TIdbit #7 – Subtext

Our classes started working with composers yesterday for the first time. What that meant for the group I sat in with was walking composer Kristin Hevner-Wyatt through the changing moods of the piece, moment by nuanced moment. I’ll have to go back and listen to the recording I took of the session to do full justice to the conversation, but for now I’d just like to tell you it sounded similar to a high school literature class, but with 4th grade vocabulary. Here are a couple reasons why:

– For every moment in the opera, the students clearly described the overall mood of the moment, and the sometimes conflicting moods of the different characters in that same moment.

Example: During the opening, a girl is swinging on a swing in the park. The overall mood is happy and calm, but the girl herself is lonely and bored–she came to the park alone.

– For every character in the opera, the students could articulate and differentiate between his or her external and internal states.

Example: When the evil raccoon is offering to leave candy land forever if someone eats the poison candy, she is projecting an air of being trusting, caring, and calm. Underneath she is sinister and plotting.

When it came to singing melodic ideas for moments in the piece, nearly every nugget the students sang reflected the particular mood of the character singing it. (It’s also worth nothing that when someone got it wrong, they quickly pointed it out with a “No, that’s too happy.”) As this is meant to be a tidbit, I won’t attempt to pull apart the levels of interpretation it takes to do this, but I think you will appreciate all the same the degree of storytelling and literary mastery it shows.

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