Tundra 2

My last post on “Tundra” was all analytical.  All of that analysis is the foundation for my interpretation, as I discuss, but that isn’t what actually goes on in my head when I’m on the podium.

From beginning to end, what I’m really thinking is this:

(Of course, I don’t personally give a rat’s patoot about the Norwegian tundra, but art is about universal human truth, so there is a place I care about the way Ola Gjeilo’s music suggests that he cares about the tundra.)  I think of that place, how I miss it, how it made me feel when I was there.  My joy that it’s still there, waiting for when I can return.

Tempo, about 66 bpm.  Quiet, mysterious: the job is to describe this amazing place.  How is that possible? Two measures.  Breath.

[u]–wordless–trying to describe the place, can’t find the words.  Two measures.  Breath.

[u]–wordless–trying again, a little different, but not going anywhere.  It’s just too much to say.  Two measures.  Breath.

[u]–wordless–trying again–this time the Alto 1s succeed and we actually move forward into something new, the Soprano 1s move us into the text.  They know what to say.  Finally.

Yes?  “Wide.”  Shape, swell, grow, shrink.  Awe struck.  “Worn.”  Go somewhere but don’t get too carried away too early.  We’re just starting to be able to say something.  “And weathered” two three [d].

“Sacred.”  The single ecstatic soprano anticipates the rest of us, like the subconscious knows truth before the self can interpret the information, “sacred expanse.”  But we catch up.

Soprano 1s pick up where the solo left off: “of green and white and granite gray, snowy patches strewn, anchored to the craggy earth.”  Still hushed.  While the rest of the choir is still wordless.  Speechless, just barely keeping up.  A measure of two beats, then all the pent-up passion thumps down into the key change: we’ve got it now.

Wahmp.  The melody again, everybody in octaves, finally truly loud: “snowy patches strewn,” and echoed by the Alto 1s. Wow.  “Anchored to the craggy earth” and the Alto 1s echo again, filling in, they are able to say more than the rest of us.  This is what we came here to say.  We’re amazed.  It’s amazing.

“Eeeeaaaaarrrrthhhhhhhh” louder louder “unnnn-” softer softer, overwhelmed “mooooooooooooooooooooooving.”  Shape.  Swell.  Throb.  Awe.   Breathe.  Again.  Less.  Breathe.  Again.  Less.  Then more MORE MOREMORE!  Extra beat–a measure of 5.

“AH!”  Ecstatic.  All that and more.  This more: “While clouds daaaaaaaance.”  Soprano and Alto 2s need more, to balance the ecstasy of the Soprano and Alto 1s.  “Across the vaaaaaast.  Eternal skyyyyyyy.”  More more, you.  “Eterrrrrrnal skyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” and it lasts a little longer, grows a little further than they expect, like walking on the beach and finally looking back to discover you’ve gone much further than you thought.  One, Two, THree, FOUR!, ONE, Two, three, four, one and, two off.  Piano, breath.

Foomp.  E-flat major now.  Sweeter.  [o] wordless again, but more open than when we began–leaning, longing, no tension left of trying to come up with words, just enjoying the memory.  Except the lone soprano.  She can’t get over it.  Wow.  “Vast eternal sky,” two three four.

[o] molto rit. and two.  and.  three i and a.   four.  i.  and.  a.

One.  Listen.  Vast.  Settle.  Vast.  Eternal.  Listen.  Can they decrescendo any further on that [o]?  Can it fade to less?  Switch to [u] gradually.  Three.  i.  and.  a.  Four.  i.  and.  a.   Can they get any softer on [u]?  Less less, fade, gentler, easier.  Switch to [m].  Settle.  Easy.  Eternal.  Listen.  Listen.  Let them go.  Listen.  Easy.

Silence.  Keep listening.  Let them go.


And that’s what it’s like in my head.  Mostly it’s words that I remember.  Individual words that suggest and remind me of a larger meaning, the emotional direction.  Some counting.  Lots of listening.  My body takes care of some things, too, like feeling my feet, aligning my body, and gauging the size of my gesture; but the thoughts that influence that never become words.  It just goes on underneath the thinking; the external takes care of itself because I’ve trained it to.


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