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Yes, Your Group Needs a Mission

Are your group meetings feeling stagnant? Are you playing the same music, dancing the same dances, or singing the same songs? Do you feel that going to practice is feeling more and more like a chore? Is attendance fairly low (or dropping!)? Are you feeling bored? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to clarify the mission of your group.

“A Mission? For an amateur group?” you ask. Yes, even the low-key amateur group you’re happy with could probably do with a mission statement stating that being casual is indeed its mission. Why? Because often times members of the group–both newcomers and long-time members–have expectations of the group that may not match what the group is actually doing or is planning to do. They have false hopes that things will change or are frustrated about the fact that things should be different. I think it’s better to let them know how it is and how it will be, so that they can start their own group if they’re not happy. When your group’s effective mission and stated mission are congruent, much of the unseen emotional tension in the group will ease.

But that’s just when you’re happy with the group. When you’re unhappy with where your group is, figuring out what your effective mission is can help alleviate the feeling. Once the mission’s on paper you can see what it is you’re unhappy with, reshape it to something that excites you, and figure out ways to make it happen.

A Group In Transition

When I took over Cyngabar (formerly the Cynnabar Collegium Musicum), I only had a vague idea of where I wanted the group to go. I wanted to improve the quality of the group’s singing, to improve the singers’ sight-singing abilities, and to polish our older songs, but I didn’t really put it into words thus the execution ended up being mediocre at best. By not articulating what I wanted I couldn’t really get help since I was the only one who (somewhat) knew what I wanted. After three or four months it was clear that we as a group needed to decide on a mission for Cyngabar and find ways to execute that mission.

We spent the bulk of one rehearsal in February discussing what to do going forward, and since then the improvement has been quite dramatic. The mission we decided on was that Cyngabar should primarily be about education within the group. That is, singers in the group should come away from rehearsal feeling like their singing has improved and they have a better understanding of the music we’re singing. Secondary to in-group education is performance, which should be concentrated within the SCA. To execute the mission we did things like move to a quarter system, record pronunciations, and I spent some time working on my confidence skills since I was holding us back.

It’s been about 9 months since that discussion, and the group’s improved quite a bit. We’re learning new, difficult music faster and with a lot less strain than before. Also we’re either getting more flexible or I’m getting better at explaining what I want the group to do.. or both. I’ve also been studying Renaissance Music so that I can better apply the history to our performances. If we didn’t have that discussion back in February, I don’t think Cyngabar would have improved as much as it has. Having a mission that we actually follow has really made a lot of difference.


I mentioned this earlier, and I’ll say it again: when your group’s effective mission and stated mission are congruent, much of the unseen emotional tension in the group will ease. People know what to expect and it’s refreshing to not have to figure out how the group actually works vs. how people say it works. Moreover when it comes to brainstorming ideas there’s no confusion over what should be suggested. If this idea’s a little fuzzy, here’s an example to clarify:

Let’s say the official mission of Cyngabar was education, but in reality we didn’t show any care about the history of the songs we sing. If I were to ask the group for suggestions for how to improve the performance of a piece, there’d be some tension and confusion. Should we apply the same rules as we would to a modern song (effective mission)? Should we do some research on performance practices and make a decision based on that (official mission)? Inevitably there’d be at least one person who makes a suggestion with the official mission in mind and another with the effective mission in mind. Since I never specified which side I was looking for, suggestions from both sides are appropriate even if they’re incompatible with each other.

I’ve witnessed this sort of thing happen in several different groups (Polish Folk Dancing, Swing Dancing, Early Music, Engineering) and it tends to get ugly… especially in amateur groups. At least in the workplace people will try to be civil because they don’t want to get fired, don’t want to be labeled as “doesn’t play well with others”, see that working together is more useful than being right, or some combination of the three. In amateur groups there isn’t a built-in fear-based incentive to be civil, so a lot of times people won’t be. So why not nip it in the bud and make it clear that the official mission is the actual mission? As long as your group actually lives out its mission, no one will question your statement.

How to Make Sure Your Effective and Official Mission are Congruent

A good way to find out what your effective mission is, is to ask people in the group what they think the mission is. The more conscious the person the better, because an unconscious person may state the official mission not realizing that there are always two missions (effective and official). It’s similar to a mother who tells her teenager to follow the speed-limit but habitually exceeds it herself. When the teenager confronts her about it, she gets confused and defensive. The official rule is to follow the speed-limit, but the effective rule is to drive however you’d like. The teenager gets this, the mom doesn’t. If the person seems contented in spite of being unconscious I wouldn’t worry about trying to awaken them, though. As long as he/she isn’t causing trouble there’s nothing to be done, really.

What if you don’t want to ask everyone they’re opinion? A more targeted approach is to only ask someone who seems unhappy with the group. If he/she states the official mission you can ask how the group can improve or what it’s doing wrong. If he/she states a different mission try to determine if that’s the effective mission. Ask for examples. Then come up with ideas for how to get the group back on track.

Missions are important. They give groups focus and help them grow in the direction they want to grow. By divining a mission that everyone’s happy with and by living it out, you’ll find that life in your group (whatever that group is) will keep getting better and better. ^_^


Weekly Vocalize #14 Generic but Versatile in Minor

Today’s Vocalize is the same as last week’s, but in the minor mode. Always a good idea to have choir sing in minor. ^_^

Here you go:


See the Vocalize 13 and Vocalize 11 for variation ideas. Enjoy!


Weekly Vocalize #13 Generic but Versatile

This week’s vocalize is just like the title says, “generic but versatile”. It’s a combination of descending scales and arpeggios in the major mode. Very simple, but you can work on quite a few things with it. Check it out:


Here are just a few things you can do with this vocalize:

  • Sing it fast with different consonants to work on annunciation
  • Sing it slow to work on breath control
  • Alter the rhythm to make it more complex
  • Sing it using lip trills
  • Add some Accents, Crescendos, and Decrescendos

I’m sure you can think of several more things to add to this list. Usual application rules apply. Enjoy!

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Getting Started on Ballad Research

Consider this a “whet your appetite” type of article on ballads. At some point later when I’ve done more research I’ll write a series describing what makes a song a ballad, and the wonders that they are. For now here’s a bit of what I’ve found so far:

Greg Lindahl’s site on 16th century ballads, is an excellent place to get started. There’s a lot of information there on both the history of ballads and on where to find them and what’s within SCA period. I especially enjoyed the reprint of the article from the Complete Anachronist. It gave me a lot to think about.

If you like making your own transcriptions or want to see what year the English songs you’ve been singing date back to, Early English Books Online is a great place to check. Many university libraries have contracts with EEBO, so if you have an account with your local college library there’s a good chance you’ll have access. I’ve been accessing it through my University of Michigan account. If you’ve seen the choral transcriptions I’ve posted, for several of the songs a facsimile can be found on EEBO. (Now I’m just waiting for the equivalent for other countries/languages.) I know of at least one book of ballads in there.

The Child Ballads are of course another excellent source for ballads. However, they only include lyrics (no melody line, and no chords), so it’ll require a bit of work on your part to find a tune to go with them. Also many of them are from the 18th or 19th century, which is usually too late for Early Music groups.

Another collection of fun ballads dating to 1682 is D’Urfey’s Pills to Purge Melancholy. It’s a bit on the late side, and hard to find outside of EEBO, but if you do have EEBO access they’re certainly worth considering. To get a taste, listen to a Hesperus’s My Thing is My Own.

So there’s some info to get you started. For performance ideas, check out the article I wrote earlier on performing solo singing music with instruments. Like I said earlier, after I’ve done some more research I’ll post a more in depth series on ballads. ‘Til then, enjoy!


Why I think SCA Singing Groups Should Perform Ballads

Here are three reasons why I believe SCA singing groups should include ballads and other solo music.


The main reason I think it’s a good idea for singing groups to include period ballads in their performances is that it enables the group to be more flexible at events. Sometimes there will only be one or two of you in at fighter practice or a dance event, and trying to sing a four part madrigal with two people is…. tricky. Having some ballads and other solo material in your repertoire enables you to better utilize the musicians that are available. Not to mention that you’ll be more able to include people who don’t normally sing in your group. Yay community singing!


If you only sing period part music you’re pretty much limited to the three “M”s: Madrigals, Masses, and Motets. Granted there a lot of Madrigals, Masses, and Motets so it wouldn’t be at all difficult to keep a group busy by focusing on them, but at the same time you’re not including a lot of other beautiful music. Moreover music from the three “M”s is really art music while ballads are popular music. By including ballads, you’re tapping into an entirely different musical sphere, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Showcase Talent

Sometimes you want to show off the individual talent of your singers, and part music really isn’t the best way. Solo music gives your soloist a lot more musical flexibility and a lot more attention than he/she will get with a madrigal where there are several people to pay attention to. So if there’s talent in your group, why not have a few of your singers learn a ballad or two?

Starting in September, Cyngabar (The new name for the singing group of the Cynnabar Collegium Musicum) is going to add some ballads and other solo music into its repertoire. Over the next few months I’ll report on what works and what doesn’t.

In Friday’s post I’ll show you were to find pre-1600 ballads (and some good slightly post 1600 ones too), where to find information on ballads, and some ideas on how to perform them.

Yay singing! ^_^


Weekly Vocalize #12 Dorian Mode

The following vocalize is in the Dorian Mode, meaning it’s in D minor without the B flat. For more info check out the Wikipedia article on Dorian. Dorian is a popular key for Medieval and Renaissance music, so it’s a good idea to get familiar with it.


This is an exercise worth getting into your fingers before presenting it to your choir. Chances are your singers will have a little trouble hearing where to sing at first so they’ll be following you on the piano.

In addition to this being an exercise in Dorian, you can also slow down the tempo and make it a sostenuto or breath control exercise. See this previous post for another sostenuto exercise.

Try to think of some variations for this exercise. Enjoy!


Combining Instruments and Voices in Ballads, Madrigals, Medieval Music, and Rounds

At Pennsic last week, Aaron attended a class on performing medieval music. I didn’t go because I was learning how to use my new inkle loom, but I did get to look at the handout afterward, and Aaron told me what was discussed during the class. The point I’m going to discuss here is combining instrumental music with vocal music. On the whole, most SCA music groups don’t mix instruments with non-ballad vocals. Madrigals are sung strictly a capella, and medieval music doesn’t tend to get sung or played at all. Cynnabar is no exception, and I’d like to see that changed.

Aaron, me, and some other people in our camp did some brainstorming on ways to incorporate instruments into Medieval and Renaissance vocals, and here’s what we came up with. Maybe you can use these ideas in your group(s) as well.

Ballads Sung with Accompaniment

Yes, I know this is done fairly well in the SCA, but it’s worth mentioning anyway since from what I’ve seen it tends to be more of an individual endeavor rather than something a singing group would do. I mean, why would a singing group want to do solo ballads when there are plenty of madrigals out there?

The answer to that question is another post by itself, so lets just say your group would be interested in learning ballads. First, I’d suggest having each member of your choir learn enough verses of the ballad so they can sing a complete song. You could make it easier and assign one or two verses per person, but then if that person is around a campfire by him/herself, they’ll have a really short song to sing. If it’s a song with a story (example: The Twa Sisters), make sure everyone knows enough verses to tell the story. If it’s a ballad with infinitely many verses, than pick enough so that each person can be able to sing a satisfying song on his/her own. Three or four is probably about right.

For your instrumentalists, have the guitarists, mandolinists, and other chord players learn the chords for the ballads, and then have them practice accompanying the soloists. You can also make an arrangement for the non chord instruments that doubles as multi-part choir music. Again have the people playing the non-melody parts practice accompanying the solisits.

For performance you then have a wide variety of options:

  • Soloist a capella
  • Choir a capella
  • Soloist with chord instruments
  • Soloist with non-chord instruments
  • Choir with chord instruments
  • Choir with non-chord instruments (Probably not as satisfying as some of the other options)
  • Choir with bass line played on bass instrument
  • All instruments together
  • Solo-instrument accompanied by chord instruments
  • Solo-instrument accompanied by singers (Could be weird)

And that’s with just dividing instruments into chordal and non-chordal. You can get even more by dividing instruments by pitch (lower instruments versus higher instruments), by type (winds versus strings versus percussion), and by family (recorders versus viols versus guitars). It all depends on your mix.

Cantigas and Carmina Burana

The Cantigas de Santa Maria and the Carmina Burana songs are similar to ballads in that they have a melody line and lots of verses. The main difference is the harmonic structure. Chords as we know them either don’t make much sense or are inappropriate for medieval music. At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten from the classes I’ve taken. This makes performance a little bit different than ballads.

For the vocalists, again have them learn several verses and practice the pronunciation. Nothing’s in English, so pronunciation will take a bit of work. If you can, record the lyrics ahead of time. That should make things simpler.

Instrumentalists and vocalists can take turns soloing, and instrumentalists have the option of playing the written music or making up their own solo. Vocalists have the improvization option too, but I imagine that singing the verses straight is quite a bit an accomplishment as it is. ^_~

While instrumentalists are accopanying have them make use of the drone, specifically have them drone in rhythm. Not only is droning in rhythm much less boring than just holding one note a long time, it also reinforces the pulse of the song. It’s both true to the music and sounds really awesome.

With so many different instruments soloing with different volume levels, you’ll need to practice shifting accompaniment styles to accommodate different instruments. For instance, you might have only percussion accompany some solos, only lower pitched instruments accompany others, etc. Of course you don’t have change accompaniment style just because of volume level. If you have 5 soprano recorder players each taking a solo you might change the accompaniment to add some variety. There’s a lot work on.

The trick with making songs with many identical verses interesting is variety. It keeps the listener from zoning out and keeps the instrumentalists from going insane because of the monotony. Repetition doesn’t have to mean the same thing as boredom.


Many madrigals were also written for solo and lute, and these are best suited for collaboration between instrumentalists and vocalists. Every Dowland madrigal I’ve sung, I can easily imagine having instrumental accompaniement or having an instrumental verse or having a solo and lute verse. As a rule, I’d say that mostly monophonic madrigals are best suited for this. That is, songs where there’s a clear melody while the rest of the voice parts have supporting roles. Most Dowland songs fit this description, as well as Ravenscroft and some Thomas Ford. Not to mention many non-English composers.

I know of at least some oratorios that were rescored as Madrigals, and those could make for some very interesting vocal/instrumental combinations. The one I’m thinking of at the moment is “Lasciatami Morire” by Monteverdi. You could have a basso continuo playing for a soloist and then break into the Madrigal version with or without the basso continuo playing. Then you could have an all instrument arrangement, where either the instruments play the madrigal or one instrument does the solo and others accompany. Awesomeness!

Now there are some madrigals like “Il est Bel et Bon” or “Fair Phylis“, which may be a bit more difficult to effectively incorporate instruments and voices together. There’s no clear melody, and the words are just as important as the notes. A thought for these songs would be replace voices with instruments or double the voices with instruments and see what happens. Another option is discussed next.

Transition to Different Songs

Some songs sound great together as a medly. On the album “Johnny Cock Thy Beaver” by the Dufay Collective tracks 14 and 15 are a medly of “Jamaica” and “Godesses”, both Playford tunes. First there’s a vocal version of Jamaica and then it jumps into an instrumental version Godesses and back to Jamaica, but this time an instrumental version.

This performance technique would be good for any of the types of songs listed above including those madrigals that are hard to voice on instruments.


The last type of song I’m going to talk about is the round. The easiest way I can think of to combine instruments and voices is to have the voices start singing the round and then start replacing the voices with different instruments. You can go back and forth with different voice/instrument mixes to make for a very interesting performances and make the rounds sound less… incessant.

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas on how to combine instruments and vocals in performance. Often you’ll find that many of your vocalists are also musicians, so combining vocals and instruments may encourage some of your singers to bring their instruments to rehearsal. Similarly you may find some shy musicians more willing to give singing a try since they’re at rehearsal anyway. So not only does combining instrumentals with vocals make for more interesting performances it may increase the number of participants as well. Always a good thing.

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Reading Rhythm

Every so often you run into songs with tricky rhythms. It’s hard enough for you as the director to figure them out at home at your own pace, let alone expect your choir to pick it up on the spot. In this post I’ll discuss several strategies to help your singers more easily internalize the rhythm of a new piece of music.

Strategy 1: Say the Lyrics

Notice that’s say not sing. This enables the singers to focus on note length and leave figuring out the pitches for later. I know when I sightsing I have a tendency to give pitch more importance than rhythm, so the best way to make me concentrate on rhythm is to take out the pitches altogether, which this technique does. Saying the lyrics is particularly effective when the music is homophonic and minimally melismatic, that is all the parts have a similar rhythm and the song is mostly one word per syllable. The reason for this is that in homohponic, minimally melismatic pieces, you don’t have to worry too much about word crashing between parts or trying to say several notes with one syllable.

Now if it’s a polyphonic piece and you’re trying to figure out entrances, this technique also works because the singers can use the lyrics as an anchor for whether they are in the piece. Although you will have word crashing. This technique doesn’t work for highly melismatic or foreign language music. That’s what Strategy 2 is for.

Strategy 2: Assign Syllables to the Notes

If the song you’re singing has melismas or is in a foreign language which you’d rather not have butchered, but is still homophonic, speaking the song on a single syllable can work. That way every note of the melisma has a syllable attached to it. For songs in your native tongue and that are mostly homophonic with melismas you can combine the two strategies by saying the words when it’s one syllable per note and saying a specific syllable for the notes in a melisma.

This method is not good for singing polyphonic music though, because if you get lost it’s basically impossible to figure out where you are in the music. So lets say you have a foreign language polyphonic work. What do you do? You still have some options. You can “Solfeggify” the music, meaning make a copy of the music that has the solfege syllables written out for every voice part, and have your choir say the solfege. The syllables can then work as a fairly effective anchor. Another option is to still sing on a single syllable, but to work in small sections so that there isn’t enough time for the singers to get lost. A third option is to assign different syllables to different sections. For example, if the music has an A part and a B part, then you could sing one syllable for the A section and another for the B. That way you have a way to figure out where you are when you’re lost.

Clapping is another good technique to figure out the rhythm. You can have the singers clap instad of saying the words or syllables, or you can have them clap in addition to saying the word or syllables. I like clapping because it seems to help me and my singers feel the rhythm instead of just knowing it.

Should Rhythm Always Be Isolated Before Sight-Singing?

I think the best answer to this is, sometimes. If you think a new piece of music has a tricky rhythm, then having the choir work that out before singing it can be very effective for rapid learning. As I said earlier, when I sightsing my first tendency is to worry about the pitches and leave the rhythm for auto-pilot. Chances are you have at least a few singers in your choir that do the same thing. Working out the rhythm first can remind them just how important rhythm is and that when you actually know the rhythm, singing the pitches is a lot easier.

That being said, I wouldn’t do this for every new song. Moreover I wouldn’t do it for every song with tricky rhythm. Ideally you want your choir to be able to read the rhythm while looking over the music. So maybe with the first few songs with hard rhythms you could work them out using the above techniques. Once they start getting the hang of reading rhythms, you can have them work it out on their own.


Weekly Vocalize #11 Cadenza Variations

Remember how a couple weeks ago I promised some variations on the cadenza exercise? Well here they are, albeit, a little late. Just as a refresher here’s the basic solfege version:


The vocalize can be divided easily into 3 sections of 3 notes and one section of 4, making for many possible variations. So lets get started with something simple.

Held Syllables

Below are 12 different syllables that can be held during the vocalize. Pure vowels are held and the consonants “M”, “Z”, and “L” are put in front. You could use many other consonants too such as “V” or “H”, so don’t feel limited to the three given.

Short Syllables

Next we use the same syllables, but this time the syllable is repeated for each note, and each note is staccato (i.e. short).

Changing Syllables for each Legato Group

This variation clearly illustrates the sections of the vocalize; each section has a different syllable assigned to it. There’s no reason to change syllable, though. You could have everyone sing “Mi” for each group or whatever any other vowel you want for that matter.

Mixing Legato and Staccato Groups

This variation shows different ways to combine staccato and legato practice. Use any pattern of syllables you want.

Dynamics Variations

Here are many ways to vary the dynamics. Again use whatever syllables you’d like. You can also change some of the legato groups to staccato groups, making a very comprehensive vocalize.

Weird Syllables

And here are several examples of weirder, more fun syllables you can use.

As you can see there’s a lot you can do with a vocalize, and really these variations are just the beginning. There are still many more variations for this one vocalize. Hopefully this post has inspired you to come up with your own variations on vocalizes you’ve been doing in the past or other vocalizes on this site. These techniques are fairly universal, meaning the can be applied to most if not all vocalize skeletons you’re given. The goal is to keep your choir conscious during warm-ups, and by using as many variations as you can you can get away with only having a handful of skeletons memorized. There’s no reason your choir should feel bored. Enjoy!

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My First Composition

Before I get into too much detail, a little bit of wisdom. If you plan on keeping the handwritten version of your composition, make sure you put it somewhere easy to find. I’d wanted to make a scan of the original, and when I went to go do it I couldn’t find it. I did end up locating it inside my couch (don’t ask), but by that point I needed to leave the apartment… so yeah. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll put a scan online when I get back from Pennsic, but until then you’ll have to settle for the Lilypond version I made.

Speaking of which, Here’s my first piece, and it’s midi It’s a three part “motet”, or at least that’s that I’m calling. The bass part is drone-ish, and the upper parts are more melodic. It’s definitely polyphonic and very singable even though there aren’t any words. It’s not exactly what I’m looking for–I’ll expand on this a bit later–but I happy with it as a first attempt.

The process

For the moment, I’m composing on my Casio keyboard because my primary instrument is the piano. I’ve been playing the piano since ‘95, so when I think about music I think in terms of the piano. I suppose one day I could use recorder or some other instrument, and perhaps I will, but for now the piano, or electronic keyboard as the case may be, is the most comfortable for me.

So, when I sat down at the keyboard I had only a vague idea of what I wanted. I wanted something polyphonic, singable, motet-like, and have some interesting contrasting rhythms between parts. I also wanted the harmony between parts to sound pleasing, but I didn’t put any restrictions on what chord types to use. I had Pucelete and Can she Excuse My Wrongs in my head, and you can kind of hear a little of both in the piece.

I started with the tenor part, and played around with some melodies until I found something I liked. When I went to write it down, I first played it a couple times until I found a base beat (quarter note), and wrote down what the notes were in relation to each other. I didn’t figure out what the meter was until a little later.

Coming up with a melody isn’t that hard. Even if you have nothing in mind you can play some notes and see what happens. It’s like writing when you have no idea what to write about. If you just let yourself relax you can start writing free-form, and eventually you might touch on an idea you’d like to actually focus on. Adding more parts, though, is a little more complicated since not only do you have to come up with a pleasing melody (at least it has to be melodic if it’s polyphonic), but it has to fit harmonically with the first melody you wrote down. Not that simple, but it’s kinda fun in the same way that solving problems is fun.

Once I finished with the bass part I moved onto the tenor, and for first section of the song I played the tenor part with the right hand, and let my left hand make up a bass part. I liked the sound of the walking bass, because it’s simple and reminded me of the plainchant part of motets so I kept it. Also, a walking bass is about all I can manage when I’m improvisizing over another melody. At around this point I realized what the meter was in the tenor part, so I marked the measures out.

The rest of the bass part I figured out by just playing around with it in isolation. That is, I didn’t try to play the tenor and bass simultaneously. I found I liked the rocking quarter notes for the middle part and that the descending scale sounded neat with the syncopated tenor. Once I decided I liked the bass part I played the two together and did some minor debugging a few of the dissonant chords. Most of it I left alone.

After that I worked on the treble part. For this I didn’t even try to improvise a third part of the other two. No, I just starting playing something in the same key as the rest with the constraint that I decided to have this part be more, legato than the other parts. As I was playing I was reminded of the theme from the 60’s Romeo and Juliet, which I happen to be a big fan of, and decided to stay with that feeling. Then I played it against the other two parts, and for the most part they seemed to work. Yay!

Reflection on the Piece

Overall, for a first rough sketch I’m happy with it. The individual parts make me happy, and the first part sounds pretty good together. The second half needs some work, but I do like the syncopation at the end.

As I said earlier I didn’t have any harmonic constraints, and after listening to the midi I think it could have used some. The song to me feels a little lost. It can’t decide what period it wants to be in or what it wants to say. I think it wants to be medieval, but some of the harmony is a bit off. I’m going to fix that the next time I look at it.

Once I’ve made it more medieval-like I’m going to do a couple of things: add onto it to make it a full song and write some variations, and by variations I mean play with rhythm and with harmony and experiment with different musical styles/eras. For example I might incorporate some 7th chords or something. We’ll see. After that I may or may not add lyrics. Yes, the intention is for it to be singable, but I think of it more as an exercise than an actual work. Still, if I like it, why not add some poetry to it?

Thoughts on the Process

Writing it was fun and really intuitive and playful. I know the description sounds fairly technical, but when i was writing, I did first and only afterward did I find words to describe it later. A prime example is my late discovery of the meter. I didn’t realize what it was until I’d already written the tenor part. It felt kind of like uncovering buried treasure that I’d buried subconsciously. Strictly speaking, you don’t actually need the musical terminology to start writing music, you just need some way of remembering what you come up with. But the theory is really nice for fixing sour notes, and trying different ideas. I mean, if I’m not sure what to do I can try and arpeggio or a modified scale and see what happens. If I didn’t know even those basic ideas I’d just be adding random notes, and would probably be less likely to write
something worthwhile. Needless to say, I’m happy I paid some attention to the theory lessons while I was taking piano lessons.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be posting the original hand written version when I get back from Pennsic in a couple weeks. In the mean time I may have some time later this week to work on experimentation and extension of the piece, and if I do I’ll write about it.