25 November 2016

Henningmusick on the Air

On Monday, 28 November at 12:00 noon (Eastern) Gandalf ("None shall pass who have not rehearsed properly") will interview me (Karl Henning) on WJFF 90.5FM Radio in Jeffersonville, New York. The interview will live-stream at www.wjffradio.org/ . . . so there is no geographic barrier to listening in.

The Music for the program:

  1. Agnus Dei, Op.106 № 5. Performance by Triad. (4:45)
  2. Metamorphosis of Charles Turner’s The Hebrew Children, Op.133 № 3. Source performance by the HTUMC Handbell Choir. (5:15)
  3. Out in the Sun, Op.88. Performance by the University of Michigan Wind Ensemble, directed by Rodney Dorsey. (15:10)
  4. Night of the Weeping Crocodiles, Op.16. Performance by The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble. (7:45)
  5. Moonrise, Op.84. Performance by MidTown Brass Quintet. (5:30)
  6. My Island Home, Op.115. Performance by the Reinhardt University Percussion Ensemble, directed by Olivia Kieffer. (5:30)
  7. From the Pit of a Cave in the Cloud, Op.129 (excerpt). Performance by Barbara Hill MeyersThe k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble. (4:15)
  8. Suspension Bridge (In Dave’s Shed): Sonata for Viola & Piano, Op.102, second movement. Performance by Dana Huyge & Carolyn Ray. (12:30)
  9. Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels, Op.117. Performance by the 9th Ear. (4:45)
  10. Mistaken for the Sacred, Op.141. Fixed media component. (7:15)
  11. Castelo dos anjos, Op.90. Performance by Tapestry. (13:00)

23 November 2016

What has been happening

The Holy Trinity United Methodist Church music program has been in steady preparation for our Christmas Concert on 11 December.  Additionally, I have kept busy in the following ways:

Kammerwerke performed the piece which they commissioned from me, The Young Lady Holding a Phone in Her Teeth, Op.130, on Friday, 18 November in Bedford, Mass. It was my honored pleasure to rehearse them and to conduct the première.

Ensemble Aubade performed the première of Oxygen Footprint, Op.138 in Stamford, New York Sunday afternoon, 20 November. They invited me to their Saturday rehearsal, and they enjoy my full confidence; and the report is that the piece was very well received.

We had our latest Triad concerts (our fourth program already, not counting the Nono outing) Saturday and Sunday, 19 & 20 November.  We sang the concert première of my Song of Remembrance, Op.123, originally written for the Framingham State College Chorus.

Monday evening, I whipped up a simple arrangement of a New Year’s Carol, for our choir rehearsal last night; this will be the last compositional work towards the 11 December concert (and we'll also have the use of it the morning service of January the 1st, since New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday).

19 November 2016

The To Do List

Mark handbell parts for Morning Light (actually, no use having these in the folder before 4 Dec . . . hopefully, not too late, then: concert is 11 Dec)

Reflow pp.9-10 of vocal score of In dulci jubilo (for choir rehearsal 22 Nov)

Have a tentative Christmas Concert order to review/revise with Anne (tomorrow morning)

Sit in on Oxygen Footprint rehearsal (12:00 today)

Arrange New Year's Carol (for choir rehearsal 22 Nov)

Report for Triad concert I (18:00 today, Cambridge)

Learn how the MIDI voices are invoked at the organ at HTUMC (sometime soon)

Try to pin down a venue for the 24 March concert

Report for Triad concert II (18:00 tomorrow, Somerville)

Re-score In dulci jubilo for Dan (by 1 Dec)

Harvest video files from the Triad concerts and return video equipment to Peter (before Thanksgiving)

Prepare CD of Henningmusick for the radio interview (by Saturday 26 Nov)

Compose the percussion solo for Mistaken for the Sacred (ASAP, considering)

Finish cleaning up the vocal score for the Schulte Exaudi me (within two weeks of the present Triad concerts)

Arrange Things Like Bliss for clarinet, harp, harpsichord (probably after the Op.141 and Schulte tasks)

Resume second movement of Symphony (when the dust has somewhat settled)

29 October 2016

One giant leap for gaskind


This is how the program note must perforce begin:  Like many another composer, from the first that I listened to Debussy’s exquisite Sonata, it has been my wish to write a trio for flute, viola and harp — a sound world which is at once rich, and delicate.  I remember clearly the afternoon when I was in the Andrews Library at the College of Wooster, listening to an LP recording while following the score.  The Debussy trio is a kind of event in my musical life.

Decades later, I set to writing just such a piece.  How?

First, I said to myself, “Forget Debussy.”  (If I have not been clear:  I love a great deal of Debussy’s music, and this piece in particular;  so this is not any statement of artistic hostility.)  The aural beauty of this combination of instruments was revealed to me by the Debussy piece, but the last thing I wanted to do was, write “my version of” the Debussy Sonata.

Second, the palette thus scraped back down to the wood, the answer was obvious:  write your own piece, and these are the instruments to employ in the piece.

The title is a double pun, and yet the second pun did not occur to me consciously until I set to writing these notes.

The first pun adapts an au courant phrase for a metric of the individual’s environmental impact.  My idea is that, befitting the ensemble’s capacity for delicacy, we want an airier impact.  And “footprint” in music suggests the dance, which ties in to the before-today-unconscious second pun.

One of the ballets Prokofiev composed for Dyagilev’s Saisons russes in Paris, a sort of celebration of the Workers’ Paradise at a time when the West was still intrigued by the new socio-economic system in Moscow, is « Le pas d'acier », The Steel Step.  This may seem a contradiction.  I am quite a fan of this ballet;  but I do not believe I had it in mind when I wrote my trio.  Why it may seem a contradiction is, I find the counterpoint between the two titles (Steel Step, Oxygen Footprint) quite winning.  I almost wish I could say I HAD meant it.

Because, in a sense, we might consider my piece a sort of ballet suite in miniature, starting at a vigorous pace and with a frequent emphasis on syncopation.  By stages, the music makes its way to a kind of dreamy-yet-insistent gigue (jig).  And the becalmed-intense emotional core of the piece has a distant family resemblance to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

And with observing that Debussy and Stravinsky once sat down together, to play the four-hands rehearsal reduction of that celebrated ballet, these program notes have come full circle.

27 October 2016

Symphony Update: second movement

Began sketches for the second movement while rolling into Boston on the Red Line. These sketches record ideas which I was turning in my inner ear while my head lay on the pillow last night, so work actually started 26 October.

That is all.

26 October 2016

First Movement Done

or, The “Projecting Creative Work Is an Inexact Science” Symphony Update

About yesterday’s post, which advised that the first movement was not yet done, and it would probably be a couple of days.  Earlier in the day (why, yes, that would have been about 5 AM) I composed the first draught of the ending of the movement.

It didn’t work, I knew immediately that it didn’t work, I knew the several ways in which it didn’t work, and I was not much worried about it not working, because I knew I would find the ending which does work, and before long.

That, too, is part of the composing experience:  at times, you do work, and you know that – as it stands – it is ‘bad work,’ but that the germ of the good and deserving work is right in there, and (provided you don’t just bulldoze it over) you will find and uncover the good work, and all will be gas and gaiters.

And I knew all that when I posted yesterday.

What I didn’t know was, that the good work would jump right out at me yesterday evening.  The first problem with yesterday morning’s work (which, really, was a pretty good quarter-hour’s work, for so beastly early in the day) was that, as the coda to the movement, it was too short.  (There was another problem or three, but this was the lynchpin problem.)  The coda needed 1. to feel like the ending, 2. to have enough mass of its own, that it sounds like the conclusion of the movement, and not “What was that? Oh, have we stopped?” and 3. even while it takes material from earlier in the piece, it needs to apply braking, and not feel like we’re still chuffing along.  As a result, the first movement, which I was figuring on running seven minutes and a half, actually runs almost eight minutes and a half.  And that’s fine (see: The musical result is what matters, above.)

So then, forget about waiting a couple of days.

The first movement is done.

I may wait a couple of days before starting the second movement.

Or, I may not.

And, the perhaps unlikely lesson?  Maybe the work you do at 5 o’clock in the morning won’t be the best work you’ve done;  but it could yet be the doorway to the best work you’ve done.

25 October 2016

Symphony Update: Approaching the end of the first movement

Probably I got just a bit ahead of myself; the news is nevertheless good.  To recap so far:

I made a start on the first movement 8 October, almost fully the first minute of the piece. Tweaked that, and expanded to about the 2-minute mark, the next day.

Over the following week, I did hardly any actual composing, but I thunk pretty hard;  the hard thunking paid good musical dividends, and when I did get back to setting pen to paper (whether literally or computer-figuratively) progress was yet greater.

That cycle repeated again, and this past weekend’s “realization-work” of the preparatory conceptualizing proved, in my view, very highly gratifying.

While the end of the movement is in sight indeed, the euphoric feeling that a sort of momentum will carry me across a sort of finish line, is actually rather misleading, and I would do my processes a disservice to be at all ‘disappointed’ that I haven’t “just finished, already.”  I am sure that the thoughts I have for the ending of the movement are good ideas, the “right” ideas;  but if I reflect a little soberly (or simply, “non-euphorically” – not that I should not feel elated at having accomplished so much with the piece thus far) I understand that, having accomplished so much so well over the two days of the weekend, I am again at a reflective phase of the cycle.

So, it’ll be a couple of days.  And that’s just fine.