Monday, May 26, 2008

Songs Without Singers #6

Grades are done! They have been turned in! They weren't due until tomorrow morning at 9am! To celebrate the achievement, I went into the empty recital hall on a blissfully abandoned Memorial Day campus and crossed a new frontier in the Songs Without Singers series. Whereas the first five songs I'd recorded (Chausson, Strauss, Poulenc, Schubert, Hoiby) were voice/piano pieces without the voice, this is an a cappella choral piece without the chorus - and a very slow-moving piece at that, with lots of floating, sustained harmonies. In other words, it necessarily sounds a lot different than C. V. Stanford intended, but we pianists can't help falling in love with the black and white piano sound. Sometimes I know that I deceive myself, because the piano sounds that I actually hear are augmented internally by a halo of imagined sounds, in this case John Rutter's flawless Cambridge Singers. But, although this is really a topic for another day, the fact is that we're always hearing with an internal halo of associations, memories, etc.

Anyway, that doesn't help you if you don't know Stanford's The Blue Bird, but then you really should know it because it is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PART-SONG EVER WRITTEN. Here's a sample of the Cambridge Singers' version, available at iTunes here. And here is my humbly submitted version, a Steinway trying its best to sustain Stanford's sumptious series of sevenths sonorities. (Specifically, the magical minor seventh chord is the primary sonic source material. In fact, the song is a wonderful study in the sound of that chord.) You can also find my version in the jukebox over in the margin and at the brand-new MMmusic.

Recording this also brought back memories of all the wonderful years I spent accompanying choruses. In fact, the whole Songs Without Singers concept brings back memories of voice lessons and coachings in which a singer or teacher asks me to record a song on tape, melody included. I've always gotten a kick out of trying to make those little recordings satisfying, so it's fun to be doing it more purposefully, although I hasten to add that I'm still trying to do this in the spirit of impromptu piano blogging. Speaking of which, let the piano speak. I'm off to watch the Celtics. (By the way, no, I'm not looking to start a little kiddie zoo, in spite of the fact that my last two posted songs are the lamb and the blue bird.)
UPDATE: See also Subspecies of the Blue Bird

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