31 August 2012

Shuffle into the Labor Day Weekend

1. Stravinsky: The Great Chorale from L'histoire du soldat (Columbia Chamber Ensemble, the composer conducting, February 1961)
2. Stravinsky: Concerto "Dumbarton Oaks" – iii. Con moto (Ensemble InterContemporain, Boulez)
3. Shostakovich: Symphony 9 in Eb, Op.70 – i. Allegro (Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Oleg Caetani)
4. Vivaldi: Sonata per violin e basso continuo in F, Op.2 4 – iii. Sarabanda (I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Simone)
5. Zappa: "Buffalo Drowning Witch" (Buffalo)
6. Stravinsky: Cantata, Postlude – "A Lyke-Wake Dirge" versus IV (Gregg Smith Singers, Columbia Chamber Ensemble, the composer conducting, 10.ii.1966)
7. Thelonious Monk: "Four in One" (Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 2)
8. Chopin:  Mazurka in Bb, Op.17 1 (Garrick Ohlsson)
9. Zappa & The Mothers: "Mom & Dad" (We're Only In It For the Money, UMRK remix)
10. Thelonious Monk: "Evonce" [alternate take] (Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1)
11. Copland: Four Piano Blues – iii. Muted and Sensuous (Paul Jacobs)
12. Frescobaldi: Ricercar decimo obligo la fa sol la re from Fantasie Book I (Sergio Vartolo)
13. King Crimson: "B'Boom" (VROOOM VROOOM, Disc 2)
14. Rameau: Pièces de Clavecin premier livre1ère et 2ème Sarabandes (Jan-Pieter Belder)
15. JS Bach: Sonata 3 in C for violin solo BWV1005 – 1. Adagio (Arthur Grumiaux)
16. JS Bach: Aria "Willkommen! will ich sagen" from Cantata BWV27 (Gustav Leonhardt & al.)
17. Boulez: Commentaire I de « Bourreaux de solitude » from Le marteau sans maître (the composer & al.)
18. Saint-Saëns: Caprice andalous Op.122 (Ruggiero Ricci, Philharmonia Hungarica)
19. Beethoven: Piano Sonata in d minor, Op.31 2 – i. Largo – Allegro (Friedrich Gulda)
20. JS Bach: Partita 2 in d minor for violin solo BWV1004 – 1. Allemanda (Christoph Poppen)
21. Thelonious Monk: "Ask Me Now" [alternate take] (Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 2)
22. Bridge:  Oration for cello solo & orchestra – viii. Lento (Isserlis, & al.)
23. Tom Waits: "Time" (Rain Dogs)
24. Thelonious Monk: "Suburban Eyes" (Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1)
25. Prokofiev: Symphony 5 in Bb Op.100 – ii. Allegro marcato (Atlanta Symphony, Yoel Levi)

30 August 2012


Along with progress in the actual MS., with which I am entirely pleased — ideas for ensuing sections are coming in at an agreeable pace. At first I was thinking something like what am I going to have the piece do for twenty minutes? Which is a shadow-question … as I've carved such a block of time into engaging music more than once. As usual, I've just needed quietly to listen.

I was asked last night, "Where do you get your inspiration?" I took a second to check my channels, confirmed that the answer remains in force, and said, "Everywhere."

28 August 2012

And yet, later…

… we enter the world of Simply Unsuccessful Arrangements … "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" … "Come Together" …

Wait for it

Honestly, I thought that the string quartet arrangement of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" was the lamest thing I'd heard all year.

Until they started playing "Isn't She Lovely?"

Observing syntax failure

It's just a blip on a small screen in an elevator, I know. There is a "learn a new word" module, and it just looks bad when the people (or, the bots) who presume to teach you a word, misuse it themselves.

The word is distrait, and there on that tiny screen there was room for them both to correctly denote it as an adjective, and to furnish an "example" sentence which incorrectly used it as a noun.

25 August 2012

Moon Man

I fancy that I remember the day when Armstrong set foot on the moon (or, the day following). Always admired the man; although I never wanted to do the same thing (even at a tender age, I was overwhelmed with a sense of the dangers), Armstrong was one of my first real-life heroes.

Separately ... at an earlyish age, too, I had to concede that the Russians’ neologism (cosmonaut) was better sense.


What should it matter to me if someone, with whose politics I disagree, likes some of the same music which I like?

Chipping away

Largely pleased with the page which appears in a curiously blurry pic in the When least expected post. C'est à dire, entirely pleased with the idea. Execution is not bad (this is not a good-or-bad binary question), but I want it to be better still. This morning, then, my work was on the lines of refashioning (tweaking, better) the subject. The overall idea is a texturally busy Klangfarbensatz.

24 August 2012

Actual dialogue

Heard in a (Boston) store:

Cashier: Are you a local college student?
Customer: Yes.
Cashier: Where do you go to school?
Customer: Wisconsin.
Cashier: Now — let's think about this a minute…


Perhaps they need remedial US geography in that Wisconsin school…

23 August 2012

When least expected

First of all, I probably have my friend Lee to thank. We had exchanged email messages earlier in the evening yesterday, and I hinted that such a thing was possible. Even at the time, I had a mental flash that I was setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I knew that I should feel quite tired, getting out of the museum. But the composer also knew that there is only negligible effort in opening the notebook, and casting a glance over both the score so far, and pages of sketches.

The apparent benefits of being tired were that I felt under absolutely no obligation to get anything done, and I was relaxed. So that when I did put pen to paper, I composed freely. Indeed, it was a thought which came to me completely fresh; but inspired by a couple of measures which I had already composed. So the new passage has the twin virtues of complete freshness of expression, and organic unity with what is already composed.

Indeed, the new passage strikes me as quite likely the best part of the piece so far. Which seems to suggest that I ought not at all to be shy of trying to compose under such circumstances. Even more, I see myself in future much more really motivated to just do it.

Fresh off the train

22 August 2012

Three Bs, plus

Last night at the Old West Church here in Boston, Mark Engelhardt played a typically outstanding recital, on the C.B. Fisk Opus 55. In introductory remarks from the organ loft, Mark variously likened the program to a rondo and to a club sandwich.  First a Bruhns Præludium in G; then a Suite Breve by our mutual friend and colleague Carson Cooman (which may, a bit wryly, have been the single longest musical item); a Canzonetta in G by Buxtehude whose brief duration (in spite of its fair disclosure as a song-ette) seemed almost to take the audience by surprise; the Sonata in Sea by another estimable mutual f. & c., James Woodman; and ending (bien sûr) with the roisterous C Major prelude & fugue, BWV 547.

Mark was in strikingly good form, working well with an instrument which can be unforgiving of a performer less flexible. Both contemporary pieces sounded very nicely. In the Cooman Suite, the Sortie stood out for its assured brilliance. And while it was not the first time that I heard Mark play the Woodman Sonata (as I was telling the composer) it felt much like the best yet I had heard the piece performed.

20 August 2012

Studio continuing

Getting gradual work done on the new "mighty winds" piece. It's taking interesting turns … I may say that it astonishes me, the passages which are emerging … though on t'other hand, the materials are right there, in my sketches. The piece is about at the 3½-minute mark.

An interesting "architectural" notion struck me, just this evening. One which I like very well — but which will want considering. Done right, it would be exquisite, I think.

17 August 2012

Non-Sieved Valuta

Sometime ago I fetched in the Lumpy Money project/object, largely for the sake of the ultra-tasty mono remaster of We're Only In It For the Money. The second disc in this set is the infamous UMRK “tweaked” versions of both Lumpy Gravy and We're Only...
Despite an æsthetic predisposition to dislike them “on principle” ... I have got to admit, they are fun and intriguing. I like them! But ... I should likewise probably have found them (to use a Lumpy Gravy word) “distraughtening” if they were the only version available (or if I had bought them, expecting them to be “genuine reissues”).

15 August 2012

In transcendent error

Because I had heard it long before reading it (and knowing it for slang appropriation) ... I've always mistaken knackered (implying "sent off to the works to be reduced to pasty adhesive") as nacred (meaning "having acquired a pearly lustre").

Probably related to my artsy background, aspirations, labors & ongoing dreams. I like to make a mistake, when the result is exquisitely right.

The period at the end of an astonishing sentence

Listening to Calling All Stations.

It's a pleasant enough album, but I should be astonished if anyone considers this album essential Genesis. (Okay, that was a strawman, I see that.) Kind of feels like Tony Banks, riffing, because he doesn't know quite what else he should do. Of the eleven tracks, fully four run longer than seven minutes. Longer than seven and a half minutes, even. In the Genesis reunion videos, Banks is occasionally self-effacing about his tendency towards (shall we say) breadth. In the communal environment of Genesis, there was a refining process of which Banks seems to have been pretty consistently in need.

So . . . probably I should think more charitably of the album if I disregard it as a Genesis album, and think of it in light of a Tony Banks solo project. And in that bucket, the album is a significant advance on A Curious Feeling.

Still, the 67-minute CD has a curiously padded feeling, and I fear that this is a negative which came downstream from We Can't Dance. Which album may benefit in my ears from having listened to most of Calling All Stations first.

Back when there was still a Borders, I remember seeing this CD in the rack. From a distance. Even the cover art seemed not to beckon me.

13 August 2012

Less had been more

Items in the London closing ceremonies which I wouldn't have minded if they'd been skipped:

The Spice Girls
Annie Lenox (not all the costumes or props could redeem this)
Beady Eye
The big polyethylene octopus and its attendant musicians
Jessie J (sorry)
The song from Willy Wonka
The Bowie collage (just never a fan, sorry)

12 August 2012

The on-screen start

Have been puttering with pen and paper for a week or more; the time came to start messing about in the Sibelius environment.  Feels like a good start has gotten been.

To roll back the video tape: In the Artist’s Studio (There’s a wide world in there) is a scored (or, is in the process of being scored) for Eb sopranino clarinet, three oboes, alto flute, English horn, Bb tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, four horns, two tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba & harp.

Although I have some mental flexibility, and am willing to go wherever the material seems to want to take me . . . at present I am thinking of a 20-minute piece.  When you’ve a new piece, and a large-ish ensemble, a certain critial mass of rehearsal time is demanded.  My feeling is that if you have a large group of people sweating to realize a new score, they deserve more of a musical payoff than a five-minute squib.

Having said that: no, offhand I do not know of anyone who will “need” the piece, of anyone who will even necessarily read it.  It is the piece I want to write, now.  That, Gentle Reader, is artistic freedom.  And the fact that I write the music out of my own motivation, and in a condition of perfect freedom (which is to say, I myself determine what if any limits the composition must abide by) is a flame which will burn in the heart of the piece, so that its very integrity will be one of its attractions.

11 August 2012

At it some more

Scribbling a bit on the N° 134 bus, more "pre-score" puttering for In the Artist's Studio. Found a pitch-level at which I like how the basic 2-voice canon works out. (Two tries last night on the train yielded what I consider duds. I don't think this is a train-VS.-bus thing, though.)

I also sketched through an idea which occurred to me last night, and pretty well like the result: an augmentation of both rhythmic profile, and of successive intervals.

In the shell of a nut, I am remembering (honoring the recollection in activity, is better put) that if I get even just a hair bit of work done, each day — and a good many days I shall do a great deal of work more — then after a month or two of the persistence, of living mentally in the score, and the accretion of actual work on the page … in no more than two months, I can have even quite a substantial score not simply finished, but in a state which does the composer not the least discredit.

Sez you

Here was a Respectfully Opposed response to a virtual neighbor who “remembered Foxtrot being one of the best Genesis albums” :

Well, some bits (at the least) of the lyrics to “Supper’s Ready” are near flat-out goofy, and not only the “Willow Farm” interlude. Now, in a sense, I think you’re perfectly right: “Supper’s Ready” is long, but it’s not one long compositional whole the way that the first movement of a Mozart piano concerto (which probably runs about as long) is . . . “Supper’s Ready” is basically on the Abbey Road side 2 model, of a bunch of bits strung together, musically, with some incidental back-references tucked in later on in the piece for good measure. So I think Foxtrot “significant” for [Genesis] (a) because Hackett is now well integrated into the ensemble, and (b) for the nerve of trying something as large-scale as “Supper’s Ready.” And there is a lot of “stuff” in “Supper’s Ready” which is mighty impressive. On the whole, though, [Foxtrot] strikes me as rather a rough-cut album (though “Watcher of the Skies” is a strong opener IMO) . . . and there followed a process of musical digestion, I think, from which Selling England by the Pound benefits in an impressive degree of assurance.

10 August 2012

No title, please

Continued "pre-composition" of some material for In the Artist's Studio; some rhythmic canons.

Interesting snippets I've read. In dipping back into Harlow Robinson's bio of Prokofiev (a book I bought at the Eastman School bookstore back when), a curious story about "the Bearer of Chinese Currency."

And a humorously snooty remark Astor Piazzolla fielded from an Italian orchestral musician.

Rain to-day in Boston.

Built a three-hour playlist of energetic pop tunes on the Archos.

In many ways, ready for the week-end.

09 August 2012

An observation

This is about two-ply toilet paper.

At times, the paper is torn in such a way that the two plies are not torn together. And one ply will get rolled and torn, and there is the mild visual curiosity of the perforations of the two plies being misaligned.

To be clear, I am not saying that this bothers me (which it probably does not). But one notices.

I am not proposing any sort of government regulation, on either the producers of two-ply bathroom tissue, nor on the (so to say) end user.

What has this to do with music? someone may well ask. One does not necessarily know. So many of the connections in life are subtle. And the use to which an artist may put such a thing, may well remain to be seen.

08 August 2012

The late John Mayurnik in recital

Mr Mayurnik was my very first music teacher (and one of very few teachers who educated all seven Henning children).  He must have worked hard at this recital;  and I am charmed at the thought of his performing Hindemith.

Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

In the Artist's Studio

Started writing, not the score itself, but matter for the piece.

Remembering Mr Mayurnik

Word just in that our beloved music teacher from Union School (sister Kate informs me, one of only a very few teachers who taught all seven Henning children), John Theodore Mayurnik, has shuffled off this mortal coil.  I found a wonderful snippet from his college newsletter announcing his senior recital;  will post a pic anon.
No easy matter finding traces of him in the ether!  But there is this fascinating snapshot:
John Mayurnik from Waldwick NJ (14 Nov 2009 response to WQXR blog post, Your First Classical Concert in New York)
I had been attending concerts with my parents since early childhood. My first one in NY was a piano recital by Mora Lympany in Carnegie Hall in 1957. By the way, I was there at the famous Bernstein-Gould performance of Brahmss 1st piano concerto . Quite a night. Gould out with the full score and there was a glass of water on the piano that he would sip during tuttis. There were equal bravos and boos at the end.

07 August 2012

Have not done one of these in a while

Shuffle to-day:

1. Miles Davis & Jn Coltrane: “Two Bass Hit” from Best of . . . .
2. Nielsen: Humoreske-bagateller, Op.11 № 2, Snurretoppen (The Spinning Top) (Herman Koppel)
3. Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony, Op.83a – ii. Andantino (Barshai, conducting)
4. Beethoven: Symphony № 8 in F, Op.93 – i. Allegro vivace e con brio (Harnoncourt, conducting)
5. Hindemith: Ludus tonalis, № 17 – Interludium. Very fast (Jn McCabe)
6. Frank Zappa & The Mothers: The “Dog Breath” Variations from Uncle Meat
7. JS Bach: Flute Sonata № 2 in Eb, BWV 1031 – iii. Allegro (Paula Robison & Kenneth Cooper)
8. Mompou: Música callada vol. II, № 13 – Tranquillo. Très calme (the composer playing)
9. Schoenberg: String Quartet № 2 in f# minor, Op.10 – « Entrückung », sehr langsam (The Schoenberg Quartet & Susan Narucki)
10. 10cc: “Lazy Days” from How Dare You!

About to plunge

Thinking of adding alto flute, tenor saxophone & harp to the imminent winds score.

Postcards from the edge

In the order received:
  • A disinterested flutist reports that technically, everything is smooth and susceptible to easy preparation in Airy Distillates.
  • There is a recording of Angular Whimsies. It’s coming. Don’t know just when yet.
  •  Moonrise has been read (privately) by a quintet on the west coast.  They may at some point perform it.

06 August 2012

Seen in the blogosphere

“I should totally Kickstarter this idea.”

05 August 2012


The Day of Sending Forth These Unlikely Events, in the unlikely event that some one among the addressees takes that degree if interest in the piece, to bring it to an audience.

04 August 2012

Quiet for a Saturday

A string quartet here in Boston has said they will include It’s all in your head (not that’s a bad place for everything to be) in their study rep.

And I am now back in touch with a dear Wooster classmate.

It’s all getting better.

Although I left Mystical Adventures at the office yesterday . . . .

03 August 2012

A walk in the park

… and word just in from Dana, the intrepid violist who brought you the Henning Op.102. The new quartet has landed. And efforts are ongoing towards a reprise of the Viola Sonata!

Finished and nearly finished

Après-lullaby, which began its life as a cello ensemble in four parts, is now a string quartet. Thus the Op.96a n° 3 is complete. Hoping (and not unreasonably) that in this form, it actually reaches the ears of an audience! Certainly, some players have graciously consented to look it over.

Having found at last my MS. of These Unlikely Events n° 4, I realize there is yet some detail to add to p.3 ... musically, though, it's solid.

02 August 2012

Just to be clear

From Tim Page's introduction to The Glenn Gould Reader:

"… he liked to sing along—loudly—while he played. Gould apologized for this quirk: 'I don't know how anyone puts up with my singing, but I do know that I play less well without it.'"

Perhaps elsewhere Gould apologizes, per Mr Page. But the Respectful Opposition point out that I don't know how anyone puts up with x, is not apologizing for x. It's a concession that x is objectionable.

01 August 2012

Kicking back

The musical mind is resting. And I see this artwork, and I think of the University of Rochester, home of the Yellow Jackets…

Satori in Boston

Just realized something wonderfully applicable to Après-lullaby. The repeating C chords in the opening section, I can re-voice, with double- or even triple-stops, for grander sound and yet better suitability to a string quartet.

So an extra day to consider has been to the music's benefit. More upside from Airy Distillates.

What happened last night

Originally I had planned to spend yester evening on the duos of These Unlikely Events (I need to fling № 4 into Sibelius — a software whose survival seems now imperiled — and to lay out parts for № 5, and check on parts for the earlier ones . . . maybe just one, 3) and on Après-lullaby (sorting out the conversion from cello ensemble to string quartet). But (per last night's post) instead I concentrated on chopping out a flute solo piece.
I began scribbling on the 17:10 train out of North Station . . . obviously stopped the pen while driving home, picking up some groceries (needed some flounder fillets, tinned peas, butter, &c.) and eating dinner (a lovely roast chicken) . . . and had the score ready for delivery at 21:30.
As I took up the pen on that train, I had in my notebook a few pages of sketches for a number of other pieces; and I freely drew on motifs there 'available'; so this flute solo is a kind of commentary on a couple of other pieces.  Thus the title is Airy Distillatesairy for the flute, distillates for the derivation of materials.
There is even a Twitter pun in the piece's scheme.
Separately: I've been living with King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of FZ for a few days (mostly I've been composing or otherwise working on my own music, so I've been a little lazy with the CD player at home).  Kind of nice, but a little . . . smoothed-out, overall. At the very least, though, worthwhile for the Ur-text of Music for Electric Violin and Low-Budget Orchestra.  Not entirely a bad thing, but the general feel of the album strikes me as, Zappa gone easy-listening.  Interesting alternative readings, though the brevity of "King Kong" (which I perforce remember as a massive suite of variations on the fourth side of the double-LP Uncle Meat) I find intrinsically slight.  It has, however, piqued my curiosity to revisit a Ponty album which I used to have on cassette tape, back when:  Mystical Adventures.
It's a momentous day!  Young Helen brings the Cello Sonatina in to her lesson to-day. I'm on tenterhooks . . . .

Imitative finish

This morning, I had a good look at the closing 28 measures (Largamente assai) of Après-lullaby, and I believe I have found the solution. The whole movement up to that double-bar will fit the string quartet scoring, untransposed. But, that last flourish of imitation, no.  I have not wanted to transpose the first 126 measures of the piece, in order to accommodate the closing 20%.

The chord in m.126 is a stack of fifths (though not voiced so plainly): G, D, A, E. The E is in the bass, which then resolves up a semitone to begin the point of imitation on F.

It is an easy matter to re-voice that chord in m.126 so that the A is in the bass, resolving up a semitone to B-flat — and if I transpose that section up a perfect fourth, it will work fine — at one point Vn II and Va will need to swap parts II & III, and I'll want to broaden the overall range by raising the violins an octave for a few measures … but the conversion will be smooth.

The result may, indeed, be an arguable improvement upon the original.