04 August 2020

Opus 170 Done

A tempo is correct when everything can still be heard.
— Mahler

Although I wrote yesterday that I had figured out the ending, that first attempt suffered from being unnecessarily elaborate; fresh reference to the Ur-text made a far preferable solution quite easy; and so, I finished the setting of the text, too, which I think fits the classical original quite naturally.


03 August 2020

Curious, not furious

Philip Austin: “You ever shoot beer?”
Peter Bergman: “Yeah—and missed!”
The Firesign Theatre on the air.

The two pieces of the Opus 170, I am dubbing Partsongs from a Pandemic. I’ve been working on № 2.  My musical model for this ’un is Gounod’s Ave Maria.  So, in fact most of my work yesterday and today has been the unglamorous, mechanical job of plugging in the classical original which I am commandeering.  I do have the creative challenge since, unlike Gounod, I am using not a complete entity, but the exposition of a Sonata design, of how to close it out.  I think I’ve got it.  More work, though.

30 July 2020

The Birth of the Blur

When the Vietnam War ended, well, the whole political landscape changed, and really in a sense the bottom dropped out of the whole raison d’ĂȘtre of The Firesign Theatre. People stopped listening to polirical comedy, and started putting on white suits and pointing at the ceiling and disco-ing.
— The late, great Peter Bergman

When I posted yesterday that I was half-done with Verb-Blur, I had composed the Soprano part on Tuesday and subsequently decided that the Tenor part could simply duplicate the Soprano (at the octave, of course.) Since the two parts are somewhat “out of phase” the duplication will not result in tedium. Through the rest of the afternoon and evening, I composed the Alto and Bass parts (both completely independent) and did some typographic tidying of all the parts.

Whence came Verb-Blur? While I was in rehab recovering from the stroke, my doctors, knowing that I am a musician, encouraged my to listen often to music (something I was full ready to do, to be sure) part of my listening rotation was the 6-volume box set of The Leiden Choirbooks, a treasury of 16th-c. choral polyphony. As my mind began to turn over ideas for new pieces (such as a new trio for Ensemble Aubade)  I had an idea of setting some Whitman in a way similar to the Gabrieli polychoral style (apologies for having wrenched us from Leiden to Venice.)  After my discharge from rehab, that idea slept in the back of my mind.

Another germ for this recent piece was:  the first time (since hospital) that I sang in a group, was in a choral workshop at Curry College, in which Triad collaborated. One of the exercises was a communal improv where we all simply “inhabited” d minor.  I felt both that it was an illuming study in improvisation, and that it was an effect worth trying to “compose into,” as ’twere.


29 July 2020

Verb Blur Plus

Music melting into dubious Infinities.
— Leo Schulte “A Bell.”


I’ve decided that I should consider these two pieces for Triad a single Opus no. together: Two Partsongs I am half-finished with Verb-Blur . . . now, for some more work,

And, here is Illegible Jubilation:


28 July 2020

Meanwhile, Here in Boston

They’ll eat their words with a fork and spoon.
— The Beach Boys “Catch a Wave.”
I can’t give it away on Seventh Avenue.
— Mick Jagger “Shattered.”
One never knows, do one?
— Fats Waller

Last night we had our periodic Triad meeting, planning how we might prepare to present a concert this November. The unusual times call for creative solutions.  The program we had originally planned for Spring of this year was dubbed I’ll Make a Harp of Disaster, a theme poignant in its prescience.  The piece of mine which was originally on the docket is Annabel Lee, which will not serve well for the present exigencies.  So tonight I was inspired to compose two short new pieces suited to the atypical preparation cycle of this year:  One on a text of Leo Schulte, “A Bell”:


A bell-free Life, 
Where the Harps of Time are never strung,
And the Chords of Gray are never strummed,
Where the ringing, snowing Crows
And the chiming, drowning Sounds 
Of a lost Earth ascending
Are stilled.

Your languishing Faith, Aurelia,
Your increasing Doubt, Aurelius,
Flourishing and anguishing Arcadia,
Chanting Melismas lugubrious,
Music melting into dubious
Infinities.

A bell-filled Death,
Where the Verbs of Time are always heard,
And the Hues of Love are always blurred,
Where Colors blending, confounding, and transcending,
Time-rhymed Colors, Verb-blurred Colors,
All unnamed and unknown are stirred by the Hand

Of God.

The other, setting a poem of Walt Whitman “The Last Invocation”:



AT the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful, fortress’d house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks—from the keep of the well-closed doors,
Let me be wafted.

Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper,
Set ope the doors, O Soul!

Tenderly! be not impatient!
(Strong is your hold, O mortal flesh!
Strong is your hold, O love.)

26 July 2020

Waiting and Working

Having been obliged to compose most of my works for particular individuals and for the public, I have been placed under more restraint in these works than in the few pieces I have written for my own pleasure. Indeed, sometimes I have been compelled to follow very ludicrous instructions; still, it is possible that these far from agreeable suggestions may have insoired my creative imagination with a variety of ideas that otherwise probably never would have occurred to me.
— C.P.E. Bach

I have had confirmation that the slightly rescored version of The Nerves is compliant with the call requisites.  Also, I have heard from Rapido! that their plan is to announce the results in September.

Last night, I did indeed make a start on My Life, My Life. Also on the second of the new set of organ pieces, based (by request) on “In the Garden,” While the dew is still on the roses.



24 July 2020

Planning the Opus 169 (and not only planning)

Minnie Mouse has got it all sewn up: she gets more fan mail than the Pope.
— 10cc “Life Is a Minestrone”

Quite some time has passed since the last piece I wrote for organ solo, the Sonata in 2013, so I have been thinking of writing a fresh set of short pieces, for HTUMC’s organist, Barbara Otto. Ill say that, since both the Op. 28 and the Op. 34 consist of three pieces, it was natural for me to think at first of another set of three pieces.  But as I went for this evening’s stroll to the pond, I reflected how lazy it would seem of me to dig myself into a three-piece rut, so I shall write a set of four, and (as I did with the five numbers of the Mass, I shall dedicate each of the four to a different colleague, as a thank-you.  There is a fifth colleague whom I should like thus to thank: Paul Cienniwa, but Paul has switched hats, from a church music director, to the CEO of the Binghamton Symphony.

I made a good start last night in finishing Barbaras piece, the Op. 169 № 1, titled Where bright angel feet have trod.