"No Whining, No Flowers"

Sophia Zhang '21

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who shares herself equally between STEM and the arts. There’s some strange, antiquated stigma that comes with a girl who wants to pursue both, as if it’s impossible to enjoy a busy day analyzing DNA and also love spending hours fawning over beautiful polyphonies in a musical piece. To me, music has always had aspects of mathematics and logic woven into it: when I attempt to sightread a complex measure of music, my brain is working just as furiously as it is when I’m trying to debug a stubborn section of code. When Chorus successfully puts together six different and difficult voice parts that clash and resolve intermittently, I’m just as happy as when I’ve finally grasped molecular orbital theory.

It amazes me now to think that the first time I came across the idea of the Chorus’s Commissioning Project, “No Whining, No Flowers,” was actually during high school, when my chorus director included “The Song of Perfect Propriety” in our repertoire. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but this concept means so much more now that I realize its capacity to influence younger singers even without them realizing it. The lyrics of each song no longer revolve around finding the perfect suitor or waiting for unrequited love, but rather some alternative, nontraditional passion. Not only does this commissioning project forefront composers that may be historically underrepresented, it also puts more emphasis on empowering women and others who wish to see themselves as something other than the backdrop in a patriarchal society. Even modern pop songs succumb to the pressure of sexualizing and objectifying women, and I see “No Whining, No Flowers” as an answer to problematic lyrics that teach younger women to remain passive and voiceless. The commissioned pieces are often complex to execute and quirky in nature, but the end result is just as wondrous, if not more so than the typical love song about unrequited romance.

In the end, the Chorus can sing love songs about hapless admiration, but we also have a powerful set of brains and ideas behind our beautiful voices. I’m so proud to be part of a group that celebrates women and others through music.