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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

The Song Remains The Same by Sam M. '07

But sometimes my blog entry is a little different.

DID YOU KNOW? Messaien’s glorious, transcendent “Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps” was written while the composer was a prisoner of war in a Nazi prison camp, and was premiered to 5,000 fellow prisoners of war and their guards.

This entry is a response to two excellent comments from last time.

Anonymous: “Sam, would you kindly post a piece of your music performance in audio and retrieve to us what you learn about Germany? It’s just I am very curious.”

Kallie: “Ok, since you seem to be rather in-the-know about the music program and musicals in general, could you possibly give any inside info about the choruses and performance classes at MIT? The Emerson Scholar program? MTG? I’ve read most of the online stuff, but I’d like to know about the time commitment and competitiveness of the programs and any general insights you might have. (It all looks so fun! :D)
If you don’t have any info, I’m sure I can wait until fall. :)


Okay, so first… what I learned about people. You should address everybody in the world using the formal “Sie” rather than the informal “du” unless they specifically tell you. You should go to a small bank to open your account, because big banks don’t like to open accounts for three months. And your cell phone might not work, because some companies operate on different frequencies in Europe and America. Honestly, the whole presentation was just fascinating stuff along these lines. Nothing too culturally shocking… guess I’ll have to wait until I get there to see.

Now, I can’t post any clip from Friday nights musical performance; the CD’s won’t be ready for a while. The best I can do is to direct you to this clip from a Fall 2003 concert I was in with the MIT Chamber Chorus… it’s a movment of a Bach cantata called “Wenn Es Meines Gottes Wille.” Hey, it’s in German and about death. Close enough to Ein Deutsches Requiem, right? I think this is pretty typical quality for MIT choral ensembles. Most of the class ensembles are pretty good, with MITSO probably the best.

Here’s two clips of an original piece that was commissioned for the MIT Chamber Chorus, “The Nothing That Is” by Libby Larsen. It was about Apollo 13, I think, and had us chanting the infinite series “one plus one minus one plus one,” singing in made up languages, intoning the distance formula, and doing the Lord’s Prayer or something. From it, you can extrapolate the rest of the piece.

Logos was with God.”
“Apollo 13 is go!”

It’s probably the strangest piece I’ve ever had the privilege of singing.

The strangest choral piece I’ve had the privilee of hearing is Messaien’s “Cinq Rechants.” Check that one out!

As far as my thoughts on the music department here go, you can check out a pretty current post I did on the subject last winter, entitled Song of Myself.

Some additional thoughts I’ve had since writing that post. MTG puts on some shows that are not too shabby… and often a bit nontraditional (see this year’s Star Wars: Musical Edition for an example). From what I can tell, though, it’s a really huge time commitment, especially for lead actors. I did musical theatre all throughout high school, and while the people who do shows here don’t seem to be at rehearsal quite as much as I was during high school, I also didn’t have to juggle a four- or five-class MIT workload with play rehearsals while I was in high school. Last week was tech week for this year’s Chicago, and since I pulled two all-nighters anyway, without the extra burden of doing shows and buidling sets and whatever, I can’t even imagine what it would be like if I were still doing musical theatre. An extracurricular at MIT is really a bigger commitment than it was in high school, because free time is definitely at a premium. I still like musical theatre, but there are other things I want to do, like be in marching band, plan social events for an engineering honor society, and, of course, turn turkeys into oil.

Now, if you’re not ready to make the time commitment during the semester, you can still go out for one of MTG’s summer or IAP productions. IAP production — that means doing a whole show in one month. Sounds awesome!

One of my biggest regrets at MIT was qualifying for the Emerson Scholars program during my sophomore year and then deciding that it would be cooler to take 18.701: Algebra I, which I ended up dropping, then get discounted voice lessors for two semesters. Classes are cool and all, but if you were into music in high school, it’s definitely a great creative outlet for you to continue pursuing at MIT.

I’m pretty proud of this Theme and Variations that I wrote for 21M.302: Harmony and Counterpoint II, and I can’t wait to take 21M.303 and 21M.304 next year! I originally thought I wanted to use my free time senior year to take things like quantum physics and computational biology, but you know what? Even after three years of MIT, I like writing chamber music and lieder way better than that stuff anyway!

Tomorrow: Snakes on a boat!

2 responses to “The Song Remains The Same”

  1. Mia :) says:

    Hey Sam…I was reading the Emerson scholarship requirements and I found that vocal scholarship recipients have to participate in “one of the music department groups”, etc. Does MTG count? I don’t think so because when I visited MIT, I went to the Music and something Department looking for MTG info and they said that it wasn’t in their department. Why can’t Musical Theater Guild be a part of these requirements? You did it through high school…we sing too! Personally, I find it necessary for musical-theater students to have vocal lessons given the screamy/belty nature of recent MT music that many people try to emulate. I guess that was more of an opinion question for you.

    Here, another one: Say that I did want to take voice lessons while I’m up there and the Emerson scholarship still doesn’t include MTG. Are there any other opportunities for relatively cheap voice lessons?

  2. Kallie says:

    Eee! *feels special because she inspired an entry*

    I have another question about the Emerson Scholars. It says you have to participate in one of the departmental music groups, but under the group listings it lists Vocal Repertoire and Performance. However, that class is already required for vocal scholars. Sooo… does a vocal scholar participate in Chamber Chorus/Chamber Music Society/Concert Choir [where slash = or] and Vocal Repertoire and Performance?

    Thanks for the post. This is exactly the kind of stuff I wanted to know :D

    PS: *agrees with the above comment* Music theatre is so underrated! I understand that MTG is a student group, however.