Every Star has a Song

Even the universe has a better voice than I do! In my book I wrote about how astronomy professor Dr. Mark Whittle converted the first 400,000 years of the Cosmic Microwave Background into notes from a standard octave of a even-tempered scale (what we’re used to hearing) and raised the pitch 50 octaves (to put it in range of the human ear).

To hear the result go to this web page, look over on the left and click on “The First 100 Million Years,” scroll down, and then choose either audio only or run movie. I’m kidding about my voice vs the universe’s. The first song ever heard is not particularly musical or pretty, but it’s harmonic.

I thought about having a larger section about the cosmic chorus, just because it seems like there is no place in all the universe without music. Even black holes sing. They emit sound, one note, a B flat, although 57 octaves below middle C. And every star has its own song, which tells us about its size, brightness, what its made of, and how old it is.

Here’s a NASA recording I came across of the earth singing. By the way, the NASA website is so much fun to explore. Just type in “sounds” in the search box and listen to a few.

I found this photograph titled “A Negro Choral Society” in the New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery. It’s dated 1922, and the source is listed as, “The Negro in Chicago; a study of race relations and a race riot, by the Chicago Commission on Race Relations.”

A Negro Choral Society

Lovely Day! Even if I don’t see it the same as all of you!

I took this test for color vision and apparently I am way, way, color blind. I knew I was fuzzy on greens and blues, but I scored a 96. Zero is actually the best in this test, so 96 is like, I wonder what the world looks like to the rest of you.

Along these lines, I love how you can find creative expression everywhere …

Even on the back of a truck. Often on the back of trucks it turns out. For the rest of the day I noticed that the back of trucks are frequently used as someone’s canvas. I like how the rivets look like tears.

Pictures from my West Chester University ACDA Talk

Theresa Whitehead, the Treasurer & Secretary of the West Chester University chapter of the American Choral Director Association, sent me some pictures from my talk there last weekend. Everybody looks so nice!

I adopted them all but it was over the internet so I’m not sure it’s legal.

It was a little chilly so I put on the jacket I brought to wear on the train.

I’m always shocked at how teeny I am. I feel so much larger to myself. I’m going to be the littlest of little old ladies (and yes, I realize that to these kids, I already am a little old lady). Thanks again for inviting me, I had a great time!

The Newest Gentle Saints and Glorious Heroes

“To sing in a choir is the quickest, surest, and best way to become intimate with music, to get close to the seat of its emotional life, where its heart-throbs can be felt and heard … to hold communion with its gentle saints and glorious heroes.” These are the words of 19th century music critic Henry E. Krehbiel, and he’s speaking about choral composers, but all composers are gentle saints and glorious heroes.

Music reaches a place inside us that cannot be reached with words or in any other way. Composers are the heroes writing the music that reaches that place.

The last time I went to the Aaron Copland School of Music I realized how few female composers I was familiar with. Given how hard it is for new composers to have their work heard, I have to imagine it’s even harder for female composers. So I’m thrilled to be speaking at a Women Composer’s Recital on October 11th at 5 pm at the Aaron Copland School of Music. The concert I went to there before was fabulous.

If you’re going to be in New York on October 11th, please join me to celebrate the work of our newest heroes! Directions here.

Don’t Scare me like that, Composers!

I swear, I have completely lost any capacity at memory it seems. Something recently made me remember writing about how hard it is to achieve ensemble rhythm sometimes. It’s one thing for a bunch of singers to be all together technically-speaking, but if you’re not really feeling it as one it can sound wooden and march-like. If you’re truly down there in the rhythm together however, the music jumps to life. You can hear and feel the difference immediately.

And that made me remember this really scary thing I read in one of composer Morten Lauridsen’s essays, Composers on composing for choir. Lauridsen is very insistent that taking the right tempo is crucial to reaching the correct emotional pitch. Of course he’s right. Different tempos will communicate different feelings.

While conceding that there’s room for interpretation, he writes that his piece O Magnum Mysterium is often conducted too slowly, and that seven or eight minutes is too long. Uh-oh. We’ve sung and recorded this piece. I immediately checked the CD. Five minutes and thirty-two seconds. Phew. We were okay!

And yet another shot of the Empire State Building from my roof. Is it my fault it’s so irresistible? You can see the Chrysler Building a little bit as well.