Saturday, March 26, 2005

NYCC day 2

Today was different from yesterday mainly in that we spent the entire day at NYC. In fact, the only continuity break, for me, was about a half an hour I spent with a friend from ethnomusicology who had missed the last lecture, and wanted me to explain some of what we had covered. I did, but the step out of context, even though it was only brief, was rather disconcerting, and I don't think I helped her much as a result. On the other hand, the experience of NYC is just as rich and exciting as ever, and I am really glad to be doing this again at last. While yesterday was spent trying to talk to, and become acquainted with, as many people as possible, today was different in that I found myself largely fitted into various groups. I guess it's perfectly natural for people to get into groups based on who they have the most in common with, or who they know best, but I still find it disconcerting. I have my whole life. Still, I spent some time chatting to one young man who has only recently returned from an eight-month sabbatical in Australia, where he was sent on a singing scholarship. Nothing substantially research related came out of the conversation, but it was interesting nonetheless. I also made the acquaintance of a young boy from Heidelberg, who I spent quite a lot of time with between rehearsal sessions, and I got better acquainted with some of the other people I met yesterday. Strangely, I had no contact with the few people I knew from the last course, including with a young woman I spent a lot of time with last time. Still, that's the way things work, I guess. The whole dynamic is different from the last time, but I think that's mainly due to the sheer volume of rehearsing we're doing. Last time there were several other workshops and activities, and lots of time to socialize. This time, rehearsals dominate, and the environment, while perfectly pleasant, is less conducive to socializing that was the environment in the Drakensberg. Reminded me how much the physical space influences the social character of the choir.

Just a couple of observations today: the Soprano sound has a surprising amount of vibrato, but none of the conductors have yet commented on it. Vibrato is a big thing with some conductors, so I was rather waiting for it to be raised. There is a lot of emphasis on bass sound in the African music we're performing, while the Chichester Psalms and the Latvian music appears to be surprisingly high for bass, and everyone, in general. Even the deeper pieces among the Latvian music are not as waited toward the bass part as is the African program. The music from the African part of the program has so-far made me a little uncomfortable, because it is so loaded with primitivist stereotypes, and so 'big' and theatrical. Lots of percussion, movement, sound effects, and the like. We workshopped a medley today incorporating "Pata pata", "Mbube" (which was introduced with the usual story of Solomon Linda and his unpaid royalties. No mention of the possible folk origins of the music, or of Linda's collaborators), the national anthem, and "Bobejan Klim die Berg". I guess what makes me uncomfortable is that while I recognize the stereotypes, and the problems in the music, I also enjoy it, and want to enjoy it, and am very aware of the extent to which those around me enjoy it. Every person I spoke to in the last break of the day commented that they were enjoying the African music. Not compared to the other, necessarily, but the energy and enjoyment is obviously high during these bits of rehearsal. The conductor's energy and character have something to do with that, but its also in the music.

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