7.25.2006

Shell-shocked

I'm not quite sure who's more exhausted.

I simultaneously played the contradictory roles of matron of honor and composer.

...while Andy played both Daddy and Mommy.

In 110+ weather.

Without air conditioning.

When we got back, we wanted to take the kids straight to Baskin Robbins for being such amazingly well-behaved little angels through most of the weekend.

And then tear them limb from limb for having thrown tantrums all through the actual wedding and reception, allowing Andy to see none of it.

(We did neither, by the way.)

Actually, the fits didn't start until after the processional, so Andy did get to see that.

Such as it was.

After all the sweat, blood, and tears I poured into making the music line up with the structure of the event... the slow, dignified procession of the first six bridesmaids... a simple, repeating theme, firmly established... tension builds as Heather walks, builds into positive angst as I process, four bars of as much tension as you can possibly get away with in a wedding processional... breaking suddenly into sweetness and light as the flower girl sprinkles loveliness and innocence. All tension is released... but it's really something of a prolonged deceptive cadence, because we're in the wrong key now. We started out in F major, now we're in the sub-mediant, D major. A little stretching of the melody, and we seamlessly transition into the key of E major, just a half step below our original tonic. The music is still sweet and innocent and pretty, but structurally we're in an area of such intense anticipation that Mozart would never have dared do such a thing. Once the flower girl has reached the front, the music accellerates through a positively dizzying chord progression, and there's a sense of vertigo... until suddenly the bride is standing at the back of the church on her father's arm, everyone stands up, and bells begin to peal... suddenly we're right back where we started, but so much richer and fuller... as she reaches the front the music softly returns to its initial simplicity, and underneath the final chord is a little abbreviated summation of our journey.

That was what was supposed to happen.

What really happened was that the musicians forgot the repeat, and the bridesmaids weren't all out by the time the bride's music had started, and it was really quite amazing that Sharon made it to the front before the music stopped. And nobody knew to stand up until she was halfway down, but they really couldn't see her anyway because of the eight bridesmaids still in the aisle.

It hurts.

A lot.

I worked so hard on this work of art. I poured so much of myself into it, at great cost. This piece of music mattered a lot to me... still does.

But for the actualization of it, I had to depend on others. Others who hadn't just poured three months of their lives into it, who weren't nearly so invested in it.

I think it's so special and meaningful to have dear friends play for weddings, rather than the cold perfection of professional strangers. I am a huge fan of amatuer music.

But it does present some problems. Because when your job isn't on the line, when you're just doing this as a favor for a friend, there's always going to be something higher priority going on.

Emily had family responsibilities. Not messing up Jonathan's nap schedule was the top priority for her, and so she left late in the morning, with no margin for error. When traffic inevitably went sour, she missed the musicians rehearsal altogether. They squeaked in just in time for the actual wedding rehearsal... and it was a fiasco.

Jessica had a big deal master class the week before, with a renowned violinist. The music for the master class was much harder than the music for the wedding... and a master class is a whole lot more intimidating than a friend's wedding. So she was busy with the master class, and hadn't touched the wedding music for a week. Unfortunately, I'd finished her final draft a week ago, and added some difficult passages. They weren't very difficult, but much harder than the parts she'd already practiced.

And she sight-read them at the rehearsal.

The problem wasn't with the quality of the musicians. The problem was that this event was part of their personal lives, not their professional lives. And personal lives are inherently complicated and multi-faceted, and there's a lot of potential for things to go wrong.

And of course, this all applies to me, as well. This music was a big deal to me, on a professional level, because if it went well, I had high hopes of obtaining paying gigs writing wedding music. But when it came to the actual rehearsal, I wasn't just the composer, I was also matron of honor. And so when the pianist asked for a tempo, three other people were vying for my attention, and I was in quite a hurry. So I gave him the tempo real quick.

As in twice as quick as it should have been.

All in all, though, I think it went far better than it might have, and for that I am thankful. It was not the spectacular high point that I had envisioned, but it wasn't a disaster, either. It was very pretty, and certainly quite an improvement over Here Comes the Bride.

And it was special precisely because it was done by real people who love Sharon in the midst of their real lives.

And in the end, Sharon and Jim are married, and that's what matters.

And I have lots of thoughts about that...

...but I'm an amateur blogger, and real life calls.

7 comments:

Emily said...

I would like to point out that, though the rehearsal was difficult (mostly due to lack of good oversight - that was the most frustrating rehearsal I've EVER been at, and I've been at a lot!) we did get it together. You weren't there for the alternate rehearsal that we held the morning of the wedding, where we got it exactly right multiple times in a row. I'm sorry it didn't come out perfectly, but it certainly wasn't for lack of effort on the part of all the amateur musicians. We gave it our best because we love Sharon, not our second best because we thought it less important than everything else in our lives. I understand your disappointment, but I do think you're being a bit unfair to those of us who dropped everything to make it happen at all.

Sarah Marie said...

Elena,

Will we, your faithful blog readers, get to hear this composition in any way, shape, or form? I've heard so much about it as I followed the composition process detailed on your blog, but I'd love to hear the music itself!

Sarah Marie said...

P.S. Your post rings quite true for me -- I can't tell you how many times I've had to prioritize my own practicing or homework or prior obligations over learning the works of student composers here, or practicing music to play as an accompanying line in another student's recital. Of course, I always squeeze in enough practice to pull it off, but there's the lingering guilt of wondering if I should have prioritized differently! I know from dating a composer and arranger how frustrating it can be to have your works fall short of what you created... imagine how Beethoven or Brahms or Mendelssohn would feel if they heard people stumbling through their works today! :-P

Rachel said...

I want to hear it!

ClimbingTowardtheSun said...

I want to hear it too...please please please!

Matthew said...

Oh, Elena... I'm so sorry. It feels to me like you set set much hope and maybe even a good piece of your identity and worth into that composition, and to watch it come out so distorted and far from what you envisioned must have been heartwrenching.

"It hurts," you said. "A lot."
Yeah. It would have to.
I'm sorry...

Elena said...

Emily, I'm sorry my post came across that way. You handbell players really did pull things together beautifully... I'm just disappointed that things didn't come together in time to have a good full run-through with the bridesmaids. We all did our very best and then some... there just wasn't quite enough time to get everything properly organized.

And everybody else, I'm pretty sure the ceremony was recorded, so I'll post it as soon as I can.

=)

Anyway, on the whole, it was an amazingly positive experience. There is no rush quite like walking into a rehearsal, and thinking "wow, that's pretty... I can't place it but it sure sounds familiar..." and realizing that it's your very own.

And I've learned a LOT about the whole process.

And Sharon walked down the aisle to a lovely piece of music, put together entirely by people she dearly loves, and who love her dearly. What could be more special than that?