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How To Sing Like a Planet

Image courtesy of NASA

A genre-defying "instruction manual," as whimsical as the singing planet which inspired it
Commissioned by Minnesota ACDA for the Middle School State Honors Choir [TTB version]
Commissioned by Michigan Youth Chamber Singers [SATB version]
Poet/Lyricist: 
Elizabeth Alexander

This musical "instruction manual" is as whimsical and varied as the singing planet which inspired it.  This genre-defying showpiece evokes both the "ethereal" and the "grooving", offering pieces of wisdom of humor, humility and common sense. A prominent piano part undergirds this colorful romp, requiring a sensitive and solid accompanist.

The SATB arrangement has moderate ranges well-suited to high school and university voices. The TTB arrangement is a showpiece for middle and high school boychoirs which contain changed and unchanged voices.

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How To Sing Like a Planet

Poem by Elizabeth Alexander

“Scientists now say the planet itself is generating a constant, deep thrum of noise.
No mere cacophony, but actually a kind of music, huge, swirling loops of sound,
a song so strange you can't really fathom it, so low it can't be heard by human ears...”
- Mark Morford, from “How To Sing Like a Planet,”
San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 2008


Let everything unfold in its own time.
Accept what’s beyond your control.
Revel in simple harmonic motion.

Turn.
Rotate.

Get charged up.
Be weak.  Be strong.
Don’t fight friction.
Vibrate sympathetically.
Don’t be afraid to get into a groove.

Let gravity have its way with you.
Revolve around something luminous.

Wheel, whirl, slide, collide,
Circle, cycle, amble, gambol –
Resonate, radiate, innovate, renovate,
Oscillate, fluctuate, circumnavigate –

Bloom periodically.
Hunker down when you must.
Wobble from time to time without apology.

Know that annihilation’s possible any time,
But expect a bright tomorrow’s coming anyway.

Composer's Note: 

Given a "no-strings attached" commission, 60 talented middle school boys, a solid accompanist, and one heck of a dynamic conductor, what's a composer to do?

Well, after she does a little happy dance, she thinks outside the box!  Inspired by Mark Morford's electric description of the music that the earth makes just by being itself, I wrote and set to music a set of instructions for those of us who might wish to emulate our planet's humming and thrumming joy.

Reviews and Responses: 

"The students LOVE your piece. Of course, this makes me very happy  :-) " Eugene Rogers, Artistic Director, Michigan Youth Chamber Singers

"In my constant search for repertoire a title sometimes catches my attention and I can’t pass up perusing it. I am always pleased when my initial excitement bears fruit with a work that is equally captivating. “How to Sing Like a Planet” is full of surprises. The B section will make you smile at such heavenly bodies... It is an excellent piece of choral music, and we are happy to award it this week’s Silver Platter Award." Jack Senzig, editor of the Choralnet Series "Composition Spotlight"

"When I first saw the piece, I'm afraid I was a little too close-minded and disregarded it as strange for the sake of being strange and overly contemporary. However, after rehearsing it and listening to it for the last few weeks, I have come to realize that this is one of the most creative and exciting pieces I have ever had the pleasure of performing. The text painting and wordplay is wonderful and it has really been a joy to work on it." Colin Vega, Tenor in 2016 New Jersey High School All-State Choir under direction of Rollo Dilworth

Performers: 


SATB, piano:
Michigan Youth Chamber Singers/Eugene Rogers (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI)   * Premiere

Massachusetts High School All-State Honors Choir/Rollo Dilworth (Boston, MA)

New Jersey All-State Chorus/Rollo Dilworth (Atlantic City, NJ)

TTB, piano:
ACDA Minnesota Boy's Honors Choir/Eugene Rogers (Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, MN)   * Premiere

 

 

 

 

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