30 August 2010

No mistakes in the tango

Tango in Boston has (had) been a 50-measure sketch waiting for an occasion for some four years.

Similarly, I had the first (five minutes, was it?) of Out in the Sun composed, for the longest time . . . waiting its time for fruition.

In both cases, I bless the delay. The piece as ultimately realized is (in both cases) richer than if I had pressed on to finish the sketch at the time of origin.

Part of the ‘unfinished business’ of Tango in B included the need to incorporate actual tango artifact in the piece. That actually reaches beck yet further, to a school-year I spent in Weatherford, Oklahoma . . . when my Wooster mate Jeff Wallace sent (from Finland, or from Ohio recently returned from Finland?) a cassette of Tango: Zero Hour.

I was not going to aspire to become a tango composer or performer, but from the immediate attraction I felt to the power of Piazzolla’s idiom, I knew I should want to find a musical environment for an hommage.

28 August 2010

Yesterday’s Playlist

On Saturday

1. Vivaldi, Le quattro stagioni, L’estate, ii. Allegro (Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica) [483/1172]

2. Prokofiev, Romeo & Juliet, Opus 64, Act II Scene v, № 40 The Nurse, Adagio drammatico (BSO, Ozawa) [63/1172]

3. Zappa, “The Deathless Horsie” from You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, vol. I [982/1172]

4. Prokofiev, Sarcasms, Opus 17, № 1 Tempestuoso (Eteri Andjaparidze) [681/1029]

5. Palestrina, Kyrie from Missa Aeterna Christi munera (Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly) [476/1172]

6. Prokofiev, Piano Concerto № 1 in D-flat Major, Opus 10, ii. Andante assai (Béroff, Gewandhausorchester, Masur) [611/1172]

7. Ravel, Sonata for cello & piano, ii. Sérénade. Modérément animé. [390/1172]

8. Prokofiev, Piano Concerto № 1 in D-flat Major, Opus 10, i. Allegro brioso (Béroff, Gewandhausorchester, Masur) [610/1172]

9. Debussy, En blanc et noir, iii. Scherzando (Béroff & Collard) [398/1172]

10. Prokofiev, Four Pieces, Opus 4, № 4 Temptations (Eteri Andjaparidze) [838/1172]

11. Bartók, String Quartet № 2, ii. Lento (Emerson Quartet) [852/1172]

12. Zappa & The Mothers, “King Kong (Itself)” from Uncle Meat [463/1172]

Status Update

Seen on fb:

London Symphony Orchestra The brass section is at Lords with 40 young musicians
to play during the England-Pakistan lunch break,
raising money for Lord Mayor's Appeal 2010. Will rain stop play?

27 August 2010

Paul Revere at Hora Cero

I had good fun re-building [much of] an old (2006) trunk of Tango in Boston in Sibelius tonight. As the piece is “only” for viola and piano, it should actually ‘import’ fairly easily, had I wanted to go that route.

In this case, I knew I should want to add little details (in some measures, entire passages of material) to the Ur-text. And in all events, I wanted to refamiliarize myself with the pitch-world of this old sketch . . . I’ve written hours of music in the time since I worked on it originally. Curiously (in fact, quite conveniently in the present circs) there are aspects of this old sketch which ally closely with Suspension Bridge.

One strange element has been . . . there’s been a kind of residual feeling that I ought to listen (afresh) to tango more, I suppose so that my score can contain more ‘authentic’ artifacts. But I am not at all sure that that is what ‘ought’ to happen in the course of the movement. At least, not in this opening antiquity . . . .

Had a splendid meeting with Dana Huyge, the violist who requested the sonata of me. He plays beautifully, has an instrument with a rich and engaging voice, and he is enthusiastic about the two movements I've already composed, Fair Warning & Suspension Bridge (In Dave’s Shed). He is nearly as enthusiastic about the piece as I am, myself; a feeling any composer must envy.

I’ve promised him the third movement next week. It will be five or six minutes, and the pre-existing “trunk” from four years ago already runs some two minutes. First, I folded into the Sibelius files of the first two movements all the emendations which Dana & I discussed this morning (lots of niggly detail, for getting which right, it was much easier that we met in person).

The recital is 18 September in Rochester. Money may be wrangled for my train fare; if so, I am there. I should probably revisit the Kinko’s where once I worked, the used CD shop at which I bought the Bobs Songs for Tomorrow Morning CD, and the refurbished-factory-cum-shopping-mall where once I bought Messiaen & Bartók discs . . . .

Bridge Complete

Typical, really, that I post on Friday about Wednesday night.

Riding the bus home from work Wednesday, I did get some more sketching done on Suspension Bridge. The physical carriage in the bus following a work-day . . . it’s an experience which is apt to, if not quite lull me to sleep, predispose me to thoughts of rest.

So when I was off the bus and had walked home, I was entertaining thoughts of taking a nap. Before acting on any such thought, though, I went up to start up the desktop, since at start-up it has some back-ground routines that it runs through, which are apt to interfere with operating in Sibelius . . . so my practice is to give it time to clear out, so to speak.

Curiously (miraculously, we might almost say), the desktop had apparently done all its background stuff while hibernating. Whatever the case may be, when I started the desktop — mirabile dictu — it was ready for me to set to work. So I set aside any thought of a nap, started with getting my hand-written sketches folded into the Sibelius file, and then . . . proceeded to keep writing.

Three hours later (this was Wednesday evening), I had reached the final double-bar.

Yesterday I did some mulling over the hard copy (always have to do editing with pen and paper), and voilà! I meet with the violist . . . in a bit less than an hour, in fact. So I shall see if there are any further adjustments to be made . . . .

25 August 2010


Steady incremental work on Suspension Bridge, the second movement of the viola sonata. More anon.

15 August 2010


I knew it wouldn’t work but they offered me a lot of money.
I knew after the pilot that this kid couldn’t carry the show.

— Don Adams,
on the remake of Get Smart

Enlightening to listen afresh to John Cleese’s commentary for Life of Brian, on how nightmarish the experience had been for the filming of Holy Grail — for no matter what the experience for the lads was at the time — the success of Holy Grail made the comparatively paradisal experience of filming Life of Brian possible.

(And to be fair, half of the commentary is Michael Palin’s. Palin was always a great foil to Cleese.)

As iconic as it has since become of The Show — “I asked you not to tell me that” dates from the very first shows of the third season.

— And seems an expertly calculated move in those scripts.

10 August 2010

William Schuman’s Line

07 August 2010

Said the Composer’s Friend

This is not theatre, still less opera; these are two completely living individuals.
— Nikolai Myaskovsky,
writing to Prokofiev on the characters of Ruprecht & Renata
in his then-new opera, Огненный ангел (The Fiery Angel)

Another who would not fail

Phineas J. Whoopee explains the structure of the suspension bridge:

03 August 2010

Start of a Span

And what should I have done yesternight but compose a minute and a quarter of unaccompanied viola music which does, I think, possess a tenderly lyrical character. The second movement is off to a good start, and promises to obsess me this week in all good ways.

I've also found the old Finale file (from 2006) of the start I made on Tango in Boston, and some smart-aleck made the page-headers read, The Viola in Someone's Life.  (This is going to work very nicely . . . all I need do is double the tempo, and I can use the whole sketch. . . on which I shall be able to improve quite nicely.)

02 August 2010

No Suspension of Work

I’m calling the second movement of the Viola Sonata “Suspension Bridge,” a title which makes me feel rather structural . . . and yet suspension (even apart from its Common Practice implications of a certain sort of rhythmically prepared non-chord-tone) seems to me to demand that I create a music which floats more effortlessly than the term structure might suggest.

The movement’s necessary calm notwithstanding, I see the pitch-world still as (gently) dissonant. I settled on a symmetrical ‘scale
with no perfect octave. How does that work? you may ask. There is a perfect 15th (or should I say, 15ma?) and from either end the series of intervals is the same, but in the center, no perfect octave.

The scale spelled with C as the

C - D - E - G - A# - B - C# - D - F - Ab - Bb - C

So, because of the ‘non-octave
in the center, it is a scale with built-in dissonance, we might say. Yet, it starts (and ends) with the simplicity of (four notes from) the pentatonic scale.

ve also built a periodic rhythmic pattern which takes 73 measures of 3/2 to play out.

Work continues apace . . . .

01 August 2010


Last night, Fair Warning reached more-or-less completion, a fiery-eyed tiger of a piece which I am a little astonished to feel that it is music I have written. There are many things I am pleased with, and that wee astonishment is one of them.

Separately, I am making gradual progress through the Brilliant box of the complete oeuvre of Brahms. Brilliant and I seem to have different understandings of the term a cappella; but these small quibbles aside, the box is great fun.