31 January 2015

On hosiery, and on the how

Last night I dreamt I was putting my socks on. Or, rather, trying to put my socks on. They were Möbius socks, and I had unending difficulty determining which was the outside.

There is so much great, wonderful, beautiful musical literature already in the world, and now and again someone asks, "How can there be more music to write?"

-- "I don't understand how, I'm just writing it."

Page 5

. . . of the text, that is.  My working copy of the text for The Mysterious Fruit is seven pages (double-spaced).  I am now on page 5, and my goal for today is to see to all the text on this page.  My goal for tomorrow (after church, of course) is page 6.

This may perhaps be the only time when I refer to the annual event in my blog, but this is an amusing story a co-worker told at the coffee machine yesterday:

When I was in my 20s, and various girls would invite me and my friends over to watch the Super Bowl, we knew that wasn't a party we wanted to go to, because they would watch the game on like a 10-inch black-&-white set. 
Fast forward to the present, and my daughters at college are complaining, "None of the guys want to come over and watch the game because our TV is too small."  You understand: they've got a 50-inch flat-screen.  Changing times ....

30 January 2015

On with it

Good rehearsal with my choir last night (and while there was some post-blizzard tardiness, attendance was strong). Starting to make a little more music with the Alleluia in D.

Steady daily progress on the Op.124; Carola & Sylvie will rehearse the 15pp. version of the MS. today. I've reached a point in the text where a little "rest" for the voice is textually appropriate, and part of my work yesterday was the game, Can I write a fugue for marimba solo? Not surprisingly, I shall have to tweak my sketch from yesterday . . . but far from being annoyed that it was not perfect right off, I am pleased at how nearly "on" it is, already. the trick is that it has to fit in the marimbist's two hands, and should not entail a game of "Twister for one." So I've devised a fresh subject, for which motif we can then find subsequent use, too.

28 January 2015

Ongoing Mystery (of the Fruity Variety)

The Op.124 is presently about 7 minutes, and the composer has (in a manner of speaking) disposed of 4 out of the 7 pages (double-spaced) of text. Work continues, but this is the state of the piece which goes into rehearsal, day after tomorrow.

The marimbist Sylvie sent me an email message saying that she liked the piece, but that there was a passage or two where she was having trouble, and would I talk with her and consider perhaps some changes?  We had a nice talk (she and Carola have both emphasized that they think it a beautiful piece, which is of course the highest praise a composer could ask), and the problem was essentially through the Tranquillo section (mm. 63-97), mostly a matter of the great distance between the tremolos in the bass clef (which it is too hard to ask the player to do that all that passage just one-handed) and the treble clef "accents" (too difficult, with concentrating on maintaining the tremolos, to reach up to the two-mallet right-hand octaves).  She was very respectful;  fact is, though, that her suggestion does not mar the passage at all.  the idea is that she will play the tremolos with both hands (which makes the whole passage more manageable), and we strike the top note of the treble clef octaves (which are not essential), making it feasible to dart the right hand up briefly from its part in the tremolos, and strike the treble clef note accurately (which is important for the singer, expecting certain pitches).

The fate (jumping rails here) of the Organ Sonata remains in the air, but word from a colleague is It is not forgotten.

24 January 2015

henningmusick: Moonrise (afterglow)

henningmusick: Moonrise: I had written [...] several "functional" pieces for brass quintet (or brass quintet plus) for use in various services.  While I enjoy the challenge of writing for a specific occasion (and appreciate the opportunity to furnish music for specific use), after a while I wanted to write a concert piece for brass quintet, which did not need to fulfill any purpose other than sounding as I wish it to sound.

Not coincidentally, as I read this introductory paragraph for my program notes for Moonrise, this more or less tells the tale:  All the short "functional" pieces were performed immediately.  Moonrise has waited 10 years for its first performance.

It proved a hard sell even for the quintet for whom I initially wrote it.  We six got together for a reading (and, dadgummit, they could have recorded that reading, but for whatever reason{s} tape was not running).  On the whole, there was positive response ... and yet, though they had a full slate of tour dates, their regular fare was arrangements of Renaissance polyphony and of Gershwin (not saying a word against either), and they didn't see how they could fit Moonrise in.

So, not at all an unusual story:  Wrote a good piece, knew it for a good piece, was never going to modify what was already a good piece ... but a piece which had to wait for both (a) a group who saw the music's merits and (b) the right venue.

Who: the MidTown Brass Quintet
Where: Norton Arts Center, 781 No. Central Avenue, Hapeville, Georgia 30354*
When:  Sat, 24 January 2015, 20:00

* Not pictured below

23 January 2015


For a period of some years, I had written for the late Bill Goodwin, music director at the First Congregational Church in Woburn, Mass., several "functional" pieces for brass quintet (or brass quintet plus) for use in various services.  While I enjoy the challenge of writing for a specific occasion (and appreciate the opportunity to furnish music for specific use), after a while I wanted to write a concert piece for brass quintet, which did not need to fulfill any purpose other than sounding as I wish it to sound.  And the first freedom which that gave me was, that I could write a longer piece than (say) would have been useful in a church service.

Hearing the delightfully mysterious and (in the context of the rest of the orchestra) rather otherworldly Flugelhorn in Stravinsky's Threni, I thought it would be nice to substitute Flugelhorns for the trumpets of a standard brass quintet in my piece.  Because of their mellower tone, the "hardest-edged" instrument in my quintet would be the trombone, and I imagined a piece whose soundworld was generally soft, diaphonous.  And the first musical idea I had for the piece was not a sound, but a kind of visualization:  a sort of glow;  the narrow glow of the unison which starts the piece (a unison which become increasingly "qualified"), and the effulgent glow of the final "chord of the piece, a fairly close tone-cluster which, in these brass tones, is more a sweet sound than a dissonance.  The unison idea attains a forte climax at roughly the mid-point of the piece, a section marked Vivo ma tranquillo.

The piece begins with a long-breathed dissonant-ish chorale.  This yields place to a brief, lumbering dance, which then ushers in some rather stern counterpoint.  There is a varied return to the opening chorale idea, whose close writing foreshadows the cluster of the final chord of the piece.  There is a hint of the opening unison, and then the vigorous unison (octaves, really) passage aforementioned).  There is a sort of broad march section, which ends by echoing the end of the "vigorous octaves," and then there is a closing chorale.

22 January 2015

Divers duos

Good progress, now that I am back on task with The Mysterious Fruit.

And we may have takers for both the Three Things That Begin With ‘C’ and Terpsichore in Marble.  We shall see ....