This weekend I did something I haven’t done for quite some time– I worked on music composition. Well, technically it was mostly arranging, with some originality tossed in.
After becoming stymied on the concert band piece I was working on, I sorta shelved the whole “composing thing” for awhile. Not having a composition teacher or mentor kinda sucks. Plus I got involved in drum corps and chorus and and and….
The 2014-2015 season for the gay chorus was announced and next spring we are doing an entire concert of Beatles music. I love the Beatles (at least the trippy, druggie shit), so I found myself cautiously optimistic.
But something tells me the concert will lean more towards “I wanna hold your hand”, and less toward “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. And I sorta predicted no chance of performing my favorite Beatles song of all time “Within You Without You”.
Which got my ham pater wheel turning.
What if I were to arrange “Within You Without You”? It would be my homage to the Beatles and give me a chance to try my hand at doing something for the chorus. And to possibly have a piece of mine performed.
So I got online, found a condensed sheet music version of the song, printed it, and set to work turning it into a piece for men’s chorus.
Again, my lack I formal training is a bit hampering from a technical side– but it also gives me a sort of freedom as I have no pre-conceived notions about how or what I should write.
On Saturday I sat down at my computer around 10 am and started setting the first notes to the page— and when I looked up, it was after 6 pm. I continued on after dinner until my brain was mush.
On Sunday I did much the same thing. And by yesterday evening I had the piece “on page” from beginning to end. Yes, it needs some major tweaks and adjustments, but the structure is there.
And I feel good about it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the piece, this is a George Harrison song that is written for sitar, violin, cello, tabla, and voice. The lyrics are very Buddhist and kind of deep.
Compositionally, it was a challenge to turn a solo vocal line and bizarre (and thin) instrumentation into 4 voice parts. Especially with the sitar drone and tabla percussion.
I think the message of the piece translates very well to gay chorus. The song is about embracing love and not being false or striving for something yet losing your soul along the way. And also about looking beyond yourself and realizing we’re all one.
In my version, since Indian percussion will be hard to come by, I wrote it for Acapella choir and snare drum. It takes on a militaristic feel while almost chanting this call for the listener to open their eyes. I actually repeat the “Are you one of them?” line to form a dramatic accusatory climax.
The piece is far from done, but it’s a good start. And I hope (beyond reason) that it will end up being singable and possibly debuted this spring.
“Within You Without You”
We were talking
About the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves
Behind a wall
of illusion– never glimpse the truth
Then it’s far too late
When they pass away
We were talking
About the love we all could share
When we find it
To try our best to hold it there
With our love, with our love
We could save the world
If they only knew
Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you
We were talking
About the love that’s gone so cold
And the people who gain the world
And lose their soul
They don’t know, they can’t see
Are you one of them?
When you’ve seen beyond yourself
Then you may find
Peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come
When you see we’re all one
And life flows on within you and without you….