Sunday, February 10, 2013

Music that travels: Sequences

A continuation of this

As a musician, I find myself drawn to music that travels rapidly, and music that doesn’t necessarily resolve in the conventional way. From the time I became fascinated with classical music, I have been enamored with the sequence. Even before I could understand the nuts and bolts of sequences, I thought the middle sections of Baroque and Classical music I listened to were achingly beautiful because of the music that traveled. Music that traveled rapidly down the circle of fifths, up thirds, down thirds, seemingly at home in each of the scale degrees- but the having some other note to go to and be equally at home there- this fascinated me. I couldn’t have told you why- I just thought it was beautiful.

Maybe I was (and am) captivated by sequences because I felt like I could identify with them.

Rarely do sequences continue in their pattern until the tonic is reached- instead, they have to find some other way to resolve, breaking free of the pattern, the comfort zone. The descending sequences making their way down through the scale have to ascend to resolve. The ascending sequences might descend in order to resolve. Either way they have to adapt- they can’t go on doing the same thing, even though it’s possible that they could just cycle again and again through the same notes.

When you move somewhere new, you have a new room, a new school, a new environment, new people to meet…  but there’s something still there that makes you unique. Your new environment has a lot of impact on you- but you also have a huge impact on your environment. All this to say that when I moved, I never became a completely new person at each place I moved- but I had to change, I had to adapt. I couldn’t go on being the exact same person I had been in my old place. Just like sequences have to break out of a pattern to resolve and be part of a real piece of music, I had to break free from my way of living in my “old places” and adapt to being in a new place.

Sometimes sequences take you to an unexpected key- a place you thought you’d never be but somehow you got there- now what? More adapting, more changing for the better- knowing there will be a resolution of some kind- trusting that it will be a good one. My eighth grade year in Maryland comes to mind. Middle school is already an uncomfortable time of life, and if you’re in a new place- mainly if you’re in your second new place in the span of two years- it’s very uncomfortable. I was in a middle school where I was mercilessly bullied. I learned to be scared and extremely guarded, not trusting anyone and often going to great lengths to avoid getting hurt. My escape was music- and this was when I fell in love with sequences. That “unexpected key” led me to four years at the Baltimore School for the Arts where I got to nurture that love, which in turn led me to Rice, where I am slowly getting out of that cycle of fear- learning not to keep going back to the same unhelpful thoughts, learning to trust- finding a resolution out of that “unexpected key”, trusting that things are getting better, that this fear isn’t all there is.

I’ve learned a lot through sequences.
sunset at Domaine Forget, a music festival I went to in 2008

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