Feb 25, 2021Liked by Leah Libresco Sargeant

I was thinking about this piece today when watching (and listening) to Bluey, the Australian children's cartoon. They use music and tone to make the most mundane childhood activities and games heroic and/or deeply meaningful and impactful (which they are! the act of forming a child's identity makes the smallest actions transformative).

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I barely know Candide, but looking at the sheet music (shh! https://aimsgraz.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/M-Make-Our-Garden-Grow-Candide.pdf) what first jumps out at me is that the early verses don't give much of an impression of harmonic or rhythmic direction. Meters are often changing, and the melody and harmony present very few surprises. We're wandering unhurriedly across the territory that the song's beginning suggests — neither roaming far afield nor facing down an unbending railroad track. The accompaniment is gently underscoring the vocal line, without making unwelcome interpolations.

The first sign of real momentum and excitement comes from a rising stepwise pattern (think of the vibraphone line that Jonathan Tunick's arrangement includes in the last verse of Losing My Mind), which crops up in short fragments as early as measure 14 (a middle voice accompanying the man's "We're neither pure..."), but which is fully articulated at length when the ensemble enters ("Let dreamers dream..."). This is also when the low register of the accompaniment introduces strong, insistent offbeats (which the orchestration gives to the timpani).

The gradual expansion of voices and growing momentum in the accompaniment bring us to the full, harmonized, polyphonic, and unaccompanied choral passage. Where the accompaniment had been gradually expanding interest from static block chords to tolling timpani and our rising scale figure, by the time it takes over the choir adds complexity and density through the use of contrapuntal voices and countermelodies (e.g., the male voices' "our house, our house and chop, and chop our wood" in measures 58-59). So what you're perceiving as "a solid wall of sound" is the cumulative effect of (1) careful contrast with the preceding musical landscape, (2) gradually rising intensity, and (3) an impression of monumentality from strategic adornment of the musical surface (see also the architectural concept of "breaking up the mass," contrasting the façades of the East Building of the National Gallery and the equally majestic Natural History Museum a few blocks away).

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