Heedless Watermelon :: At time of writing these program notes, the piece has not quite been finished, which must be a kind of Henning milestone. Still, I can assure you, Gentle Reader, that anything I write now will continue to hold true for the completed piece (when it is complete). Mary Jane Rupert, Paul Cienniwa, Peter Bloom & I played a recital on 24 June; and in the elated aftermath, I started composing, for my Muse bade me draw up a diverting duet for flute and clarinet. My method of composition can be quickly summarized: There is no method. No, that is not (cannot be) quite true; but doing something different I frequently find a reliable tack. After the extended musical canvases of my opp. 92-95 (about an hour and three-quarters of music total), I have lately trended to brevity. (I composed Marginalia for cello ensemble in the space of two days, while ‘powering down’ in Bethesda, Maryland.) Musically, this piece is an intuitive blend of fructose, sunshine, sans-souci and electricity. There’s even a canon on a modified Frank Zappa melody thrown in. Toujours de l’audace. Optional entertainment, forsooth.
Tropes on Parasha’s Aria :: This is one brief episode in the course of an extended scene in a ballet I have been writing, after Dostoyevsky’s novella “White Nights.” The narrator sits down to introduce himself properly, and in one paragraph, makes a variety of literary allusions (some of them exotic); musically, I took this as an occasion for a series of brief characteristic dances, in something of a miniaturized homage to Act II of The Nutcracker. One item the narrator mentions is Pushkin’s verse-comedy, The Little House in Kolomna, which itself was later the source of a one-act opera buffa composed by Igor Stravinsky. The aria which Stravinsky wrote for Parasha at the beginning of Mavra has a special sentimental significance for me; I heard Rostropovich play once in St Petersburg, and at the end of the program he played Parasha’s aria for an encore, introducing it simply as “an old Russian song (старая русская песня).” In between iterations of the original melody, I have interleaved quasi-improvisatory ‘glosses’.