21 May 2018

Fresh To-Do List

Items to focus on near-term:

  • Heart So White . . . test the present state of the fixed media for timing with the scene.
    • Possible problem:  fixed media too short
    • Remedy:  determine extent of needed expansion, and see to it.
  • The Nerves . . . set down ideas, verbal and musical.  Finish before Independence Day?
    • Possible Problem:  too musically demanding
    • Remedy:  carry on, write the piece as I wish
  • Memory Almost Full . . . recording session
  • Nun of the Above . . . recording session

It is possible that Deep Breath will not suit the group which I had in mind when forming the piece;  even if not, that is fine, as there are other groups for which it will prove a good fit.

As I was chatting with Matthew Marsit, and he asked me about my plans for the summer, I told him about White Nights.  Although it is not a piece which would apply at all to the Charles River Wind Ensemble, he sounded both impressed with and enthusiastic about the project.  I wanted to mark the incident, with gratitude.


20 May 2018

Hurricane, and Nerves

This morning—which is to say, before I reported for church choir duty—I finished the spiffy new Sibelius file of Hurricane Relief. The now 13-year-old trio, I left essentially untouched (I eased back on the initial metronome marking, and added a final punctuative chord).

And this afternoon, as I might have predicted, I laid down a little more work on The Nerves.

Also for next month's Triad concerts

Agnus Dei

Among much else of value which I learned in Judith Shatin’s studio at UVa, two phrases of Judith’s have stuck with me through succeeding decades: “business as usual,” and “something specific.” “Business as usual” meaning, an artistic laziness in doing, without consideration, what one (or others) have already done – a condition diligently to be avoided, in either fact or appearance. And “something specific”: to create something definite, some thing-in-itself, and for my reasons – which I am both at liberty, and under a profound obligation, to determine.

The challenge and opportunity of writing an unaccompanied Mass thus consisted in making it Henningmusick, despite the fact that the text has been treated (and the endeavor has been achieved) a thousand times in the past, by hundreds of others.

This does not preclude availing myself of the example of the past literature, nor does it deny me the pleasure of writing for voices in a way which choristers find gratifying to sing (I hope). The composer can find his own voice, and nevertheless speak a language comprehensible to others. The joy in the craft, is expressing something which is clear and strong, yet which astonishes the listener as casting it in a way he had not hitherto imagined.


19 May 2018

Chiefly about bassoon

Of late, I have considered how some of my cello-&-piano music may adapt for bassoon; so I have prepared bassoon versions of the Sonatina, Op.105, the three-short-mvt Suite, Op.127, and ... illa existimans quia hortulanus esset ...., Op.121.

And I had forgotten that two trios I composed long ago, in 2005, include the bassoon:  Starlings on the Rooftop, Op.82 (flute, English horn, bassoon, composed for Second Winds in Denver) and Hurricane Relief, Op.81 (cl/bn/pf, written for the Squibnocket Trio here on the South Shore).


After the Tooth Fairy

Per discussion of the audio puttering for Tooth Fairy here, last night I sketched some 21 measures, and this sketch was the germ for a four-minute trio for clarinets (two soprano, one bass) which I have just finished, Memory Almost Reliable (a title redeemed from the 11-year-old list here).  The trio is, I think, both a piece-in-itself, and (likely) the basis of an accompaniment for Sauna Song #3, Migratory Reptiles.

He's not saying it hasn't all been fun
To the untrained eye, those laces look untied
The sun beat down and because most of April
Had been absurdly cold, the warmth of the May sun
Made my spirit giddy
Though I nevertheless doubt the need to run
The air conditioning on the bus
To the untrained eye, the bus looks bound for Swampscott
But nothing doing
At lunch we discussed a highly successful film composer
It isn't that we scoffed at his work
We only questioned the comparison to
A certain composer of the century before
Fall River, where a certain ax murder remains
Forever befogged in uncertainty
I may never play cribbage there again


18 May 2018

While in rehearsal

Part of last night’s choir rehearsal was spent with a very enjoyable arrangement of How Can I Keep From Singing?  The next anthem we rehearsed was a fairly ambitious arrangement of  Lasst uns erfreuen (and, also, nicely done).  There is a descant for verse 2, the sopranos have a line unlike the tune (and the meter is recast to 4) in verse 3, and there is a subtly different descant for verse 4.

Which is to say, the sopranos (who may, at times, become accustomed simply to singing a familiar tune) faced some challenges.  In one of the verses last night, they dropped out, and did not manage to plug back in.

You kept from singing!, I observed.  However did you manage it?!


On Sarah Riskind’s Hariyu

Notes for the upcoming Triad concerts

Sarah Riskind writes:  When I composed Hariyu in 2010, I wanted to break out of the world of slow sacred choral music.  My inspiration came by way of Leonard Bernstein, whose Chichester Psalms I have admired since I first sang them as a college first-year student.  Like Bernstein's opening movement, my Hariyu gives Psalm 100 the excitement of changing meters.  However, the texture of accented piano eighth-notes and the Mixolydian mode create a somewhat different world than Bernstein's larger work with orchestra.

Karl Henning writes:  Sarah Riskind is an alumna from Triad's first season, whose musical adventure soon called her elsewhere.  It is a reflection of the music's excellence, then, that we all wanted to return to Hariyu in the present concert—even without the composer among us to plead on her own behalf.

To amplify upon two of Sarah's observations:  Bernstein was (among much else) a pianist; in my experience, a well-grounded instrumentalist tends to use mixed meter in an effective, natural way—more so than most singers.  One key to Sarah's success in Hariyu is the musical flow she achieves in the mixed meter:  after each (unpredictable) barline, the next note feels naturally agogic—a genuine downbeat, and no accident of notation.  The composer's mastery of the successive metrical shifts is what allows the music to dance gracefully, sure-footedly, even as we sing along at an exhilarating tempo.