Stephanie Solanki, 10/10/12

In today’s class, we started off by discussing the opera. We discussed the “point” of Liu. I thought that the character of Liu was to contrast the character of Turandot. She was generous in her love, whereas Turandot made her suitors fight for her love. Liu was a foil for Turandot. Liu was faithful in how she was viewed in her society. She paid with her life for loving somebody.

Professor Kahan said that Western art is valorizes Western music, and every other music is secondary. Intervals are the distance between two notes. Fifths (intervals) denote “barbaric” music. Liu’s music has a lot of fourth intervals, which denotes the Chinese motif that is present in many Chinese musical pieces. Puccini inserted a lot of fourths into Liu’s part so that we can recognize it as Chinese music. Her character had to be introduced as Chinese to show where the opera took place. The composer has to make exoticism palatable for American audiences. I think this is so interesting. We’ve programmed our brains to know that a certain sound is to be linked to a certain culture. This is subconscious. It just shows the power music has over our brains, and how it can influence us to believe certain ideas.

Mr. Sirotta is a composer of a symphonic orchestral music. His latest piece is to be performed this Sunday, and I have the privilege to attend. Fantasia Pripetshok is based on a piece by Mark Warshovsky. He was creating Yiddish tunes. He composed many songs but never wrote them down until he met a writer who was writing about the struggles of the Jews. They suffered from bigotry and anti-Semitism. The song that Sirotta has chosen to make something of for a symphonic orchestra is by Mark Warshovsky called Oyfn Pripetshok. Rhythmically the tune doesn’t know if it’s coming or going. It’s a parable for the Jewish people. The tune doesn’t follow the strict rules of a square melody. The words of a song teach a lesson. It parallels the survival of a whole nations because of the message paired with a beautiful tune.  He wrote a score using a computer using recordings of music instruments; this technique is called voicing.

Sirotta chose to do variations of the melody in his piece. The themes-and-variations form have been used since the 18th century, used by composers like Johann Bach. One of the reasons for using this form is the composer will pick the melody from a preceding composer and do something in his or her own language with it. The tune is presented in the onset, and then the variations begin. The variations follow the basic tune. The same framework is used with the same basic chord progression harmonizing it.

Sirotta’s piece is a set of variations that is not an identical match. He deconstructed the melody. He was interested in the harmonies and the chord progressions. I loved hearing every piece he played. His own piece was very special because he played it on the piano first, then introduced the history, and then played his symphonic piece all put together. I think i’m going to love the concert on Sunday.