Friday, 10 February 2012

The City and the Sea - Little Man in a Hurry by Eric Whitacre

Eric Whitacre
Born 1970
Eric Whitacre is possibly my favourite choral composer, and in my opinion he is a modern musical genius. Although most classical musicians disagree because they tend to describe his music as cheesy or boring, I personally love his incorporation of contemporary sounds and influences with precision, intonation and ensemble. He is most famous for his ‘Whitacre Chords’ or pan-diatonic clusters and of course, his three Virtual Choir projects (the third still in process). Most of his choral music follows the same format; relatively slow with dense and colourful chords rather than memorable melodies. However, I gained an even bigger appreciation for him after I saw him conducting ‘The City and the Sea’ with his famous Whitacre Singers. The collection of five pieces are set to the poems of E.E Cummings, written for SATB and piano. The entire set is based on white key clusters in the piano (what he calls ‘oven-mit’ technique). Here is an example:

An extract from 'The City and the Sea', I. I Walked through the Boulevard

In particular, ‘Little Man in a Hurry’ was an incredible performance, and proved that Whitacre has a wider range of compositional styles than most people think. This piece is fantastic to watch because of the sheer energy that is needed to perform it, (after all it looks like a marathon to sing) the intricate rhythms throughout the piece, and the accurate representation of what the text represents. As well as these, the overlapping of each of the four voice parts is so seamless. Whitacre even shows his delight once the piece is finished by stomping his foot - and I don't blame him!

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