As the hoilidays draw to a close, so too does my Hamlet experience. I’m aware I’ve been quite poor at regular blogging, especially over the holidays, but if it’s still viable I’d like to throw out a small flurry of posts now as a sort of summary of my time with the play.
Firstly: I’ve finished my song for Hamlet. I wrote it last week, and it came to be as a TTBB choral composition (that is, Tenor-Tenor, Bass-Bass). It’s a take on To Be or not To Be, as my plan for my Hamlet project is to perform the soliloquy overtop of the song in the background (it feels quite momentous in my head, we’ll see if it proves to be so).
The song itself is built entirely of lines from the soliloquy itself – the first half contains key lines such as the obvious, “to be”, as well as “to die”, and “to sleep”. I took the liberty (well, more like Google took the liberty) of putting these smaller lines into Latin (“esse”, “ad dormendium”, etc., etc.). Latin works very well in a choral setting, plus with the overall mystique of the soliloquy, I thought it felt nice.
The second half reverts to English, and is a repetition of the lines, “what dreams may come” and “the undiscovered country”, circling back to “to be”. These were some of my favourite lines from the speech, and build them voice by voice in the song to emphasize the incubation of dreams, and the fascination with their presence in death.
The phrases, “what dreams may come” and “the undiscovered country”, are not only my favourite lines. They appear in many other incarnations in popular culture. My favourite is probably the 1991 film, Star Trek Vi: The Undiscovered Country. In it, characters are exiled to a strange world (which can be viewed as a parallel to Hamlet’s ventures into the new world of death and non-existence). I enjoy the notion of an “undiscovered country” – a place hitherto unknown to us; the last great adventure. This is something I enjoyed working with in my choral compositions.
Speaking of choral compositions, Hamlet finds his way into those other than mine. My favourite choral composer is Eric Whitacre, of whom I listened to a lot while working on my piece. One of my favourite songs by him, “Sleep”, just so happens to contain the line: “What dreams may come, both dark and deep/Of flying wings and soaring leap/As I surrender unto sleep”.
Choral music loves Hamlet, apparently. I’d say I’m rather satisfied with my decision. If I can get together a good recording of my song, I’ll post it here.
For now, feel free to explore the outside material I mentioned in this post:
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Eric Whitacre: “Sleep”