Parallel Octave (paralleloctave@gmail.com) is a Baltimore-based improvising chorus, founded in 2010. We record poems to live improvised music; our sessions are free and open to anyone, regardless of experience, who’s interested in working with us.

We post our audio recordings online. We also create collaborative films based on those recordings.

We have met at least once a month since April 2010, to work on a new poem each time. Many of our sessions are also sponsored by the Baltimore Free School, and are listed as classes on their calendar.

We are also available to hold education sessions upon request. (Email us at paralleloctave@gmail.com)

For more information, read the City Paper article on the group from August 2010, or view our directory of artistic staff and participants.

All our sessions are open to anyone interested in collaborating.

What about the name?
Parallel octaves, in traditional theory for tonal music, are intervals which are avoided in succession because their stability (as intervals) tends (it was argued) to disrupt the counterpoint and interfere with the independence of individual voices, or parts. Generations of music theory students, for hundreds of years, have been told to avoid parallel octaves and fifths for this reason. (In theory shorthand, a parallel octave is represented by the symbol “||8,” which we take as our logo.)

However, the word “octave” also refers both to an interval of eight notes and a stanza of eight lines.

This parallel between terminology gives us a way to link the too-often-separated domains of words and music, and refers, at the etymological level, to a time when the theory and practice of poetry and music were one and the same thing: when poems were sung, and when choruses were chanted.

The name “Parallel Octave,” to us, represents our attempt to bring together words and music at a formal level, and to explore how the chorus can be interpreted through both.

An octave in music– two notes that are the same pitch class but in different registers–is a good musical representation for what a spoken chorus sounds like. Two voices speaking together in different registers may sound very much like an octave.

The idea of parallel octaves “interfering with the independence of individual voices” also reminds us of a chorus.

4 responses to “About

  1. This sounds quite wonderful and I would very much like to participate. I am a poet, educator and choir member. What do I need to do to participate?
    Jill Solomon

    • Dear Jill–our next open session is May 21st at the Baltimore Free School from 2-3:30 PM. That’d be the best place to start. If you can’t come to that, you can email us at paralleloctaveATgmail and we can talk about what’s coming up. Looking forward to meeting you!

  2. Felecia Diggs

    Do you lead workshops or collaborate with public libraries? Keep up the good work.

  3. Dear Felecia, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to this comment. Yes, we do, and you can contact us at paralleloctaveATgmail.com if you’re interested in more details.

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