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i am a little church (1976)

  • Malcolm Singer
  • e. e. cummings

Abstract

The high grading of this piece may seem surprising at first glance, but to perform such harmonically static music as this requires the highest skill. There is a real danger of the singer’s throat seizing up through tension caused by having to repeat notes at a medium to high tessitura. (E is a particularly difficult note in this respect.) Vocal ease is not the composer’s top priority in this most ingenious and delightful piece, but it is however fun to work out and audiences will be enchanted by it. The display of technical skill in using numerically-based systems to produce rhythms and pitches is typical of Malcolm Singer. Other pieces of ‘systems music’ by him are enjoyable in the same way, for example A Singer’s Complaint for voice, piano and marimba, which contains some memorable musical and rhythmical jokes. i am a little church is one of the most successful settings of cummings’s poetry that I have come across. Other composers have been daunted by the quirky originality and innately musical rhythms of the poems, but Singer has caught admirably the sparkle and bounce of this lovely poem; the asymmetrical and ever-shifting rhythms enhance rather than detract from the words. The atmosphere is most beautifully captured. The dynamic markings are sparse: there is a big crescendo in the introduction and a decrescendo to nothing in the piano at the very end. Otherwise, the fact that the voice part is pianissimo when low, together with the few markings that the composer does give, might indicate that the intensity may be allowed to rise to some extent with the register. This piece also features examples of minimalism, using repeating patterns, often on one note, in intricately controlled rhythms. The piano occasionally mirrors the vocal part, but otherwise it has plain octaves on the beat, which guide the singer. Such music exercises the performers’ concentration and nerves. It is considerably harder than it appears, but the result is most appealing and justifies the trouble involved, especially as audiences are sure to find it fascinating and diverting.

Keywords

Control Rhythm Vocal Repertory Static Music Glottal Stop Musical Rhythm 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Jane Manning 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malcolm Singer
  • e. e. cummings

There are no affiliations available

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