement too! -- there was a Cello in there?

    Thank you, Trent for a rare treat.

    Randy B.
    (rbowser)

  3. #3
    Senior Member rpearl's Avatar
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    Re: My very first attempt at "art" song

    Trent,

    You really did some text-painting with the blues passage mirroring that place in the poem. I'm not sure it worked, as it was such a shift in style - you did start with a Schumannesque figure, and it was so strong that I felt it should continue.
    My only other criticism is that it is so short - that's ok, as the poem is short, but given the drama of the opening piano, it felt like the song was going to be a larger statement.

    Having said all that, I think you have a great beginning. You capture the genre well; for my ears, I'd like to to be more stylistically congruent, but you - and others - may disagree. Songs are hard...

    Thanks for posting this.
    Ron Pearl

    Website:

    ronaldmpearl.com

    myspace:

    http://myspace.com/rmpearl

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    Re: My very first attempt at "art" song

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser-
    ..../... - "Let it Hold A Smile" (a favorite line from the poem--hope you don't mind me arbitrarily naming your un-titled song that at least for this post)
    .../....
    there was a Cello in there?
    ..../....
    Randy B.
    (rbowser)
    Hi Randy,

    Thanks for your enthusiastic response. And what a coincidence you were at (part of?) an Art Song recital today.

    I had been calling this by the name of the poem – “Theme Song”. The song isn’t the song that is written for the poet, but the poet’s own song – the poet’s theme song.

    Paraphrased – The world can be a bleak place and life can be sad. Some dwell, almost rejoice, in this darkness while others resignedly accept it. But me, I want to look for the silver lining, I want to look towards the light. The song I sing as I go through life is an “upbeat, catchy tune that’s grinning like a fool”. - Except for the part in quotes, my words and my interpretation, not the poet’s (my mom’s).

    Of course I don’t have to keep the poem’s title and “Let it Hold a Smile” isn’t a bad one… I’ll have to think about it.

    If you listen closely you can hear the cello on the far right doubling the words. Or are saying I don’t need it? If you heard it with I’m sure you’d insist I put it back!

    Thanks again for listening and commenting.
    Trent P. McDonald

  5. #5

    Re: My very first attempt at "art" song

    Hello again, Trent

    --I was being coy about the Cello. I meant to indicate that I was so - over-whelmed with your singing, that I failed to note the Cello.

    Please endure my teasing. It was a Very good idea to include the vocal instead of having an instrument standing in--we wouldn't have understood all we really should about this piece.

    I was also being pictureseque about the musical salon scene--That was where listening to your song took me to.

    Thank you for the elucidation on the song's title--I had assumed it was a working title. I'm glad you like my alternative idea though!

    I'm glad I'm here again--I want to play this again. Kate's home now and she hasn't heard it.

    Take care!
    Randy B.
    (rbowser)

  6. #6
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    Re: My very first attempt at "art" song

    Quote Originally Posted by rpearl
    Trent,

    You really did some text-painting with the blues passage mirroring that place in the poem. I'm not sure it worked, as it was such a shift in style - you did start with a Schumannesque figure, and it was so strong that I felt it should continue.
    My only other criticism is that it is so short - that's ok, as the poem is short, but given the drama of the opening piano, it felt like the song was going to be a larger statement.

    Having said all that, I think you have a great beginning. You capture the genre well; for my ears, I'd like to to be more stylistically congruent, but you - and others - may disagree. Songs are hard...

    Thanks for posting this.
    Hi Ron,

    Thanks for listening.

    I understand what you are saying about style – most of this isn’t too far from 19th century style, maybe a few more unresolved dissonances, but nothing major except that bit of blues. This is still too new and close to my ear so I can’t hear it any other way. Maybe after I set it to the side for a couple of weeks and listen again I’ll say “Hmm, Ron was right I should do this.”

    As far as length goes, unless it becomes part of a larger cycle I can’t do much more. I’m sure I will write a few more little songs for practice, but most likely not part of a cycle. Yet. “I do have an idea for one in mind and want to have a few individuals under my belt before I try.

    Thanks for listening and commenting. I truly appreciate any constructive criticism.
    Trent P. McDonald

  7. #7
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    Re: My very first attempt at "art" song

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser-
    Hello again, Trent

    --I was being coy about the Cello. I meant to indicate that I was so - over-whelmed with your singing, that I failed to note the Cello.

    Please endure my teasing. It was a Very good idea to include the vocal instead of having an instrument standing in--we wouldn't have understood all we really should about this piece.

    I was also being pictureseque about the musical salon scene--That was where listening to your song took me to.

    Thank you for the elucidation on the song's title--I had assumed it was a working title. I'm glad you like my alternative idea though!

    I'm glad I'm here again--I want to play this again. Kate's home now and she hasn't heard it.

    Take care!
    Randy B.
    (rbowser)
    Hi again Randy,

    Yes, yes, I understand your teasing… As you said, I think having the vocal part recorded was much more important than how good the vocal part is. Of course I could post the score and a listener could follow along, but it isn’t the same.

    I wasn’t totally sure if you were being serious or picturesque about sitting with Schubert in the parlor, him at the piano and you singing…

    Thanks for stopping by again and I hope Kate (wife?) likes it.
    Trent P. McDonald

  8. #8
    Senior Member rpearl's Avatar
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    Re: My very first attempt at "art" song

    Quote Originally Posted by trentpmcd
    Hi Ron,

    Thanks for listening.

    I understand what you are saying about style – most of this isn’t too far from 19th century style, maybe a few more unresolved dissonances, but nothing major except that bit of blues. This is still too new and close to my ear so I can’t hear it any other way. Maybe after I set it to the side for a couple of weeks and listen again I’ll say “Hmm, Ron was right I should do this.”

    As far as length goes, unless it becomes part of a larger cycle I can’t do much more. I’m sure I will write a few more little songs for practice, but most likely not part of a cycle. Yet. “I do have an idea for one in mind and want to have a few individuals under my belt before I try.

    Thanks for listening and commenting. I truly appreciate any constructive criticism.
    Trent,

    Yes, if this is a cycle, then the length is less of an issue. I think I was responding to the "big gesture" at the outset. But take what I say with a grain of salt, and perhaps weigh it with all the other comments you receive.

    All the best,
    Last edited by rpearl; 07-21-2007 at 09:50 PM. Reason: hit the send button too soon...
    Ron Pearl

    Website:

    ronaldmpearl.com

    myspace:

    http://myspace.com/rmpearl

  9. #9

    Re: My very first attempt at "art" song

    Trent, I'd swear I've read your mother's poem, previously;
    was that published somewhere else?

    In any event -- as a modern "art song", this is an entertaining,
    and I think, successful piece (especially the topical coloring
    around the "blues" line... that was a bright stroke).

    I think I might lay off the sustain pedal a bit in a few spots;
    but, especially with your magnificent vocal abilities, I got
    quite a kick out of this... lol.

    My best,



    David
    www.DavidSosnowski.com
    .

  10. #10
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    Re: My very first attempt at "art" song

    Quote Originally Posted by etLux
    Trent, I'd swear I've read your mother's poem, previously;
    was that published somewhere else?

    In any event -- as a modern "art song", this is an entertaining,
    and I think, successful piece (especially the topical coloring
    around the "blues" line... that was a bright stroke).

    I think I might lay off the sustain pedal a bit in a few spots;
    but, especially with your magnificent vocal abilities, I got
    quite a kick out of this... lol.

    My best,



    David
    www.DavidSosnowski.com
    .
    Hi David,

    I got this poem from a self published book she made a couple of years ago but I’m not sure if it has been published beyond that. I know a few in the book were, but they aren’t marked. Unfortunately she just left the country today for a little 2-week trip so I can’t ask her.

    A vote for the blues line to oppose the vote against… One thing nobody has pointed out is my little “smile” – almost every line starts high, descends over an octave and then comes back up to a high pitch. With the vocal part this is made with pairs of lines. It is only totally missing in the funeral march (dirge), but there the accompaniment goes down while the vocal part rises. Anyway, I was trying to “word paint” throughout the whole thing, the blues just being one example.

    Originally I had the pedal going off and on almost every measure but cut it back a bit as it got too muddy. Maybe I should revisit it and cut back a little more.

    I posted this hoping I would get discovered like Mr. Potts, but I guess not . Seriously, I went back and forth quite a bit before I put it up and still haven’t decided if I made a mistake or not…

    Thanks for taking the time to listen to make comments.
    Trent P. McDonald

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