Week 3: Friday, April 6, 2018
“Breakable” by Jenni Brandon
Text by Annabelle Moseley
My intermediate college group* is singing this in our next concert, and they have fallen in love with it. (*small ensemble, all non-majors, rehearses ~90min/week. Many have some performance experience before joining, but not all.)
The 2-part nature of the piece makes it musically accessible for a wide range of singers, while still providing room for growth, and incorporates subject matter that speaks to students of all levels. In her composer’s notes, Jenni Brandon remarks that Annabelle Mosley’s poem “tells a powerful story that strength and beauty can be found in all things, and in all of us.” This is an increasingly important message for our singers, no matter their age or grade level. There is also joy (and purposeful representation) in programming a piece by a living woman composer, who is setting a text by a living woman poet.
Most of the work is homophonic and homorhythmic – with both voice parts moving in vertical harmony, without requiring rhythmic part independence. There are some brief points of imitation, contained within the context of a phrase or page. One short aleatoric segment directs the performers to repeat a 4-note pattern in an unmetered fashion, allowing singers to experience individual moments of freedom and creativity, within clear guidelines.
Dynamics and style markings are plentiful, giving the ensemble ample opportunity for musicality and shaping.
Key structure and tonality changes throughout the piece; teaching via solfege would be a difficult prospect. However, the piano accompaniment is independently supportive of the key and of the voice parts, without doubling.
Meter varies from simple meter to compound and back, and incorporates a number of signatures (4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 5/4; 9/8, 6/8, 12/8). The piece does not feel “mixed meter” though – there are clear distinctions between simple and compound sections of the work, with the beat and beat division staying constant within each larger section. Simple: rhythms are primarily beat and beat division (quarter/half/paired eighth), with no syncopation. Compound: rhythms include dotted quarters, sets of 3 eighths, ties, and borrowed duplets. In our first rehearsal, we spent some quality time feeling simple vs. compound, duplets vs. triplets, and what borrowing meant. After that introduction, the rhythms did not feel overly difficult, even for students who are not strong rhyming readers yet, since the text setting matches well with the rhythms, and both voice parts moving together rhythmically for the majority of the piece.
|Composer:||Jenni Brandon (www.jennibrandon.com)|
|Date of Composition:||2016|
|Text Source/Author:||Annabelle Moseley (www.annabellemoseley.com)|
|Date of Text:||2011|
|Subject(s):||Strength, inner beauty, perseverance, journeys|
|Voicing Details:||Primarily 2-pt, occasional unison, no additional divisi|
|Ranges:||S: C4-Gb5 (tessitura: G4-Eb5)|
A: A3-C5 (tessitura: C4-C5)
Comfortable ranges and tessitura
|Tempo:||~66-72, with accel, rit, fermata|
|Commissioning Ensemble:||2015-2016 Women’s Commissioning Consortium, from Graphite Publishing. (Included middle school, high school, college, and community ensembles)|
|Publisher:||Graphite Publishing (www.graphitepublishing.com)|
|Further descriptions and details, including composer’s notes, audio, perusal score, and purchasing:|
Until next week!
Dr. Shelbie Wahl-Fouts is associate professor of music, Director of Choral Activities, and music department chair at Hollins University, in Roanoke, Virginia.
Email: Bio: https://www.hollins.edu/directory/shelbie-wahl-fouts/