Category Archives: Peabody

Galante: Sealed with a Kiss

Part of being a musician is to push the boundaries of what’s usually done. A lot of times contemporary music aims to do just that and to explore new ideas and sounds.

Someone told me the other day that they can’t stomach contemporary music. They said that it just sounds “weird and bad”, and that there really isn’t any genuine meaning behind it. I mean I feel that way too sometimes — I’m not always sure what to make of the sounds I hear. But I think contemporary music has the ability to explore music in a very non-traditional way. Traditional classical music has rules and boundaries, some of which contemporary music can just break.

My saxophone teacher recently put me and three other students in a quartet. We were given a piece, Galante’s Sealed with a Kiss, to learn in three weeks. On first look, it’s kind of absurd. There are no notes whatsoever and it made me question why I was doing this in the first place. I think I felt similar to how my friend perceived contemporary music.



The piece consists of a series of alternative sounds you make through the saxophone. The instrument serves as an amplifier to the sounds or as a mechanism to make the sounds. Examples would be saying tss tss” through the mouth piece, or fluttering your tongue to make a “khhh” sound. With four different musicians making the sounds at one time, cool rhythms are made.


Here’s one page of the score. There aren’t any notes, and each marker is a different sound you have to make. The four lines in each of the three sections are for one person on each of the four saxophone parts.

Even my friends in the quartet hated the pieces initially. We wanted to make nice and beautiful sounds, not screeches and puffs into the saxophone. It was like learning an entirely new instrument, and one I didn’t really even enjoy.

I think part of that sentiment came from the fact that it was a mess the first few times we rehearsed it. It was only through more rehearsals and coachings from our teacher that we were beginning to find the groove of the piece. My teacher had told us that Galante was his roommate back in undergrad., and that he had written the piece as a sort of satire to the serious conservatory atmosphere. With this background in my mind, I think the piece really grew on all of us.

Keeping an open mind, I think, is one of the most important things when studying music. As humans, we naturally gravitate towards what sounds good and pleasant to our ears, but what is art if we don’t explore the disgusting and uncomfortable? Studying this piece has been a real learning experience for me, and I’m grateful I had the chance to be a part of it.

We performed the piece on 2/19 at the Words In Music concert at the Peabody Conservatory. When we get a recording, I’ll try to upload some snippets here.


Recital program!

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Dynamic Music

Search up Hopkins and you’ll find all things innovative, medicine, and STEM related. It’s unfortunate that our Humanities and Arts departments don’t carry as much weight in the name, because they too are doing incredible and ground-breaking things.

This blog is going to focus on what it means for me to be a music major, and what I’m doing right now in the semester as one.

The idea of music has been a dynamic one for me, and it’s changed dramatically throughout my time here at school. It was something I just merely enjoyed coming into Hopkins and Peabody, but it’s really grown into something else.

Music has become a lot more about others, but a lot more about me too. Allow me to explain.

In my Theory 3 class, we’re currently working on analyzing various Bach Inventions (like this famous one, Bach Invention #1). In class we break down the inventions and analyze the scores, finding musical phrases (named subjects and countersubjects), and see how they permeate through the piece in various forms. We see how simple yet genius these inventions are, and really understand how Bach came up with simple, yet complex-sounding music. We also discuss what makes a piece “Bach”, and what makes it Baroque (an era of Western art music of a particular style).

In this instance, studying music has shown me how meticulous and detailed successful composers from the past were. It’s given me an altered appreciation, and it’s changed the way I listen and receive music, new and old.

Every Thursday, Peabody hosts its Thursday Noon concert series, where the conservatory features an instrumental department with a free concert to the public (like Strings, Winds, Voice, even Computer Music). I went last Thursday with my saxophone professor to see one of my studio mates play. He played a piece by Lori Laitman named I Never Saw Another Butterfly. It’s a heartbreaking piece for saxophone and soprano, where an instrumental melodic line is overlayed onto poetic text. Specifically, the poems are written by Jewish children who lived in concentration camps. It’s so tough to listen to, and the piece really challenges the audience to try and explore their stories.

Here’s the text to one of my favorite movements, III. Birdsong:

He doesn’t know the world at all
Who stays in his nest and doesn’t go out.
He doesn’t know what birds know best
Nor what I want to sing about,
That the world is full of loveliness.

When dewdrops sparkle in the grass
and earth’s aflood with morning light,
A blackbird sings upon a bush
To greet the dawning after night.
Then I know how fine it is to live.

Hey, try to open your heart
To beauty; go to the woods someday
And weave a wreath of memory there.
Then if the tears obscure your way
You’ll know how wonderful it is
To be alive

Being able to explore a work of music with others (my saxophone professor in this instance), means being able to discuss the meaning of a work, why it’s effect is so powerful on an audience, and what the performer did to let us discover and feel particular emotions. After the performance, my professor and I talked about how the composer uses harmony, dissonance, and color to paint music onto text. In this instance, studying music has shown me its raw importance and how it’s a vehicle to explore ideas and experiences. It’s become a lot more about the performer-audience relationship, and why it’s important to think about such things.

These two occurrences are just part of the reason why music is becoming such an integral part of my life. What I love about it is its fluidity and subjectivity – I’m never put into a box of what’s right and wrong. I’m thankful that I’m surrounded by such like-minded people, and shocked even, about what my peers are accomplishing. I love it here, and wouldn’t want to be learning this anywhere else.