Jvarsa Shensa

A record of an exercise in score reading and key transposition.

It begins with a scrap. An image of a musical score, photocopied from an 1890 publication. 10 bars of a three part chant. Its common time and signalled as andante con moto. However, I initially miss the scribbled addition signalling 3 sharps. So, playing the first few bars I can tell that something is not sitting right. I make a guess that it is the B that is ringing false and so assume a key of F major and flatten the B, accordingly.

The piece, a traditional Georgian chant called Jvarsa Shensa (To Your Cross We Bow, Lord) is, of course, intended for voices. I replace the voices – there being few things more ugly than male choir sample libraries – with an arrangement for strings – cello, viola, violin – and consequently can get away with reducing the tempo considerably.

I part play, part cut and paste midi values onto the Logic piano roll. Watching the thing emerge like this is the best way I can find to teach myself what I need to know about intervals, cadences and harmony. Its like working with clay. It is taking form in your hands and requires constant attention. But it is formed in time, real time. It is tangible and it lives in the air, and it is such a beautiful thing.

At some point I see the scribbled reference to 3 sharps, and although I am already pleased with the way the sketch is sounding, curiosity drives me to lifting the B back to natural and sharpening the F, G and Cs. In an instant the whole thing just falls into place.