Annenberg Radio News

USC Student Musician to Compose a “Sandwich”-Structured Song

A Spotlight on a Young Songwriter recreating a piece from an atonal music of the 19th. Century

Tovi Schenk is a freshman yet to major in music production. From his music history class, he obtained the inspiration from an early romantic art song called “Erlking”(Erlkönig) by Shubert based on the poem of the same name, depicting the death of a child assailed by a supernatural being.


TOVI SCHENK: Basically there’s a kid and there’s a dad riding in the night and the kid keeps saying, Oh my God, there’s an Earl King just beckoning me, dad, help me. And the dad says, No, no, he doesn’t exist. And then in the end, the king kills that kid.

While Schenk is bewildered by the moral in this music, he’s also fascinated about themes for each character, the child, the horse, the King, and the father. Therefore, he wants to make his own version taking a little bit of inspiration from Schubert. The song is made in sonata allegro form, an “ABA” music structure that consists of three main sections - exposition, development, and repetition from the exposition.

SCHENK: What I’m doing is like. It’s what the ErlKing sounds like to the kids, it’s like a very beautiful melody, it’s very enticing and kind of seductive. But to support the harmony is kind of ugly because it’s like the horse, it’s like dark and as it develops, I think it’ll get more and more pretty and nice-sounding. So it convinces the kid more. And in the end, you know, I’ll kill the kid.

From his desktop computer where he has made notation and electronic instrumentation himself, Schenk has composed a couple of songs before. Finicky about his work, he has released only one song called “PLEASE” so far on Spotify, but his passion about songwriting is rooted when he started, with his friends, a jazz band in middle school.

SCHENK: Somehow I honestly have no idea how that happened. And then at some point I decided I’m really bored of playing cover songs. I should write the music instead. And so I started just doing that with songwriting. And then I guess from there developed, I was like, Well, I want to capture it. I want to record the sound and I want to make it sound good.

To hone in on his songwriting skills, Schenk will join an LA composer workshop called Sunset ChamberFest to work with an actual chamber group where he can get feedback from people.

SCHENK: I’ve never done a workshop before, but I hear that they’re good and it’s what you’re supposed to do if you like composition.