31 December 2011

New possibility

Curiously (oh, most curiously, O Gentle Reader) … less than a minute, even (I believe it was) after that earlier blog post, an E-mail message came in, out of the blue, truly.

A clarinetist from abroad writes of a project undertaken, to find unaccompanied clarinet pieces by composers in all 50 United States. I don't know how far along the project may be — but I appear to have been selected to represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Greetings, 2012!

A few possibilities past

2011 did not prove to be the year of the second performance of the Viola Sonata.

And there was a piano recital in the summer on which Gaze Transfixt was nearly performed, but (I am surmising) was not.

Just got word, though, that there is indeed a recording (quite probably multiple recordings) of Angular Whimsies. So 2012 will be the year I hear that (or those)!

Happy new year!

30 December 2011

Monk talking

“I don’t talk much, because you can’t tell everybody what you’re thinking.
Sometimes you don’t know what you’re thinking yourself!”
Thelonious Monk

We shall see…

… if I cannot see to scrawling at least a last note or two while it's still 2011.

At any rate, very pleased to have been able to read Ch VI of the current Leo Schulte work-in-progress.

Mild weather, thinking fond thoughts of 2011 as it winds down.

29 December 2011

There's probably a story in that…

… but I shan't spin that tale just yet.

Separately: The Long Arm of HIP — Liszt's piano music played on the piano which Liszt owned. Film at 11.

28 December 2011

Yes, it’s fun, but

Had the peculiar experience of watching Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol last night. I scarcely remembered (really scarcely) it, so one of my first thoughts was, This must have aired later than I think. But, no, it seems to have aired on 18 Dec 1962.
It's a favorite of my brother's, and my brother studied Dickens so if he doesn't have any problem with the treatment, I surely oughtn't. So the following are not problems I have with the show . . . they were just things which surprised me.
1. Making a musical of it, generally.
2. Magoo is such a congenial character, overall, he doesn't strike me as at all a mean Scrooge. He's Magoo speaking Scrooge's lines; which is all right, to be sure.
3. The Spirit of Christmas Present preceding that of Christmas Past.
4. Alice being renamed Belle. Maybe that was a phonetic choice . . . Jim Backus crying Alice! in the Magoo voice may have been something of a fright.
5. Tiny Tim is a cute animation baby, I don't think the threat to his health really comes across.
6. That the charwoman, laundress and undertaker come across as such a near-ghoulish troika reverts to 1 above, I suppose.
7. I suppose the goose had to be swapped for a turkey. Admittedly, not an important change.
8. During "Belle's" song there is a springtime sequence. This may sound strange, but in A Christmas Carol, that near freaked me out.
9. In general, the long Magoo Makes His Way to the Theatre in Times Square intro.
All that said, sure, it was fun.

25 December 2011

Byegone Mentor

For Christmas — as a result of mention of The Fantasticks by a friend in North Carolina — I found a photo with Hugh Thomas, my wonderful English teacher from tenth grade, God rest his soule, who played Bellomy in the original cast. (Chap on bottom left.)

Contrarian but not Scroogely

My Christmas Eve listening was largely the classic Monk album Straight, No Chaser.

Viewing last night was the particularly un-Christmasy “He’s Alive” from Season 4 of The Twilight Zone, and a couple of instalments of Rocky & Bullwinkle’s “Upsidaisium.”

22 December 2011

Amphibian and paleo-chanteuse

Big hello to La dottoressa Ildegarda.

And it’s not nice to mess with your pet frog. You knew that.

Sometimes ranging as far west as Catalina

To the man who once assured thousands that there is no Hell; there is only France . . . happy belated birthday, maître Zappa.

Let’s move to Cleveland . . . .

21 December 2011

Return to The Return of the King

Enthusiasts for the movies will wonder at why I am only now viewing Peter Jackson's historical The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The short answer is, because I love the book(s). One consequent is, I felt that I should probably be impatient (at the very least) with ways in which the screenplay "tinkered" with Tolkien.

That said, I have by chance, in various public or semi-public places, seen enough "snippets" of the movies, that I felt motivated to view them in their entirety.

This is the first instalment in the account of that journey There and Back Again.

(What's it have to do with music? you may well ask. Shan't answer right off.)

So, I have at last viewed the greater part (I suppose) of the first disc of the extended version of The Return of the King.

Before I get to the airing of grievances, I'll say straight off that (even from the as-yet limited taste I've had of the movies), whatever its failings, Jackson's trilogy is a stunning, impressive, even great achievement. And although I see a great many ways in which it ought to have been done different (i.e., truer to the author, and to his story), it is hard to imagine that Jackson's work here could be materially improved upon.

And now, drumroll, please:

In the back of my mind, there was dim recollection (from back when our man in Rancho Cucamonga saw it in the cinema) that Peter Jackson had excised "The Scouring of the Shire" from The Return of the King. He did so, even though (I am sure he was made aware) the author himself considered it "an essential part of the plot, foreseen from the outset." (Of course, narrative-wise, I haven't nearly got to that point yet.)

Heading the list of artistic liberties taken by the filmmaker, then, to which I cannot help but object: Saruman's death is transferred (accelerated) to the confrontation with Gandalf.

That decision also conflates Saruman's death, with Gandalf's formal "expulsion" of Saruman from wizardly authority.Jackson's Gandalf has peculiar obsession with getting information from Saruman, which has a curious resonance with № 2 from The Prisoner. You understand that Gandalf was certainly concerned (and tirelessly) with understanding and knowledge, in judging how to act. Information is an uncharacteristic word to add to Gandalf's script.

(Another word which never appears in Tolkien, and which therefore mars the tone of the screenplay: regurgitation. So much of the value in Tolkien's work is the poetry of it, that it is criminal to kill off the poetry like this.)

The dialogue of the confrontation at the gate of Orthanc (which for simplicity's sake Jackson seems to call Isengard) loses its richness and interiority: lost are the mental fears of the bystanders both as Theoden begins to reply to the wizard's entreaties for peace, and as Saruman invites Gandalf to enter the tower. (Loss, too, of the great line, "The guest who has left by the roof will think twice before entering again at the door.")

Of course, it is hard to see how a filmmaker might realize Tolkien's description of Saruman's death, the "spirit" rising, looking with hopeless longing to the West, but dissipated with a juridical breeze. But it's a desperate poetical loss to have the, erm, fallen wizard plunge down from the top of Orthanc, onto a spiked wheel.

Consequently, the manner of the Palantír's "falling" into the hands of Pippin is entirely different.

Pippin's misadventure upon yielding to his curiosity about the mysterious stone, is astonishingly dramatized by Jackson. Almost did not believe my eyes.

That the temporarily reformed (but at heart, duplicitous) Sméagol-Gollum manages to drive a wedge between Frodo and Sam, is a horrific wrench of the narrative, gross and unnatural. That obscenity is not even marginally justified by sober considerations of the problems of realizing the subtleties of Sméagol-Gollum's changes (shifts, really) in character through the course of the journey. That, too, is a loss … here in the movie, Gollum never becomes the genuinely pitiable character which Tolkien skilfully depicts.

Disappointed to see Elrond Half-Vulcan reduced to a sort of errand boy, himself delivering Andúril to Aragorn. Unthinkable that the Lord of Rivendell would go a-wandering to Theoden's tent. And apparently the whole process of Aragorn's decision to brave the Paths of the Dead is different. That Theoden would even say (in effect) Why should we ride to Gondor's aid when they didn't come to ours? is a severely sour note

The fabrication of Arwen's failing health here is contemptible.

Don't like that Aragorn's touching line to Éowyn (paraphrased as "I have wished you joy since I first saw you") was transplanted to the Muster at Dunharrow.

Denethor looks a bit like he wandered in off the set of Throw Momma From the Train.

All these are objections I find, and I've not yet seen all of even the first disc of the extended version of the third film (at a rough guess, less than 15% of The Show).

And I should say again that, while I raise these objections (and I do think them artistically important) there is much which is done well (I'll get to those considerations), and I am enjoying the ride.

20 December 2011

Tuesday morning mix

1. Frescobaldi: Toccata avanti Messa della Domenica from Fiori musicali (Roberto Lorreggian)
2. Beethoven: Piano Sonata 1 in f minor, Op.2 1 – i. Allegro (Wilhelm Kempff)
3. Beethoven: String Quartet 12 in E-flat, Op.127 – iv. Allegro (Vermeer Quartet)
4. Allegri: Miserere mei, Deus, Ps 51 (Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly)
5. Copland: Organ Symphony, i. Prelude. Andante (Simon Preston, St Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin)
6. Debussy: Sonata for cello & piano, i. Prologue. Lent (Nash Ensemble)
7. Hindemith: Das Marienleben (new version), Stillung Mariä mit dem Auferstandenen (Soile Isokoski, Marita Viitasalo)
8. Doc & Merle Watson: "Stormy Weather" from Pickin' the Blues
9. Toch: Symphony 3, Op.75 – ii. Andante tranquillo (Berlin Radio Symphony, Alun Francis)
10. Frank Zappa: "Filthy Habits" from You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, vol. IV
11. Prokofiev: L'enfant prodigue, Op.46 – L'enjoleuse (Cologne Radio Symphony, Mikhail Jurowski)
12. Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine, viii. Motet, Audi coelum (Boston Baroque, Martin Pearlman)
13. Vivaldi: Concerto in E for violin ("L'amoroso"), RV271 – iii. Allegro (The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock)
14. JS Bach: Art of Fugue, Canon alla decima in Contrapunto alla Terza (Fretwork)
15. Jethro Tull: "Living in These Hard Times" from 20 Years of Jethro Tull

18 December 2011

no 4, a few words more

Actually earlier than this blog post:

For the ‘A’ section, I decided to write a kind of rhythmic canon, in harmony with my recent Ockeghem listening. Clarinet 1’s part 1 would consist (mostly, to be explained presently) of 22 notes; clarinet 2 would take each of those 22 notes’ rhythmic duration, and subtract one eighth-note value – and would therefore come in 11 quarter-notes after cl 1. In addition to the 22, though, I whimsically decided that I would add four eighth-notes, strewn individually here and there, which would be exempt from the serial deduction – that is, there would simply be four eighth-notes added to Part 2, too, in the corresponding places.

Now, my mistake as I was draughting this out on the bus on the morning of the 12th came in, at m. 12 (fifth measure of the second system) in cl 1, where I incorrectly ‘finished’ the measure with a quarter-rest (ought to have been a half-rest). I had gotten to the end of the third system in cl 2 before I divined that there was a mistake; and my initial eyeballing did not discover the mistaken rest.

Pitch-wise, my initial idea was also canonic: I thought I’d try an inversion in cl 2, though I was prepared at the outset to ‘wing it’ if the inversion didn’t work out. My first attempt at a fix, though, was to transpose the inversion; thus, when I saw that the second note of m. 6 in cl 2 would be the G an octave below the eighth-note in cl 1, I went back and marked the initial F# “+4 / B-flat” (hence the apparently awkward “tie” in m.5 connecting F-natural to the ‘correction’ of A).

I think then that I must have made a mental mistake . . . thought that keeping true to the inversion resulted in a pitch duplication in m.8 . . . but the eighth-note would be D#, and the half-note, C# . . . that actually looks good. So I may sort that out and employ it for the balancing A' later in the piece.

In any event, when I found that I needed to put in a little work, anyway, to correct the rhythms, I returned to the idea that the pitch canon should be made strict, i.e., that I should find an inversion, or a rotation, which would do what I wanted contrapuntally. Hence the 22 “measures” after the double-bar in the fourth system. Of course, because of the “mensuration chase,” the pitches will not align like this; and I think I have decided to stick with this transposition of the inversion, ‘even though’ there is a unison D# which results in the new measure which corresponds to the second measure of the present third system. (As in a certain passage of The Mousetrap, I actually like it when the turning gears sometimes light on a unison, or octave.)

Curious coincidences . . .

. . . created by my chance viewing of TV on DVD:

In “A Matter of Honor” from season 5 of Columbo (original airdate: 1 Feb 1976), Ricardo Montalban plays a famous (retired) bullfighter in Mexico. And at the opening of “The Addams Family Splurges” (original airdate: 29 Jan 1965), Gomez wears rather bullish headdress and plays el toro while Morticia stands serenely with cape, tiring the “bull.”

Of itself, no huge deal.

But then, in the very next episode of Columbo, “Now You See Him...” (original airdate: 29 Feb 1976), whose perp is an illusionist, the detective does some research at a magic shop, whose proprietor demonstrates a tabletop guillotine.

That same prop (the tabletop guillotine) appears in “Cousin Itt Visits the Addams Family” (original airdate: 5 Feb 1965). So we have the same thematic sequence (bullfight :: magic show prop) in directly consecutive shows of two separate series, which I just happened to view in tandem.

16 December 2011

Tick them off

At some point to-day, will putter on the B section of N° 4. A' is near enough done as no matter.

Still not sure when to get back to work on the Cantata.

Lighter than usual duty at the Christmas Eve service this year but that's all right.

Starting to think that the world may soon need another clarinet & harpsichord piece.

15 December 2011

What a difference a couple of vowels make

Botox VS. buttocks.

14 December 2011

On the heels of no. 4

And now on this morning’s bus I toyed with the modifications for the return of A . . . I think I’ve managed to err again, another tiny error, which puzzles the will. I will conquer!

13 December 2011

Like old times

Was working on the ‘A’ section of № 4 yesterday. I’ve been listening to the Ockeghem Missa prolationum (at last, I might practically say: I know I’ve studied it any number of times in the past, but don’t know that I had ever actually listened to the piece as a whole) and it brought to mind that it is a while since I played rhythm-value games, hence the new vision for № 4. But (one of the hazards of working while commuting, I suppose) I found an error, and that I needed to audit the rhythm-values . . . which I managed to find on the homeward commute . . . so what happens on the bus, stays on the bus.

12 December 2011

Two Asides

Couldn’t help but feel that something was odd, watching Leonard Nimoy in “A Stitch in Crime” from the second season of Columbo. He’d had his ears done, hadn’t he?

And, chances are, part of the reason I found Jamie Lee Curtis funny, heating up as she did when John Cleese spoke Russian in A Fish Called Wanda, was the echo of fond memories of long ago, when Gomez Addams would teeter on the verge of losing control, upon Morticia speaking French.

11 December 2011

no 3, the end

Entirely pleased with how № 3 has turned out.

For a brief while, I was leaning towards a four-movement piece; but I am resisting solidification there.

Mulling plans

Shall I heed a quiet voice suggesting — not compelling — that I wrap the piece up at four movements?

Or … shall I experiment with the idea that I might knock out a new movement each week?

10 December 2011


Saturday morning

1. Tallis: “Discomfort Them, O Lord” (Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly)
2. Steve Hackett: “Lost Time in Cordoba” from Spectral Mornings
3. Chicago: Prelude to “Aire” from Chicago VII
4. Jethro Tull: “Living in the Past” from Living in the Past
5. Miles Davis: “Spanish Key” from Bitches’ Brew
6. Shostakovich: Preludes & Fugues, Op.87 № 9 in E (Tatiana Nikolayeva)
7. Scarlatti: Sonata in b minor, K.408 (Pieter-Jan Belder, fortepiano)
8. JS Bach: Fughetta super « Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’ » BWV677 (Helmut Walcha)
9. Beethoven: Piano Sonata № 6 in F, Op.10 № 2 – ii. Allegretto (Wilhelm Kempff)
10. Chicago: “Something in This City Changes People” from Chicago VI
11. Jethro Tull: “Saturation” from 20 Years of Jethro Tull
12. Bob Dylan & The Band: “Crash on the Levee” from The Basement Tapes

07 December 2011


In purely meteorological terms, this may just prove to have been the rainiest day of my life.


Gradual progress on N° 3.

Listening to a lot of Vivaldi, and the string quartets of Haydn & Mozart.

Rediscovering the soundtrack album for 200 Motels.

05 December 2011

Heavy Bach Element

1. Haydn, String Quartet Op.103 (Juilliard Quartet)
2. Scarlatti, Sonata in D K436, Allegro (Pieter-Jan Belder)
3. Jethro Tull, "Singing All Day" from Living in the Past
4. Prokofiev, Sarcasms Op.17, iii. Allegro precipitato (Eteri Andjaparidze)
5. Shostakovich, Prelude 8 in f# minor, from Op.87 (Olli Mustonen)
6. Shostakovich, Violin Concerto 2 in c# minor, Op.129, i. Moderato (Sitkovetsky, vn; BBC Symphony; Andrew Davis)
7. Doc & Merle Watson, "Look Up, Look Down That Lonesome Road" from Lonesome Road
8. JS Bach, B Major fugue, BWV868 from WTC Vol. I (Sergei Schepkin, pf)
9. Prokofiev, Visions fugitives, Op.22 10, Ridicolosamente (Michel Béroff)
10. Stravinsky, Canticum sacrum ad Honorem Sancti Marci Nominis, v. Qui confidunt (Westminster Cathedral Choir, London Sinfonietta, Jas O'Donnell)
11. Busoni, Sonata 2 in e minor, Op.36a iii. Andante, piuttosto grave (Gidon Kremer, Valery Afanassiev)
12. JS Bach, Chorale Prelude, « Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr » BWV662 (Helmut Walcha)
13. Bartók, Sonata for Two Pianos & Percussion, Sz110 ii. Lento, ma non troppo (Martha Argerich & al.)
14. Prokofiev, Romeo & Juliet, Op. 64, Act I Scene i, № 2 – Romeo: Andante (BSO, Ozawa)
15. Hindemith, Suite "1922," Op.26 2 Shimmy (Jn McCabe)
16. JS Bach, Fugue in Eb, « St Anne » BWV552 (Helmut Walcha)
17. Béla Fleck, "Spanish Point" from Tales from the Acoustuic Planet: The Bluegrass Sessions
18. Martinů, Promenades for vn, fl & hpschd (Monika Knoblochová & al.)
19. Mompou, Cançons i dansas 7 Muntanyes regalades/L'hereu riera (the composer playing)
20. Monteverdi, "Anima mia perdona" (pt 1) from Quarto libro di madrigal (Consort of Musicke, Anthony Rooley)
21. Beethoven, Violin Sonata 7 in c minor, iii. Scherzo: Allegro (Gidon Kremer & Martha Argerich)
22. Elgar, Violin Concerto in b minor, Op.61 iii. Allegro molto (Nigel Kennedy, CBSO, Rattle)
23. JS Bach, Partita in D for Harpsichord, BWV828 – Courante (Christiane Jaccottet)
24. JS Bach, A Major fugue, BWV864 from WTC Vol. I (Sergei Schepkin, pf)
25. François Couperin, La lugubre Sarabande from Troisième ordre de clavecin (Olivier Baumont)
26. The Bobs, "Sign My Snarling Doggie" from Shut Up 'n' Sing

04 December 2011

Moving along

With a very few minor adjustments, N° 2 is now done.

And I've gotten a start on N° 3.

03 December 2011


I've not yet properly stress-tested N° 2. I've looked the pages over a few times, and I think it done. But my mind entertains the possibility that this may just be page fatigue. Will probably be able to settle the matter tomorrow.

01 December 2011

You know…

… it just might be.

(So, no — still not certain.)


Not sure if I genuinely finished № 2 this morning, or if I slammed into the final double-bar out of exhaustion (physical, not musical). Not sure I can even try the question until I've had some more rest.