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Vaughans Vocabulary American conductor Joan Tower reveals the wild energy of the viola

December 14, 2010

From the G. Schirmer Inc. Associated Music Publishers website I was reading about Joan Tower, one of the most important American composers living today. Tower became the first woman to receive the Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, composed for the St. Louis Symphony in 1990.
Tower’s oeuvre includes approximately 100 compositions, from Breakfast Rhythms (1974) to Wild Purple, written for the violist Paul Neubauer, who premiered the work at Merkin Concert Hall in 1998. Tower thought of the viola sound as purple. “Its deep resonant and luscious timbre,” Tower observed, “seems to embody all kinds of hues of purple.” She had not thought of the viola as being particularly wild; therefore, she decided to see about composing a piece that had, in her words, “wild energy in it.” WP met the challenge of creating a piece for solo viola.
Our choice of words and the way we say them should have wild energy, as it were. Use the following wild energy words this week.

1. burgeon (BURR-juhn)
A. to grow or develop quickly
B. to become cold
C. to glow
D. to cut

My students have burgeoned into fine public speakers. Burgeon can be used as a verb without an object, a verb with an object, and a noun.

2. carte blanche (cart BLANCHE)
A. unrestricted authority; complete discretionary power
B. windfall
C. romantic song
D. purplish

The name of the protagonist in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire reminded me of this word. I say “blanche” in cart blanche like I say the name Blanche as Miss Dubois’s first name. A is the answer. Example: The church gave the pastor carte blanche in choosing the Sunday School director and teachers.

3. churlish (CHUR-lish)
A. having a cheerful disposition
B. having a bad disposition
C. quick to talk about church activities
D. ridiculous

Give the “ch” in churlish the same sound as you give the “ch” in church. Aside from B, churlish means of, like, or befitting a churl. Churlish is not just applied to people, but to anything hard to work with. Amy had trouble with the churlish soil.

4. querulous (QUARE-uh-lus)
A. contented
B. discontented

Let that first syllable in querulous rhyme with “hair.” Use querulous to describe someone who complains. If something or someone is characterized by or expressed in complaint, he or it is querulous.

5. enigma (uh-NIG-muh)
A. free form
B. clarity in speaking and writing
C. something hard to understand or explain
D. a distinguishing mark or sign

Aside from C, an enigma is a mysterious or inscrutable person.
Last week’s mystery word is one to describe someone given to excessive or incessant laughter. The laughing philosopher was a native of a Thracian town, and the town’s name, Abdera, is where the mystery word, abderian, came.
The first three letters in the last name of the one who composed the Bridal March is this week’s mystery word. The noun form means a humorous or jocular person.

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