As I hear It - August 2010

Image of Michael Isacson
At this week’s meeting held in Cantor Baron’s beautiful home, the MHI moved from Psalm settings to worship service music. Fifteen examples of different approaches to the same text were presented, available instrumentation for the January 21st service was finalized, and several people presented during the workshop portion of the evening. After a word about the many advantages of both presenting and critiquing in a workshop atmosphere, the first presenter offered us an object learning opportunity into finding the necessary focus to spoke to a specific text at hand. Style, attitude towards the text, finding an appropriate musical lens in which to observe the text all came into play. Different approaches were improvised, and a discussion about the advantages and limitations of prayer book language ensued. Many members of the workshop offered valuable insights and suggestions. The next concept to be discussed was melodic writing and how understanding melody as intervallic amalgams can yield further development, organic harmonies, and counterpoint. The Howard Hanson classifications were presented and explained and applied to the work under scrutiny. Melodic fragments were re-interpreted as musical DNA that had magnificent powers in regenerating both quantity and diverse quality of organic sounds. The notion of a “right” and “wrong” harmony was identified and recommended for further thought. A completed setting of a prayer text followed. After enthusiastic approbation, several small spots were identified that were less organic to the work’s musical vocabulary and suggestions were made for their alternatives. A discussion followed about structural bookends, the duration of a musical work, and how instrumental colors may affect perception of content. All members of the group were assigned a deadline of November 15th to have their music ready for rehearsals and an early October date after the holidays was chosen for the next Max Helfman Institute meeting.