30 November 2011

Marginal progress

If I were to write only a single note to-day, what would that note be?
This is the first morning in a while when I did not work on 2 at all while riding the bus;  wasn't for want of opportunity, I had my notebook with me.  I suppose I was resting.
I wrote a bit at lunch time; not a great deal – five measures.  Though I do think them good, and the right five measures for that moment in the piece.

Oh, the stars at night . . . .

He bloggeth like a man possessed.

29 November 2011

Keepin’ on

Is it very strange of me, do you suppose, that I can write music of my own while seated in a restaurant which has pop music playing? I had almost said in the background, but actually it was a notch or two too loud to be considered strictly as background.

I didn't even think of it until I stepped out the door onto the relative quiet of the street.
At any rate, I had settled into the decision, as the piece (№ 2 of These Unlikely Events) has been taking larger shape, that the first five expository measures give way too quickly to the next idea. So on my lunch break, I wrote both an inset passage to address that thought, and a continuation from the point at which I had stopped composing this morning.

Getting back on form

Mentally in particular, I've enjoyed the sabbaticals into which I seem to have ambled, pretty much without premeditation.

Not surprisingly, when I've found myself ready to take the pencil back up, things have felt a bit rusty at first. A bit, but not entirely . . . the first of the clarinet duets felt like quite an effortless exhalation. The second has felt like a touch more effort . . . though honestly, I could not be sure that the difficulty is in fact external and logistical (mismo viejo) rather than internal and generative. Fact is, I've written several measures each day for the past three days on 2, so I do not think it could be any matter of compositional dullness.

Where I wanted particularly to chop № 1 out speedily, and as a brief "ta-da!" introducing These Unlikely Events, I am well content to work at № 2 for even perhaps as long as a week . . . see how expansive the musical material wishes to make itself. I expect that one of the ancillary benefits of that will be, that some of the ideas I have swirling around for subsequent numbers in the suite, will assume a more definite hue . . . and seeds for yet more numbers will germinate.

27 November 2011

About done

Scarcely had I blogged to report more progress, when . . . as the evening progressed . . . I eased into the final double-bar. Duet № 1 must run less than two minutes, and, harnessing the power of the suffix, I’ve coined the term bagatellerillos. Had started this one pretty much planning on it being short. Not at all sure, though, that they all will be short. Why need they be, after all?

26 November 2011

The sound of one glove

Here, Stuart Simon just wants to be startin’ somethin’.

Duet on

More progress to-day on These Unlikely Events (or, what will be the first of them).

As a result of a most enjoyable spot of tea with David H. Thomas, this Henning makes a cameo appearance in this blog post, wherein it is revealed that Henning is not Running.

25 November 2011

Black Friday listening

1. Béla Fleck: "Backwoods Galaxy" from Tales from the Acoustic Planet
2. Shostakovich: Prelude & Fugue 14 in e-flat minor (Tatiana Nikolayeva)
3. Frescobaldi: Recercar dopo il Credo from Fiori musicali (Roberto Lorregian)
4. JS Bach: Suite 3 in C for cello solo BWV 1009, ix. Gigue (Pablo Casals)
5. Stravinsky: Le baiser de la fée, Lullaby of the Land Beyond Time and Place (LSO, Robt Craft)
6. JS Bach: Prelude 23 in B, BWV 868 (Sergei Schepkin, pf)
7. The Beatles: "Something" from Abbey Road
8. Genesis: "Anyway" from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
9. Captain Beefheart: "Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish" from Trout Mask Replica
10. JS Bach: Chorale Prelude « Christum wir sollen loben schon », BWV 611 (Helmut Walcha, org)
11. Sibelius: Night Ride & Sunrise, Op.55 (LSO, Antal Doráti)
12. Jeff Beck: "Star Cycle" from There and Back
13. Ömer Faruk Tekbilek: "I Love You" from Istanbul Lounge
14. François Couperin: Cinquième Ordre, La Flore (Olivier Baumont, hpschd)
15. Chick Corea: "Spanish Fantasy Pt 2" from My Spanish Heart
16. Shostakovich: Four Romances on Poems of Pushkin, Op.46, 1 "Renaissance" (Mikhail Lukonin, bass; Yuri Serov, pf)
17. Berlioz: L'enfance du Christ, Op.25, Part III Scene ii, Le maison des Ismaélites (BSO, Chas Munch, & al.)
18. Bob Dylan & The Band: "Crash on the Levee" from The Basement Tapes
19. Prokofiev: Romeo & Juliet, Op.64, Act I Scene ii, 13 The Knights' Dance (BSO, Ozawa)
20. Stravinsky: Introduction to L'oiseau de feu, arr. for three pianos (Giorgia Tomassi, Carlo Maria Griguoli & Alessandro Stella)

24 November 2011


. . . work on a clarinet duet this morning, working title: These Unlikely Events. Could work either for a set of short pieces, or a single work (I have subsequently noticed), so it suits no matter how I pursue the composition.

What I did


Arrive safely in the Buckeye State. Once settled, practice for not-quite-an-hour. (Not enough? Of course, it wasn't. But I did practice until the chops started to tire.)

Went to dinner with mine hosts. The later dining hour (which was driven by my practice session) was a boon, as we missed the traffic out of the Ohio State / Penn State football contest.


Drive to Cleveland. Google maps sees me to Pete's place with customary ease and efficiency, and I arrive at half past eleven, as planned. Pete comes home from church shortly after. (He's become involved in a local Episcopal parish, which may prove a suitable venue for Henningmusick hereafter.) Allowing for a hot cup of tea, we probably got playing at 12 or so, took a break in the middle (refreshing tea) and went on until half past three. Lots of work on the gnarlier bits (quite a few of those in The Mousetrap, truth to tell). The two of us do indeed enjoy working together, and I am impressed/honored anew at the work Pete is willing to lay in, on this challenging piece. Since it is for a master class rather than a formal performance, we settle on less frantic tempi for the, well, frantic sections, which will nonetheless sound impressively rapid. Both of us feeling (a) that we wish we had a week to work the piece more, the two of us together, and (b) that the piece merits arranging future concerts, both in Boston and Ohio . . . and possibly in NYC (Pete has a new contact).

Drive back to the Heart of the Buckeye State, and have a lovely visit with Cato and Mrs Cato, hot tea and custard pie. I thought Cato was going to play Haydn but instead it was a playful quarter-tone exercise. Mrs Cato observes that the sine-wave tones somehow wind up sounding harmonica-esque. Also found was the tape of an organ piece Cato wrote for their wedding; not your ideal recording, to be sure, but a charming document.


Pete & I have decided to meet at Wooster at noon, to rehearse some more early enough to allow the wimpy clarinetist a goodly chunk of time for embouchure recovery. KH arrives at the Scheide Music Center at about noon, Pete is slightly delayed (no worries). I am thinking, ask someone in the Music Dept office where we might play for an hour or so, but the office is dark: week of Thanksgiving, just the secretary on duty, and she deserves her lunch break as well as anyone. I find where the practice rooms are, but they are all locked. I sit down and look at my pieces, which is a little different . . . when looking at these pieces, I am almost always trying to play them, so it is a good prep for the master class to sit and look them over, just as scores.

A likely chap appears, to whom I introduce myself, and he opens a practice room for me. I get settled, assemble the clarinets, and . . . there is only one stand. I accost a student who helpfully opens another room so that I can grab a second stand. Pete lands, and starts warming up. I step out into the hall, and Dr Gallagher (Jack) appears, my first composition teacher. Very pleasant reunion, Jack introduces me to a trumpet student, a senior who is thinking about grad school, at (among other places) B.U., so I bring Pete (who did his doctorate at B.U.) into the conversation.

We do at last set to practicing, probably for an hour and a bit. Arriving at a musical place where we feel reasonably good, we pack up and head to downtown Wooster for a bite to eat at a Hungarian café.

Pete & I return to Scheide about a quarter past four (class is to start at 17:15). Jack booked room 106, which has a raised stage area. The chairs, though, are too low. I wander about and find the large ensemble room, and borrow two chairs (fully intending to return them, natch), whose seat height is much better.

A scant five minutes before we were to start, we had only three students in the room, but there is time yet . . . and to be sure, more cruised in, and we must have had seven students (plus two teachers other than Jack).

The students were a bit shy at first, but after Irreplaceable Doodles they warmed up a rather. Each of them to a man had at least one intelligent question to ask.

Pete and I had agreed to break The Mousetrap into three parts, so that we could invite questions and conversation in the piece's midst. At first, I found stopping points so that the three "parts" were all about the same duration; but then, Pete suggested that we play a longer "part 1," and allow for diminishing attention after with two somewhat shorter "parts."

So . . . we play through the first "part," we stop and chat a bit about it. And as we are about to start back up, Pete asks me if we should take the second break, or just play through. We both felt that the students were engaged, so I decided to just play it out to the end.

Afterwards, Jack took us out to eat at a Mexican restaurante, and we must have talked until the place was about to close.


Weather is sopping wet. I spend the morning essentially relaxing, drinking hot tea, nibbling on some very tasty pumpkin bread which Cato baked, and listening to King Crimson with my old Wooster mates. Cato and I meet for a brief lunch near where he works.

Then I meet at last a fellow I've been in e-mail contact with for probably two years, a clarinetist with one of the orchestras in Ohio. We got on well. Every year he comes east to visit family and friends; so the plan now is that I shall write some clarinet duets, and we shall play them in either or both places.


I get up at quarter past four for my first flight, have a tight-ish connection in Milwaukee, but everything goes smoothly. Although the weather in Boston is windy and rainy, my plane lands surpassing gently.

And now: Thanksgiving.

23 November 2011


Back in Boston. Preparing stuffing and roasting a bird. More tomorrow.

19 November 2011

as may be

There is a thing or two I may say, and I am considering how and when best to say them.

And that just could be poetry.

17 November 2011



1. Piston, String Quartet № 5, iii. Allegro (Harlem String Quartet)
2. Hindemith, Ludus tonalis, № 19 Interludium nonum: Very quiet (Olli Mustonen)
3. The Beatles, "Honey Pie" from The Beatles
4. Dire Straits, "Heavy Fuel" from Sultans of Swing
5. Sibelius, Symphony № 1 in e minor Op.39, ii. Andante (Helsinki Phil, Berglund)
6. Jethro Tull, "Love Song" (original mono) from the reissue of This Was
7. Genesis, "Broadway melody of 1974" from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
8. Bach, Solo Cello Suite № 6 in D, BWV 1012, vi. Gigue (Casals)
9. Scarlatti, Sonata in E-flat K475 (Pieter-Jan Belder)

10. The Bobs, "Is It Something I Said?" from i brow club

11. Rakhmaninov, Great Litany from Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (Moscow Chamber Choir)

12. Mozart, Symphony № 35, Haffner, ii. Andante (St Martin in the Fields, Marriner)

13. Chicago, "Hope for Love" from Chicago X

14. Nielsen, Rhapsody, An Imaginary Journey to the Faroe Islands (Danish Radio Symphony, Blomstedt)

15. Busoni, Violin Sonata № 2 in e minor, Op.36a x. Allegro deciso (Gidon Kremer & Valery Afanassiev)

16. Bach, Prelude № 13 in F#, BWV858 (Olli Mustonen)

17. Scarlatti, Sonata in D K509 (Pieter-Jan Belder)

18. Beethoven, Violin Sonata № 10 in G Op.96, i. Allegro moderato (Gidon Kremer & Martha Argerich)

19. Béla Fleck &al., "Blue Mountain Hop" from The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales from the Acoustic Planet Vol. 2

20. Chicago, "Vote for Me" from Chicago XI

21. Bach, Aria from the Goldberg Variations BWV 988 (Christiane Jaccottet)

22. 10cc, "Lazy Ways" from How Dare You!

23. Tchaikovsky, Piano Trio in a minor, Op50, ii. Variazioni finale e coda: Allegretto risoluto e con fuoco (Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer & Misha Maisky)

24. Mozart, Symphony № 35, Haffner, i. Allegro con spirito (St Martin in the Fields, Marriner)

25. Thelonious Monk, "Green Chimneys" from Underground


16 November 2011



1. Chicago, "Something in This City Changes People" from Chicago VI
2. 10cc, "Old Wild Men" from Sheet Music
3. Dire Straits, "Tunnel of Love" from Sultans of Swing
4. Scarlatti, Sonata in E-flat, K370 (Pieter-Jan Belder)
5. Prokofiev, Violin Sonata № 1 in f minor, Op.80, iii. Andante (Gidon Kremer & Martha Argerich)

6. Gesualdo, Good Friday Tenebrae Responsory III: Animam meam dilectam (A Sei Voci)

7. Supertramp, "Oh, Darling" from Retrospectacle

8. Prokofiev, Cinderella, Op.87; Act III, № 42, Second Galop of the Prince (Cleveland Orchestra, Ashkenazy)
9. Scarlatti, Sonata in A, K344 (Pieter-Jan Belder)
10. Chopin, Prelude Op.28 № 21 in B-flat (Martha Argerich)

11. Bach, Chorale « Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Her' », BWV662 (Helmut Walcha)

12. Beethoven, Symphony № 2 in D, Op.36, i. Adagio moltoAllegro con brio (Gewandhaus, Masur)

13. Bach, Partita for solo keyboard № 2 in c minor, BWV826, iv. Sarabande (Martha Argerich)

14. Nielsen, Symphony № 3, Sinfonia espansiva, ii. Andante pastorale (SFSO, Blomstedt)

15. Peter Gabriel, "Animal Magic" from Peter Gabriel II (Scratch)

16. Stravinsky, Canticum sacrum, Qui confidunt (Westminster Jas O'Donnell)

17. Stravinsky, Apollo, 2nd tableau, Pas de deux (Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Dennis Russell Davies)

18. Henning, Grand Festival Suite, Op.93, № 7b, "Alleluia"

19. Bach, Chorale « Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott », BWV602 (Helmut Walcha)

20. Bach, Prelude & Fugue in b minor, BWV893 from the WTC Vol. II (Christiane Jaccottet)
21. Dire Straits, "Romeo and Juliet" from Sultans of Swing

22. The Bobs, "I Was a Teenage Brain Surgeon" from Rhapsody in Bob

23. Mompou, Impresiones intimas, Plany II (the composer playing)

24. Bob Dylan, "I Want You" from Blonde on Blonde

25. Tchaikovsky, Credo from Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (Dumka National Ukrainian Choir)

Morning reflections

The artist's need for Chaos, not as a mere element of one's experience, but as a kind of fuel. The need for a space (or, for spaces) in which Chaos can have play. The need for fluidity even in the boundaries of this space, or of these spaces.

None of these needs (or, these facets of a single need) justifies the bitch driving this SUV, though. She is but a ditzy sprite of potential destruction.

On my walk to the town centre, I passed by one fellow standing behind the trunk of his car parked curbside. When I bade him good morning, he returned, “That it is.” That reply has had me smiling all morning, for it's rare that I hear anyone speak just so.

15 November 2011


1. Zappa, "The Deathless Horsie" from You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1
2. Beethoven, String Quartet 15 in a minor, Op.132, i. Assai sostenutoAllegro (Vermeer Quartet)
3. Shostakovich, Shakespeare's Sonnet LXVI, from Six Romances on Verses of English Poets, Op. 62 (Fyodor Kuznetsov, bass; Yuri Serov, pf)
4. Mompou, Paisajes 1, La fuente y la campana (the composer playing)
5. The Bonzo Dog Band, "The Young Ones" from Keynsham
6. Toch, Symphony 3, Op.75 Molto adagioAgitatoTempo primo (Berlin Radio Symphony, Alun Francis)
7. Miles Davis, "Spanish Key" [single edit] from the reissue of Bitches' Brew
8. Mompou, Cants magics 1, Enérgic (the composer playing)
9. Piazzolla, Vardarito from Hommage à Piazzolla (Gidon Kremer & Kremerata Baltica)
10. Jeff Beck, "The Pump" from There and Back
11. Sibelius, Symphony 7 in C, Op.105, i. Adagio (Helsinki Phil, Berglund)
12. Beethoven, Piano Sonata 30 in E, Op.109, i. Vivace, ma non troppo (Kempff)
13. Bach, Prelude & Fugue in G, BWV550 (Walcha)
14. Shostakovich, Symphony 7 in C, Op.60, Leningrad iv. Allegro non troppo (Prague Symphony, Maksim Dmitriyevich)
15. Prokofiev, Visions fugitives, Op.22 7, Pittoresco (Mustonen)
16. Chopin, Mazurka Op. 59, 1 in a minor (Argerich)
17. Ellington, Black and Tan Fantasy (Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington)
18. Vaughan Williams, Dona nobis pacem, vi. O man, greatly beloved (Atlanta Symphony Chorus & Orchestra, & al., Robt Shaw)
19. Jethro Tull, "We Used to Know" [live], from the reissue of Stand Up
20. Wuorinen, A Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky, v. Reliquary
21. Henning, I Sang to the Sky, & Day Broke, Op.55 (NEC Wind Ensemble, Chas Peltz)

13 November 2011

Just learnt something

“Even a blind hog finds an acorn sometimes.”

10 November 2011

Mozart in Denmark

"There is still a residuum of music lovers who regard all that Mozart ever wrote as equally inspired. An old-fashioned, cultured and nice sort of people who meet together and, perhaps, celebrate Mozart's birthday over a cup of tea. These nice people will then play the slightest of his sonatas and symphonies for one or two performers, and are happy every time they are not surprised. Of these Mozart worshippers there are not many, and they do neither good nor harm, for they can have no influence on the younger generation. Then there are the musical people whom I would call conventionally orthodox. They do not really care for Mozart and prefer to pass him by, though with a reverent raising of the hat and an apologetic bow. There are many of these, especially among singers, players, conductors, and composers. Finally, among younger musicians, there are a few who realize that for anyone wishing to study music in all its aspects, there is no escaping Mozart.

The fact is, Mozart is extraordinarily severe, logical, and consistent in his scoring and modulation, yet, at the same time, freer and less constrained in form than any of the classical masters who have employed the difficult sonata form so favored by composers since Philipp Emanuel Bach — the form on which the symphony is based."

— Carl Nielsen

One might quarrel with how the Dane expresses his disapproval of either set, but he's correctly pinned two attitudes unfair to Mozart.

08 November 2011

Here I am

It is gratifying that, from time to time (not at all seldom, really) various people I know ask when next my music will be performed. Fact is (nor have I settled upon the perfectly fair adjective to modify that fact) I rarely have an answer.

Listening these days to harpsichord music of Frescobaldi & Couperin, a couple of the Shostakovich symphonies from the Haitink set (recordings I hadn't heard before), a disc of a small Turkish folk orchestra (led by a violinist) which a friend who is originally from Turkey has lent me, some of the more obscure Liszt tone-poems. About to listen to only the second recording I'll know of Busoni's Fantasia contrappuntistica.

Thanks to Joe's retweeting it, I see that the St Paul's choir here in Boston are going to sing my Nunc dimittis this Sunday.

06 November 2011

Sibelius and Rod Serling

So . . . when clips of the Opus 63 were used to underscore the 11 October 1956 broadcast of Requiem for a Heavyweight, was that the first occasion that the Sibelius Fourth Symphony sounded through American television sets?

03 November 2011

Left unsaid

When you meet someone with the name (for instance) Frankenstein, you do not actually say anything; you exult in the possibilities, the awareness that you could say something (hopefully clever, even more hopefully without offense). Actual speech is unnecessary — you turn on the lathe of your mind the various things you might say, savoring their several characters, filing off any indelicacies. It is to live briefly in a snapshot. It is a single-panel cartoon, which at first you thought needed a caption, and you learn that it is actual richer without.

02 November 2011

Shuffle 1-2 Nov 2011

1. Ravel, Frontispiece for piano five hands (Collard, Béroff and – with one hand tied behind her back – Katia Labèque)
2. Genesis, "Hairless Heart" from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
3. Jeff Beck, "Space Boogie" from There and Back
4. Ravel, Rapsodie espagnole, ii. Malagueña. Assez vif (Martha Argerich & Nelson Freire)
5. Vaughan Williams, On Wenlock Edge, i. "On Wenlock Edge" (Ian Bostridge, tenor; London Phil; Haitink)
6. LvB, Piano Sonata № 1 in f minor, ii. Adagio (Wilhelm Kempff)
7. Walton, Violin Sonata, II. Variation 5: Allegretto con moto (Yehudi Menuhin, Louis Kentnor)
8. Mingus, Adagio ma non troppo from Let My Children Hear Music
9. Mannheim Steamroller, "Christmas Lullaby"
10. Prokofiev, Romeo & Juliet, Op.64 – Act I, sc. ii, № 10 Juliet as a young girl (BSO, Ozawa)
11. Chicago, "Little One" from Chicago XI

12. Count Basie, "Fantail" from The Atomic Mr Basie

13. D. Scarlatti, Sonata in D, K.484 (Pieter-Jan Belder)

14. Mannheim Steamroller, "Gagliarda"