21 June 2013

On the road

There is a certain irony in coming to Manhattan, and seeing (on Ninth Avenue and 46th Street) a van bearing the legend Harvard Maintenance.

For the first time I've been in the Port Authority in decades, I made a surprisingly efficient path from the Greyhound bus, to the NJ Transit bus gate. I had exact change for the fare, though in the event, it was a ticket machine which would have accepted plastic.

For some of the bus ride from Boston, I had planned on (at last) creating a three-hour playlist on the Archos. I had printed out the playlist, as I had created it on the desktop. Although, somehow, the 24-minute fourth movement of the Bruckner Fifth somehow appeared three times in that printout.

19 June 2013

Lights out

Two of my favorite signs to be posted in places of business:

At the customer service counter of a print shop...


Choose any two.

And, in the Music Department office in Old Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia:

Lack of preparation on your part, does not constitute an emergency on our part.

Strange to say, earlier today I listened to the Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, but (apart from the wonderfully famous March, naturally) I don't think I recognized a single note.

Should I be worried?

Dewy morning

Back in the right spot, as even when the page is not beneath my poised pen, new ideas spring up in a most gratifying manner.

Chappie who used to sing with us at St Paul's just noted that a Psalm setting (which I arranged . . . sort of a modest homage to Mozart, who transcribed the Allegri Miserere mei, Domine on one hearing, this is a Psalm 91 I heard repeatedly, sung by men, and which I later arranged for SATB from aural memory) is a piece which keeps recurring to his inner ear.

18 June 2013

Getting on with it

Some work laid in, both last night, and on this morning's train. The topmost staff was from May of 2011, and shows a meter change which I have reconsidered. The remainder of the page is not necessarily in the right order, but it's all material I expect to use.

17 June 2013

Signally productive

All in all, The Grand 2013 Henningmusick Re-Rollout has been an overridingly positive experience.  I have managed to get Sibelius 6 files to the publisher for:

Three Short Pieces (organ), Op.34
Radiant Maples, Op.59
Fragments of « Morning Has Broken », Op.64a
Starlings on the Rooftop, Op.82
Studies in Impermanence, Op.86
Nunc dimittis, Op.87, № 9

. . . and the experience of (perforce) having to put new composition on hold, while sawing away at a task which brought a fair number of "old scores" under my eye, gave me the chance (potentially) to grow heartily sick of (it might have been) embarrassing early work.  But — even if none is The Musical Masterpiece of My Generation — I find all the pieces to be well made, still, and I just enjoy the sound of them all, still.  (Added bonus:  All six works have actually been performed in public; and a majority of them have been performed multiple times.)

And (but wait — there's more!) I find myself freshly enthused to attend to The Mystic Trumpeter.  Yes, I did some composing on this morning's train.  The piece will benefit from the much-improved global sense of architecture which I have developed over all these months of apparent inactivity on the composition.

16 June 2013

Maples done, again

In reviewing the old PDF of Radiant Maples, my eye caught a musical infelicity. The offensive measure contained repeating notes in the harp.

I composed the piece before I had the advantage of knowing Mary Jane Rupert, who pointed out to me that, most unlike piano or harpsichord (or guitar, for that matter), rapid repeated notes are not idiomatic on the harp (the strings are too long, and need time to recover a bit in order for the player to strike again).

It is long enough ago that we played the piece, that I honestly don't remember what Mary Jane's workaround was -- or even, if I recomposed that measure for her part on that occasion. At any rate, I made a few comparatively trivial changes else, here and there.

15 June 2013


This morning, I felt I should get the Fragments done this evening, and here it is, not even half past eight, and it is in the can.

The doggone minute I've decided to hold on

As documented by an image earlier posted to this very blog, so far as concerns Radiant Maples, Opus 59, for flute, clarinet in B-flat, harp & piano, the XML transfer method is one of the five startlingest non-starters in the history of music engraving. I think there may be nothing for it, and that (in the case of more than one section with rapid figurations in uneven note divisions) there's apt to be no solution short of do it again.

This is not complaint, it's appraisal. Knowledge is Power. (And still, rhythmically simpler passages {marginally the greater part of the piece} may import well enough via pdf.)

Considering this month's musical To Do List: the news is much better (and, as focused as I have been on solving for Maples, unexpected) with the Fragments of « Morning Has Broken », Opus 64a, for flute, clarinet in B-flat, and piano. This score is overall much simpler rhythmically, and appears actually to have survived the XML ordeal as intact as might reasonably be expected.

Suggest, if you must, that this is irrationally exuberant of me, but I think it realistically possible to chop a new Fragments out in an evening's work. Don't take my word for it: we shall put the matter to the test, tonight.

14 June 2013

Five years ago

Well, all right, I’ve been blogging for a while now (and, it may be argued, to little purpose enough).

This was my post of five years ago today . . . reflecting on no flowers withal to deck Prokofiev’s grave.

Two colleagues here in Boston have had a look at Kingsfold, and are passing it on to other interested parties. Hey, it’s a network.

The woodwindist in Colorado, for whose trio I composed Starlings on the Rooftop, writes of the piece:

We liked it!  It's fun to play, and not too difficult for amateur musicians.  Most college musicians could play it, but it's also fun for professionals.

Mark Gresham made the excellent suggestion that clarinet could (at need) substitute for the English horn.

If it feels a bit like I’m vamping, don’t worry:  feels that way to me, too.

13 June 2013

Exhibit A for the prosecution, and some progress else

In a peculiar, modern art kind of way, it's actually attractive. I admit that my prejudice against this is motivated purely by knowledge of the lovely piece of music which is thus made absolutely illegible:

Among other peculiarities (I suppose an artifact of the source file), is the original working title, which I had practically forgotten until seeing it thus resurrected.

Anyway, the PDF importation process is, I do not say much easier, but costs much less time and effort, and I think I am practically done with the 'recreated' score for Starlings on the Rooftop.

12 June 2013

Mind frolic

Last night I dreamt of going home. Not our actual home, but a home we'd lately moved into. And yet, it being a dream and only partly rational, the emotion was homecoming, relaxation, peace. And in the dream I had a sense that I had dreamt this home before. The second floor felt cool; the third warm, cozy, and yet having many rooms, ample space. And I woke up, and my feelings affirmed that I had dreamt that house before. But later in the day, when I was properly awake, I had a feeling that any prior knowledge of that home was an illusion. That in the dream, in the house, I was aware I was dreaming, and had felt that I had dreamt the dream before, but that the sense that I had had the recurring dream was an illusory creation within the dream.

And now that I am fully awake, I have no idea what the fact of the matter is.

Plan B

In the ongoing series, What Do I Do With the Finale Files of All My Older Pieces, Now That I've Migrated to Sibelius?...

A search on the interwebs quickly turned up a four-page document singing the ease and convenience of the XML transfer, but the illustration was only a small fragment of the top of the first page of a score, and you could count the noteheads on the fingers of your two hands. No doubt, the method works great, if your music is on the order of "Yankee Doodle."

Last night, I had a go at The Other Method... More anon.

11 June 2013

From the archives, Eleven Years Ago Today Edition

Dateline: 09:39am Jun 11, 2002 EST
I was asked for a clarinet solo piece in a hurry, though a short (very short) piece was wanted. Haven’t been advised just yet what time increment, exactly, a hurry means in this case.
So apart from coming up with thoughts for a new piece (because you always want to write something new), I came up with Plan B in case a hurry means right away.
When I so happily chanced to trod the cobbles of St Petersburg, part of what was going on in the Henning life was, a subtle but inexorable transformation from music student with too little discipline and too little direction to get much writing done to composer who is getting a better bead on his musical direction, though he is aware of how little discipline he commands. The laboratory in which (or, maybe, around which) this transformation had some play was, naturally, my doctoral dissertation, a sprawling 40-minute work in five movements for soli voices and symphonic band. I had composed two of the five movements while yet in upstate New York (one of the texts, Bills friends in Georgia will readily credit, toys around with the not-very-deep,-philosophically notion of a State Trooper in shades, and in a Mephistofelean cast).
The challenges to finishing the piece included my own laziness, as well as my consuming fascination with St Petersburg the place and with Russian culture. But a larger challenge, perhaps, was that, now that I was already for the most part free of the need to write music in a way that will please a composition instructor, I was learning that I wanted to write music rather differently. In writing my dissertation, I had a plan which my faculty dissertation committee had approved, and which perforce must be followed, even though, left to my own devices, I should have started all over again.
On balance, it was excellent discipline. Which, of course, I badly wanted.
But I took a while finding a balance between the need to explore where I really wanted to go, musically, and the need to get the dissertation written in a manner which (a) would not be obviously schizophrenic, and (b) would meet the approval of my committee.
Part of this “taking a while finding a balance,” was a matter of writing a large-ish number of small-scale pieces: a lot of little piano pieces, an organ piece, a short suite for solo harp, a couple of rather-more-extended piano pieces (including Gaze Transfixt, of which Tom K has said a few gracious words).
And a piece for clarinet solo.
Really, what was originally intended as the beginning of a long-ish set of variations for clarinet solo, though variations not on a theme, per se, but on a sort of ‘pitch process.’ ‘Pitch processes’ are an easy thing to invent, but then the larger question, How do I make music out of this? — remains.
Well, among those of my musical papers which traveled with me back to the states, is the fair copy of these three variations. More sketches are still over in the apartment on the Prospekt Kultury, but honestly, that fire has gone cold — and since the piece was partly a study in my transition-cum-get-the-dissertation-done-already, it belongs to the past, and there is other music to write now.
There were really only small adjustments needed, to make of this fair draught of a longer piece’s beginning, a short but complete piece. There is certainly enough for the clarinetist to do, that he should not wish, at the piece’s end, that I had written a great deal more for him ....
The piece is called Blue Shamrock.

E’en as the busy bee

Beginning to prepare (old pieces, but music which I still own up to) for an August flute convention. Because the pieces are old enough, that they pre-date my migration to Sibelius, it was at last necessary to install Finale 2004 onto my new machine.
(In recent weeks, I evaded the necessity of digging around for [a] the Finale install disc, and [b] the flash drives onto which I had off-loaded my Finale files, by re-constructing from scratch in Sibelius the Nunc dimittis from the Evening Service in D – will probably pursue the same method with the Magnificat – the Opus 34 Short Organ Pieces, and the Studies in Impermanence.  The last was easily the most work, and yet . . . but I get ahead of myself.)
Much of my flute (or with-flute) music is already either in the pipeline, or available at Lux Nova (Heedless Watermelon, The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword, e.g.)  The scores which I am keen to make press-ready for the present are:
Radiant Maples, Op. 59 (fl/cl/hp/pf)
Fragments of Morning Has Broken, Op. 64a (i.e., the second version: fl/cl/pf)
Starlings on the Rooftop, Op. 82 (fl/Eng hn/bn)
Back when I first switched from Finale to Sibelius (because I wanted an early sense of the process), I tried to export a score from Finale as an XML file, and then import the XML into Sibelius. It was an utter disaster.  Granted, I started bold, with the Overture to White Nights, but the result was such a horrific mess, I knew immediately that there was a case where I was going to be happier spending the time and labor in building a Sibelius file from scratch.
A few years passed since that inaugural attempt.  Alas, even with the smaller-scale scores under present advisement, the transfer method results in a godawful mess.
Am presently weighing whether I should use the Sibelius file which results from the import of XML as sort of a "junk car" from which to salvage some materials brought into a fresh Sibelius file.
The adventure from last night, though, has confirmed for me the prudence of just starting afresh with the Studies in Impermanence in Sibelius.  And it is informing the Grand Matter in the back of my musical mind, which is how both to bring what is already composed of White Nights forward, and how to proceed with completion of the remaining scenes.

10 June 2013

Kingsfold redux

Long, long ago, for the musically modest choir at First Congo in Woburn, I composed an arrangement of the hymn-tune Kingsfold, using a text specific to Palm Sunday, for two-part choir & piano.  Because the text is specific to that one occasion in the church year, this piece has not had any particular performance history since its inaugural execution;  and I have long intended to ‘fold in’ a more general text.

From time to time, particularly when we've sung the tune Forest Green (same text meter as Kingsfold) at FCB, that intention came briefly out of cold storage, but never actually thawed.

Yesterday, dadfrazzanabit, I did it. Even though I hadn’t meant to do any work on my day off . . . .