Thursday, May 16, 2013


Well that was a rough night at the old Classical Theory and Ear Training III class. We've pretty much ignored the Ear Training part of the course description for both I and III segments (I skipped II by permission of the instructor) except for a few brief interludes of Solfege (do-re-mi) singing, and so I was completely unprepared for the class assignment, having had exactly no vocal training of any kind, ever.

I have a terrible voice - I can actually carry a tune in the sense that I can hit a note when I hear one - but the sound that my vocal chords make is so unpleasant that I might as well be entirely tone deaf for all my singing matters. If you don't believe me you can hear my singing at the end of this NYCPlaywrights video ("I want my baby-back, baby-back, baby-back..."), although my voice was slightly processed through a Garageband filter and so not a pure example.

This has never been a problem for picking out tunes because I've always had that most excellent of crutches, a little invention called "the piano" to allow me to match the notes I hear with a minimum of cacophony. But two of the students in CT&ET III are accomplished singers with many years of vocal music study under their belts and so they were ducks in the water at this week's class. I was like a rock in water.

The assignment was to figure out the notes and harmonious triads of an F minor Mozart quartet in 2/2 time purely through figuring out the notes in our heads with nothing but the aid of the Solfege scale. AS IF!

Anyway so I decided to give myself an assignment of de-composing something that happens to be in my iTunes, just to make sure I can do it - although I will be using my MIDI keyboard as a crutch and not trying to do it with just my voice alone. It's the third movement (Rondo. Allegro agitato) of Francois-Adrien Boieldieu's Concerto for Harp and Orchestra in C. You can hear some of it here.

I've owned this recording, by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra with Marissa Robles on harp, for at least a year, but I never paid attention to the composers. And so since I decided to analyze this piece I looked up Boieldieu in Wikipedia. And he's quite the cutie as you can see in the painting above, at age 25 in 1800 in all his Empire fashion finery. He was apparently known as "the French Mozart" although you might also call him the French Jon Hamm, if you're familiar with the Hamm salami meme. Oh-lah-lah.

Now I should say that I selected this piece to analyze before I realized it was in C Major. But I sure am glad it is.

I was hoping I could also de-construct Boieldieu's name, since the second syllable (it's pronounced bwal-dyeh according to this online dictionary) is clearly the French word for "god" but all the translation software gives back is "boiel god."

Based on this painting all I can say is amen.