Kym Scott essay
Music affects people in many different ways. It can bring back memories of the past; conjure up a variety of images; make us cry; make us laugh; and take us away from reality, into a world of make believe. As a choral director, I work with music that includes text. This allows the music to tell a story in a way that is more literal than is possible with instrumental music. However, although the author may have had a specific meaning in mind when writing the text, the composer of the music (assuming they are not one and the same), and the performers, have the opportunity to use their imagination when interpreting the text.
When setting the words of a poet or author to music, a composer must interpret the text in a way that is meaningful to him or her in order to set the music appropriately and expressively. The goal for the composer is to match the music to the text in a way that will be meaningful to the performers and the audience. The way in which one composer may choose to set a certain text will be quite different to another composer’s interpretation. Therefore, we have many choral works based on the same text that are very different in nature.
Similarly, performers interpret text in different ways. I regularly speak to my choir members about the text of a musical work and what it means to them individually. Within one choir, I often receive many different interpretations of the same text. For example, when singing sacred music the meaning of the text may have a very spiritual meaning to a more religious choir member, while the text may mean something entirely different to a member who does not share the same religious beliefs. Both interpretations may have a great depth of meaning, even though they are based on very different experiences and beliefs. The imagination is a wonderful thing and music is able to release the imagination in many different ways. Finding meaning in the music through the text and the relationship between the text and the music is just one of these ways.