Alice Parker Week: The Seas of Sound

It’s Alice Parker Week: In addition to being a living legend as a composer and arranger, Alice is a beautifully polished author. Her writings exhibit the same clarity and parsimony of her music. I’ve selected some quotes from her books as meditations for this week.

Learning to swim in the seas of sound is important for us Westerners. It opens cultural gateways as we trade songs with people from all over the world who sing for the same reasons (and with the same equipment) that we do. Moving into a culture through its folk melodies is immensely rewarding, as eel as horizon-expanding. And it is truly basic to an understanding of what a page of music is: in its first and last sense, and aid to remembered sound, to a rich musical experience – never just a collection of black marks signifying abstract pitches and rhythms. Let us all restudy our art to have this free relationship with it, so that we can open our ears and mouths and become ambassadors of song wherever we go.

From Reflections on Song: My Musical World, page 77 (October 1998)

Song, melody, tune. We become so immersed in more abstract musical mastery – harmony especially – that we all need to take Alice’s advice and reconnect with the source. The song.

The other day my family sang “There’s a Hole in the Middle of the Sea” on a boat ride with about a dozen people on it; I watched the experienced musicians work to catch on to a new song, and I watched an amateur who probably hadn’t sung the song in decades shout “faster” at the end of each verse.

The song has joy in it, when you learn to “swim in the seas of sound” – go deep into it and immerse yourself in the source, the song.