I’ve had a few choral conductor/educator type colleagues ask me recently what choral music I listen to, if I could provide a listening list of sorts. Well, admission time: for someone like me who works in choral music a lot, I don’t actually listen to very much choral music at all. But I do listen to all different kinds of vocal music, like this chick Like a Villain. She has a genuinely adventurous way of telling the stories she tells, both as narrative and in abstract form. I feel her music very deeply.
"What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic." - Carl Sagan.
This applies to music notation too. Before there were audio recordings, there were notes on staves.
“Because I have conducted my own operas and love sheep-dogs; because I generally dress in tweeds, and sometimes, at winter afternoon concerts, have even conducted in them; because I was a militant suffragette and seized a chance of beating time to The March of the Women from the window of my cell in Holloway Prison with a tooth-brush; because I have written books, spoken speeches, broadcast, and don’t always make sure that my hat is on straight; for these and other equally pertinent reasons, in a certain sense I am well known.” ― The very feisty and wonderful Dame Ethel Smyth.
Look at that. A dyke-and-her-dogs. It’s splendid. I’m practising her cello sonata for a concert next weekend. It’s a completely splendid piece. Wowsers.
If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.
I’m so thrilled to be a part of this event. I’ll be both saying something and playing something *grin*
How to tell if you’re a feminist.
In recent discussions on my trying to convince producers to help me make an album of my own compositions, the topic of playing the gender card came up i.e. there was a lot of hooha this year about how few female nominees there were in the various popular music categories of the ARIA Awards.
If I can, in my own small way, work to redress the gender balance in music here (i.e. More Women!!) then I have no hesitation in playing the gender card. Or the sexuality card, for that matter. It think it’s important to be proud of who you are in every aspect of your life, not separate it completely from your creative life. Maybe it’s just me? Hm.
Anyhoo, if you had any doubts about whether or not to call yourself a feminist, here’s a handy flow chart.
“When you walk on stage, you are first and foremost a performer. The music is really only 60 per cent of it all.” - Jane Atkins.
60% music, 40% performance. This is her rule. It’s true, but it’s a controversial thing to say to a bunch of young musicians. They didn’t believe her, unfortunately…
Yeehar!! The words for this are attributed to the famous outlaw, Belle Starr. She was quite something, lemme tell ya…
This song is quite different to the setting of the same words by contemporary American composer Libby Larsen that I’m learning at the moment.
A young person asked me to answer this little questionnaire of sorts, something to do with a school project. Anyway, I had to do it in a ten minute time limit… boy, it kinda makes you learn something about yourself.
(NB The word “song” in these questions is taken very loosely, as my tastes require!)
1: A song you like with a colour in the title
A Green Lowland of Pianos. Text by Czeslaw Milosz, music by Samuel Barber
2: A song you like with a number in the title
“One Man Guy" Rufus Wainright
3: A song that reminds you of summertime
1st movement of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto
4: A song that reminds you of someone you would rather forget about
“Stormy Weather" by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler
5: A song that needs to be played LOUD
Symphony no. 9 “From the New World" by Antonin Dvorak
6: A song that makes you want to dance
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky
7: A song to drive to
Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich
8: A song about drugs or alcohol
“Prelude to the afternoon of a faun" by Claude Debussy
9: A song that makes you happy
“Water Dances - Synchronising" by Michael Nyman
10: A song that makes you sad
“Comptine d’un autre été" by Yann Tiersen
11: A song that you never get tired of
“Deep Sea Dreaming" by Elena Kats Chernin.
12: A song from your preteen years
“The Rainbow Connection" by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher
13: One of your favorite 80’s songs
“Six Months in a Leaky Boat" by Split Enz
14: A song that you would love played at your wedding
“Sudden Light" text by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Music by me. Yes (it’s a gift of love to my girl).
15: A song that is a cover by another artist
"I could have danced all night" by Lerner and Lowe, performed by Jamie Callum.
16: One of your favourite classical songs
This question has suddenly become humorous in this context.
17: A song that you would sing a duet with on karaoke
"I will never leave you" from the musical "Sideshow". Only if my co-performer will wear one t-shirt with me (if that makes no sense to you, lmgtfy.com )
18: A song from the year that you were born
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John. Strictly speaking, it was released in ‘73 but it went gold in ‘74 so I’m claiming it.
19: A song that makes you think about life
“Freezing" by Suzanne Vega and Philip Glass
20: A song that has many meanings to you
Um… everything? Especially abstract instrumental music.
21: A favorite song with a person’s name in the title
“Who is Silvia" a Shakespeare setting by Franz Schubert
22: A song that moves you forward
As in motivation? “Workers Union" by Louis Andreissen
23: A song that you think everybody should listen to
String Quartet in G minor by Claude Debussy. It’s really just as good as the Ravel quartet, y’know.
24: A song by a band you wish were still together
“Wonderwall" by Oasis.
25: A song by an artist no longer living
See answer to number 16.
26: A song that makes you want to fall in love
See answer to number 14.
27: A song that breaks your heart
“Cry me a River" by Arthur Hamilton
28: A song by an artist with a voice that you love
“About to Die" by Dirty Projectors. Everyone who sings with this band has a fabulous voice.
29: A song that you remember from your childhood
“Ni Wa Wa" - a Chinese lullaby about a little doll. My mum used to sing it to me.
30: A song that reminds you of yourself
"Happy Phantom" by Tori Amos
I wrote this little song a while back. It’s about immigration, an optimistic, hopeful view of immigration, of starting a new life in a new part of the world. Of course I realise it’s much more complicated than this, but perhaps I really am just a cockeyed optimist seeing the world through rose coloured glasses? Yes, OK, I am. But someone’s gotta do it, someone’s gotta tell some happy stories. Here are the lyrics to my song (I am planning on teaching it to a bunch of kids from all over the state of NSW to perform at the Sydney Opera House in October. Woo!)
To Your Shore
by Sally Whitwell
Far on the horizon, a mountain rising up
The shore caressed by the water’s ebb and flow
Someone’s standing there, looking out
Far away into the great unknown
Oh breath of hope, carry us to your shore.
Far on the horizon, a shining sail appears
Propelled by the wind’s kind breath
Someone’s standing there, looking out
To a newfound land so richly blessed
Oh breath of hope, carry them to our home
Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone. Winner of the ABC Classic FM Classic 100 Music in the Movies.
This recording featuring Australian oboist Diana Doherty was my harpsichord debut *lol*. Let’s be clear about this - I am not a harpsichordist! But I seem to have ended up playing a goodly amount of what could be described as ‘crossover’ or ‘novelty’ music on it.
A world exclusive performance of Etude No. 19 by Philip Glass played by Australian pianist Sally Whitwell.
Recorded by ABC Classic FM at the Perth Concert Hall on Saturday 16th February as part of the 2013 Festival of Perth.
Read the article on Phillip Glass on The Music Show.
If you enjoyed this excerpt, well ***drumroll*** the whole of this concert I played in is being broadcast on ABC Classic FM this coming Wednesday. Hip hurrah!!