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My senior project is truly a collage of the musical, philosophical, and experiential advances I have made in my four years here. The songs in my final concert did not start as ideas colored by the prospect of schoolwork; I feel very fortunate to have been able to use my personal social and academic experiences (both negative and positive) as fuel for my compositions, which, in turn, very naturally became the content of my project.
I set an ambitious goal for myself after completing junior year: to write and perform all original music for my final senior II concert. I had (what I thought of at the time as) dreams of accompanying myself on piano for most, if not all, of the songs that would require it; I wanted to leave Bard as a self-proficient composer and performer. For my first senior concert, I rearranged five jazz standards (and accompanied myself on two), altered two popular tunes and ended with my first completed original song, called Running Out. When I spoke with my board after the concert, they were very supportive of my writing and encouraged me to accompany myself more.
I have managed to perform regularly (predominantly jazz standards) at various restaurants and sessions around the area since last fall. Recently, I have stopped feeling the previously overwhelming anxiety that preceded all of my performances prior to this year. That anxiety had clouded my confidence about playing (and especially soloing on) piano, preventing me from doing so in front of almost anyone, let alone an audience.. Overcoming this huge internal feat with the help of my professors (specifically in lessons, pep talks, and powwows with John Esposito and Pamela Pentony) was the real reason that I reached the seemingly impossible goal I set for myself last summer.
This semester’s concert, entitled Language & Love, was comprised of six original songs. Two of these compositions, Balance and Liar, were written in a relatively standard pop song form. Both of these songs were written junior year after a most unpleasant break-up and the passing of a good friend. The discovery of this creative, private outlet as a way to meditate about difficult life events was (and is) invaluable.
The two songs entitled Can’t Wait and Dissonance were both originally written as two-part songs. Having taken many philosophy classes here at Bard, I felt compelled to communicate my philosophical interest (predominantly philosophy of the mind and ordinary language philosophy) within my project. I felt the dualistic nature of the songs would lend itself to a denser lyric that could outline and reinterpret these concepts in a layered, lyrical way. However, I found myself crowding words together and struggling to cut them down. Some of my peers, especially Maya Osbourne, involved in both the music and the creative writing departments helped me edit my lyrics, (mostly by listening to me rant for hours, bless them) for which I am eternally grateful.
The song Ursa Major was written as a single page of music, which very naturally (and quickly) developed into the song as it was performed with the help of Jory Dawidowicz, Yaniv Kot, and Ryan Maclean. I brought the single page of music to rehearsal and described the feel and arc of the song and they were able to play it almost perfectly the first time.
The first version of the song called Resonance was an electronic piece that I composed with Ableton. I was initially going to use the track as accompaniment during the concert, but decided to try transcribing and rearranging it for voice, cello, and bass. Working with Jory Dawidowicz on upright bass, Dan Vernam on cello, and Ali Overing, Angela Skarpelis, and Rachel Dobken as the vocalists, we sang/played through the song in rehearsal many times to find a way to create variations on the “A, B, A” form with rhythmic accents, dynamic swells, snaps, and foot-stomps.
I have found writing music to be an unparalleled outlet–a way in which to vent via lyrical compositions as a introspective self-dialogue. In a sense, I feel that I have found a way in which to delve deeper into feelings and insights that are mine and mine alone for the first time in my life. The musical background and information that I have accrued via my instructors and peers in the music department, especially the jazz department, has simultaneously supplied me with the skill to use (what I have come to call) the language of music to find emotive, colorful, and engaging expressions–harmonies that convey, I feel, just as much (and just as important) content as is done quite literally by lyrics.
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Larson, Iris Sofia, "Language & Love" (2013). Senior Projects Spring 2013. 7.
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