31 December 2013

The year in Henningmusick

There appeared a review of the First Church Boston Choir concert in which they sang Love is the spirit, the first-ever (so far as I know) reference in any review to my music. [ performance here ]

Composed (and performed) Thoreau in Concord Jail, Op.109. [ performance here ]

The First Church Boston Choir (directed by Paul Cienniwa) sang the première of the Kyrie, Op.106 № 1

Composed Annabel Lee, Op.111, which was selected by the Libella Quartet for performance on their April concert. [ performance here ]

Composed Misapprehension, Op.112 for clarinet choir in 15 parts.

Completed composing the Organ Sonata, Op.108.

Prepared pre-press editions of several older pieces.

Composed The Mystic Trumpeter, Op.113 № 1 for soprano and clarinet in A, and Après-mystère, Op.113 № 2, for flute (or piccolo) and clarinet in A. [ audio of the Op.113 № 2 here ]

Composed Nicodemus brings myrrh and aloes for the burial of the Christ, Op.85 № 4 for cello and piano.

Composed Zen on the Wing, Op.114 № 2, for flute and clarinet in A. [ audio here ]

Composed just what everyone was expecting, Op.114 № 1, for clarinet in Bb and marimba.

I was appointed Music Director at Holy Trinity United Methodist Church in Danvers, Mass.

The Reinhardt University Percussion Ensemble performed Journey to the Dayspring, Op.40.

Arranged Counting Sheep (or, The Dreamy Abacus of Don Quijote) for Pierrot-plus ensemble (Op.58a)

Composed Plotting (y is the new x), Op.116 for violin and harpsichord.

Arranged the first Intermezzo from White Nights (Op.75 № 6) for saxophone choir in 12 parts.

Composed My Island Home, Op.115 for percussion ensemble (10 players).

The Lux Nova edition (the only authorized edition) of Journey to the Dayspring, Op.40 is now available at Amazon.

Arranged Moonrise for flute choir in six parts (Op.84a)

Expanded Angular Whimsies (Heavy Paint Manipulation) for quartet (bass clarinet, percussion [two players], piano, Op.100a)

And may God rest the soul of our dear friend, William A. Goodwin.

30 December 2013


By a technicality, I suppose we can consider "Charlie X" from the first season of Star Trek a "Thanksgiving episode."

Whitman some more?

A friend in England today had his first listen to Vaughan Williams's A Sea Symphony;  and I am myself edging closer to at last listening to Holst's setting of The Mystic Trumpeter.  The curiousest thing of all this Whitman-love of this week being, that I've had a discussion today about a possible commission to set a Whitman text for solo voice accompanied by organ.

The Schoenberg Op.47

My approach to 'expansion' of the Angular Whimsies was nominally inspired by an idea I've carried around since my studies at Buffalo.  Now, I freely admit that I may have gotten hold of something of not-entirely-the-right idea;  and for my purposes, that is fine, since I am not publishing a paper, but making my own artistic use of an idea . . . .

The idea being, that Schoenberg first composed his Op.47 Phantasy as a violin unaccompanied piece, and subsequently added a piano accompaniment.  Now, perhaps this was strictly true;  and if I erred in my own long-gestated notion, it was in supposing that there was a greater distance of time and artistic intent, between the violin unaccompanied phase, and the let's add piano accompaniment phase.

Even if that thought is, regarding the Schoenberg piece, technically an error, I have made artistic use of the idea, and put it into practice with the new quartet version of the Angular Whimsies.

Today I found an interesting article on the Schoenberg Op.47.  One incidental bit of interest is, that it was published the same spring that I was graduated from the College of Wooster . . . and it thus predates my Buffalo studies.  In the scope of this paper, the matter is not settled;  the author allows the possibility that at no point was it actually a violin solo piece;  and delicately observes that Josef Rufer does not explain how it is known that the violin part was composed first.

In reading the article, I found what strikes me as an apparent misprision (but it may be simply that I have been somewhere inattentive, myself) on the part of the author.  In his Example 7, he gives Schoenberg's row divided into two hexachords:

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


10 - 9 - 1 - 11 - 5 -7 / 3 - 4 - 0 - 2 - 8 - 6

He correctly points out that the second hexachord is a transposed inversion of the first.

He then reorders the pitches of the first hexachord, so that the discussion is not solely of contiguous chains of pitch-classes within the strict series . . . and this is where (I think) he offers a remark which I think an error:

It is significant that the hexachord contains no major or minor (...) triads (....)

Perhaps his eye was misled by the spelling of C# in the first hexachord, and of D# in the second;  but respelling them Db and Eb respectively, then the bb minor triad is a subset of the first hexachord, and a corresponding major triad is necessarily a subset of the inverted second hexachord, in this case, Ab major.

It may be that Schoenberg does not employ them as such, but in fact the hexachords do contain a minor and a major triad.

29 December 2013

More whimsical, more angular

The expansion of Angular Whimsies is complete . . . and indeed the piece works so nicely as a quartet, that I am revisiting the original duet, just to make sure I find nothing "deficient" in the piece in that form.

The quartet thus done, I have sent whither it needs to be sent.

And word is just in from Nana Tchikhinashvili in The Netherlands;  she very kindly plans to bring my Magnificat back into her choir's repertory not only for concerts in May and June, but for an event in Rome in October.

28 December 2013

Arrangement and expansion

Likely I shall quit for the day, for I cannot do it all in one day, and I should probably be pleased with all that I have managed to do.

The connecting theme with the two pieces is (not to make it seem particularly melodramatic) disappointment.  Not with my work:  I think them both cracking compositions.  Both pieces were written for fine ensembles, great musicians and nice people, but . . . things happen in life, no blame to anyone, the result though is, no audience for two pieces which I am particularly pleased to have written, and which I had high hopes of presentation to an audience.

Philosophically, no matter:  the pieces now exist, and even if they do not receive a public performance until after the composer is dead, they will reflect well on him.

The one piece (and the first to be written, some eight years ago) was for brass quintet;  but, to be brief, the quintet had no, nor have any, use for the piece.  They play beautifully, tour, give clinics, but the type of piece which they present routinely, and the type of piece which I wrote, were apparently incompatible.  The dedication to that quintet thus had to be removed; and (again, to specify) no blame to them, it isn't at all the kind of piece they can use;  and when the composer writes music in the way that he fancies, without regard for external variables, he perforce assumes an artistic risk.  The burden rests with him to find musicians who might actually want the piece.

There is no particular reason, I shouldn't think, why the thought was so slow in coming to me, that the piece would work well arranged for flute choir . . . the thought did at last reach me, at some point while in the thick of Christmas preparations.  And so today I have at last acted on that thought, and Moonrise now exists in a version for flute choir.  Still no guarantee that any group on the planet, to whom I might have access, will actually undertake to perform it.  But at the least, there are more possibilities.

The other piece I've worked on today was a duet, and the good news is that the musicians for whom I wrote the piece actually did perform it on a tour of the west coast in 2010.  The matter of a recording of the piece has not been simple.  And as I am myself a musician with my creative attentions drawn in myriad directions, and under obligation to pursue other lines of work in order to earn my bread, I sympathize only, and in no way condemn.

Still, I have here a piece, and (I think) a very good piece, and as yet no way of sharing it with a broad listenership.

There is a call for scores for a quartet, of whose instrumentation my duet is an exact subset;  and so I have decided to take Angular Whimsies and expand it . . . not duration-wise, but texture-wise.  Here, too, the work has gone well, I am perhaps half done . . . and I think it well to rest, to do something else with my brain for the remainder of the day, and to leave the completion of the task until tomorrow.

27 December 2013

Listening of late

Quite a bit of Fats Waller, actually, somehow.

And comparing the Christopher Hogwood and Dennis Russell Davies recordings of the Haydn Alleluja Symphony (no. 30 in C).

26 December 2013

Up the Amazon

The piece for unpitched percussion sextet, Journey to the Dayspring.

I've been taking it easy over the holiday, and why not?

24 December 2013

Not St Nick

All right, this morning I did a little more work on Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels . . . scored a bit of a nap . . . listened to an early Haydn symphony . . . about to head off to our own Lessons & Carols, for which I shall play my Sonatina sopra « Veni, Emmanuel » . . . merry Christmas!

23 December 2013

Back and forth

When I first found my way to the end of My Island Home, I suffered perhaps 5% . doubt. I entertained the question of whether I needed (slightly, ever so slightly) to alter the ending. But as I let the score rest, I felt the ending was fine.

Then, a respected member of my focus group, on hearing the MIDI playback, asked after the ending.

So then, I wondered if I ought to heed that 5% heretofore mentioned.

Today I printed out the score, in preparation for possible ending-adjustment. But then, a fan in Germany who has listened to the MIDI several times told me that he likes the ending fine, too.

So, I am content to consider that 95% of me which is happy with the ending, to be in the right....

21 December 2013

Island, ho!

It is official:  My Island Home, Op. 115 for percussion ensemble (ten players) is now completed.

Gonna rest say;  the Squirrels can wait until tomorrow afternoon . . . .

And, from the archive . . . five years ago today:  Not Quite a Christmas Card

Further inconstancy of the composer

It's not what I had planned (oh, that tricksy Muse), but I think I've now finished the percussion ensemble piece.  (I mean, sure, it was generally the plan that the percussion ensemble piece would be finished;  I just wasn't intending today to be the day.)  I'm letting it sit for a couple of hours, and I'll make the decision then . . . .

Squirrels momentarily voted off the Island

I started out this morning all about the Squirrels, and their Nostalgic Jazz. Saw a couple of them loping along the top of a chain-link fence, offering neighborly inspiration. Made some progress, too. But then, I promised Olivia that I would send an mp3 of the current state of My Island Home, as an aperitivo.

So far, so good. But at that time, for the last 20-ish measures, perhaps, of the score, I as yet had the sort-of-two-part-invention for the two marimbas, with none of the other activity which that passage needs.  So, I set to work there.  Good progress, too.  I think at this stage that the piece may run for about a minute more . . . so I may just stick with that for this afternoon.

After I mark out the bell parts for Joy to the World.

Delighted to hear from EmmaLee, who has responded very positively to Plotting.  She did catch some errors in my notation, which I gratefully emended.

And Kevin is looking at the saxophone choir arrangement of Intermezzo I from White Nights.  I am much enjoying this weekend.

20 December 2013

The War on Famine

Why Paul Does What He Does

Mother Teresa spoke sternly, There are many famines. In my country there is a famine of the body. In your country there is a famine of the spirit. And that is what you must feed.

y and x

Last night I finished Plotting. Musically, I am content . . . I am waiting in case EmmaLee finds anything untoward in the violin part, though if so, I am sure I can find a way to adjust without sacrificing the composition's integrity.

I should have blogged this milestone yesternight, only I was delightfully occupied with my choir's rehearsal . . . we worked hard (and well) on an anthem which we shall sing both this Sunday morning, and for a Lessons & Carols on Christmas Eve.

And this morning, I kept working, now back to those nostalgic squirrels of mine . . . .

18 December 2013

In three parts

The toccata is now "one-third done," with the understanding that when the other two-thirds are "done" I may well tweak, prune, and re-write. Because, dadgummit, I want that conclusion (after what I think has become a cumulatively powerful passacaglia) not to embarrass at all what has sounded before.

That "one-third done" is, BTW, in the Sibelius file. I was working on "the middle third" on the train ride earlier today. The "thirds" are not equal . . . I've decided I want to write 51 measures of music, and the scheme is A1 - B1 - A2 - B2 - A3 - B3, where the two players have completely independent parts in the A sections, and are in unison for the B sections. The A sections are successively briefer, and the (shorter) B sections are successively longer; so that the plan is 16mm. - 2mm. - 14mm. - 3mm. - 12mm. - 4mm.

The asymmetric periods of the violin's patterns through the course of the toccata, too, change, ratcheting a bit quicker through the successive A sections.

17 December 2013

Now we are five

Closer work with bell distribution for Susan's arrangement of Joy to the World (I mean, the arrangement which she likes to play), and it turns out that a fifth ringer simplifies things considerably. No, I should simply go as far as saying that with four ringers, the task is impractical: too many cases where a bell needs to be traded between two ringers for the sake of timing.

On this morning's train, I drew up further sketches for the toccata of Plotting. This could be one of those times when I produce 25% more material than is actually needed, and when further excellence is achieved by discreet pruning.

And all the activity is buoyed by a growing enthusiasm for resuming work on White Nights.

16 December 2013

Minor fix

In proofing by playback, there was one note which (isn't this funny, really?) was either a Tallis-esque crunchy cross-relation, or it was a mistake I plugged in while executing the by-sight transpositions in which the process of arranging this Intermezzo was rich. In principle, I might have kept it, even if a mistake . . .

But when I found the correction, the music as originally composed struck me as clearly superior.

15 December 2013

All arranged

A most enjoyable task, both as a musical exercise in scoring, and because I have been reminded just how much I enjoy the music, the arrangement of Intermezzo I from White Nights for saxophone choir in twelve parts is now done. The number adapted quite readily...the one part which posed me a momentary problem was, a change in timbre in the original score at one point from winds to strings, exactly the sort of thing which, well, doesn't happen in a single, homogeneous choir. But I think I found, let us call it, a sufficient solution. In any event, the sound of the result satisfies me.

14 December 2013

From the front lines

Elektra may be coming, but I've scribbled a bit more of the harpsichord part in the Toccata. I have not decided between the two possibilities: that I've always felt composing would be this much fun; or that I was inclined to learn the way, that composing would be every bit as fun as I always felt it would be.
Of course, the answer may well be, both.

13 December 2013

Puzzle master

... I am not.  Our organist asked me if our bell choir could assist with ringing as a substitute for an optional chime part in an arrangement of "Joy to the World" which she likes to play. And I think it a great idea, nor do I at all repent of my immediate agreement.

Perhaps a bit too off-the-top-of-my-head, I figured that four ringers ought to be able to cover it. It's a snug solution, now that I sit down to figure out the bell logistics. (The challenges arise from the fact that each succeeding verse moves up a half-step.)

I think I've worked it out so that there is only one bell which two of the ringers must share. Certainly, it's near enough that I should feel it lazy to have distributed the bells among five ringers. Will double-check tomorrow evening, of course.

Clearing some dust

After the manner of social media, I read a broad invitation for saxophone choir pieces. Since I already have three new works on the burner, my mind turned to possibilities for arrangement.

As a result, I have, for the first in a great, great long while, cast my eyes on Night the First from White Nights. Under such circumstances (reviewing after a long interval, a piece left in a state of roughly 60% completion), it is very heartening indeed to find that one is happy still to own the music. More than that, it is thrilling to feel that one's musical mind is still perfectly attuned to the score, not only in terms of sympathy with the music's goal, purpose & character, but with an eye (yes, I shall say it) to eventual completion.

That, in addition to feeling that the first Intermezzo will work very nicely for an ensemble of saxophones. Perhaps supplemented by a contrabassoon....

11 December 2013

in memoriam

I learnt last night of the passing of William A. Goodwin, for many years organist, music director, and the guy who kept all the infrastructure together, at the First Congregational Church in Woburn. A son of the kindly middle west, Bill departed from this vale of tears and committees this past Saturday.

First among those who mourn Bill's passing must be the sweet-voiced E. & G. G. Hook organ at First Congo. Now that Bill is gone, there is no knowing if any organist will step up who might be half the caretaker of this magnificent instrument that Bill was. It is a beautiful instrument, whose glorious sound was wont to fill a beautiful space.

In a world of complainers and finger-pointers, Bill was ever the quiet fellow who kept his own counsel, rolled up his sleeves, and got the job done; and if thereby there was some peace made between two contentious individuals, so much the better.

His was a modest soul in a gracious, small-town way. It is his wish that there be no memorial service for his passing. Those whose lives he touched do not really require such a service, for the memory of his many selfless, generous deeds is incense enough, praying for divine succor to his spirit. When we were new to Massachusetts, Bill's quiet gift to us for our first Thanksgiving was a gift card redeemable at a local supermarket. When we were hungry, he gave to us to eat.

It was one of the first of innumerable, generally small (so as not to draw too much attention), although in the aggregate substantial, acts on Bill's part which through the years aided the material sustenance of our family.

He was a musical friend. When I first came to the Boston area (and was thus Just Another Composer in Town), Bill took the brave step of inviting me to write something for use in the church; more than that (and in spite of the at times time-consuming musical demands), he liked what he heard and played. A list of pieces which I wrote either on Bill's specific request, or in the environment of his musical welcome, includes:

Fantasy on a Tallis Hymn, Op.30 (clarinet & organ)
Exultate Deo, Op.31 (brass septet)
Bless the Lord, O my soul, Op.32 (unaccompanied choir)
Three Short Pieces, Op.34 (organ solo)
Kingsfold, Op.35 (choir and piano)
My Times Are in Your Hand, Op.36 (unaccompanied choir)
Festive Voluntary, Op.37 (brass quintet, tiompani & organ)
Sinfonietta, Op.38 (brass quintet)
Bless the Lord at All Times, Op.42 (choir unaccompanied)
Four Silent Prayers, Op.43 (piano solo)
Danse antique, Op.44 (brass quintet and organ)
Danby, Op.45 (choir and organ)
Voluntary on « Exaltabo Te Deus », Op.47a (clarinet and organ)
Alleluia in D, Op.48 (choir unaccompanied)
Trumpet Call Voluntary, Op.51 (flute, clarinet, trumpet, bassoon & organ)
Born on Earth to Save Us, Op.52 (tenor solo, unison choir, organ, optional handbells)
Joseph and Mary, Op.53 (flute, clarinet, trumpet, bassoon, handbells, unison choir and piano)
All Glory, Laud and Honor, Op.56 (soprano, violin & organ)
I Look from Afar, Op.60 (choir, brass quintet, timpani & organ)
Reflections on a French Carol, Op.61 (clarinet, trumpet, bassoon & organ)
Pascha nostrum, Op.62 (choir, brass quintet & organ)
Fragments of « Morning Has Broken », Op.64 (clarinet, violin & piano)
Prelude on « Kremser », Op.66 (trumpet or clarinet & organ)
Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song, Op.67 (choir, brass quintet & organ)
The Snow Lay on the Ground, Op.68 (clarinet, trumpet, bassoon, handbells, choir and piano)
Postlude on « Wie lieblich es », Op.69 (clarinet & organ)
Canzona & Gigue, Op.77 (clarinet & organ)

Bill, you were one in a million, and you were a true and steady friend. Many times ere now I have thanked you, and now you have gone where I can send thanks only as a prayer. God give your soul rest.

10 December 2013

Toccata launched

The concluding toccata section of Plotting, I now have mentally schemed, and have worked on for a couple of days now.

While overall I am content with the last couple of variations for the passacaglia, there has been just the shade of a nagging sensation ... and I've now had the eureka! moment for which I had unconsciously waited. A slightly quicker tempo for variation XXXIX, and then a stepped relaxation through the 'unwinding' of variation XL, will not only sharpen their profile, but will set up the change of pace for the toccata.

09 December 2013

Passacaglia complete

The passacaglia which is the heart of the new violin-&-harpsichord piece, Plotting (y is the new x), has wound up at a nice round 40 variations on the theme, and I worked out variations XXXVIII, XXXIX & XL on this morning's train.

And there will be room for a brief toccata in the capacity of a coda . . . as the passacaglia just kept motoring on, I was starting to think that maybe that would be the piece, and that I should need to abandon my original idea of Introduction, Passacaglia & Toccata. Now that I have shaped the whole passacaglia . . . well, I know where the matter rests.

(I think I mentioned ere now that when Paul & I talked about it, he wanted a piece between 7 and 12 minutes; and you know that means that I would write a 12-minute piece . . . .)

I have that same feeling I had when I had done writing both Counting Sheep, and the St John Passion - that I have written my best music to date.

07 December 2013

The Plan

...for, well, not tonight, for tomorrow perhaps...wrap up the passacaglia, and then see to the Squirrels.

06 December 2013

Hello again, blog

In an extension of the Thanksgiving season, we had a wonderfully productive choir rehearsal last night, so that even with a rescheduling of next week's rehearsal to a different day of the week (which at this season, is bound to conflict with other events, so that attendance will perforce be down somewhat), we are reasonably well prepared for both this Sunday and the following, and are well on track with the actual Christmas anthem.

Checking the info for "The Quijote Project," I find that word of a decision does not come until the end of January . . . coinciding nicely with the brace of concerts we are cooking up astride the January/February divide.

For those two concerts, I have started a quartet for flute, clarinet, guitar and bass, Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels; pleased with the start I've made, looking forward to further work this weekend.

The passacaglia in Plotting continues to expand. There was a stretch of two-three days in which it was allowed to 'cool', and my thinking while working away was, I might wind up shifting things around; but in reviewing The State of the Passacaglia last night, I was astonished to find just how pleased I was with it, as is. The scheme for this grand heart of the piece is three roughly equal sections: in the first, the theme remains in a 'home key' (a kind of c minor); in the second, the theme moves about, pitch-wise; in the third . . . I've been planning on another 8-10 variations, and my present work (continued at length this morning) has been devising the harmonic underpinning of 1) the continued moving-about, against 2) various contrapuntal applications of the theme. Probably I will wind up with 2-3 codetta-ish variations returning to the kind-of-c-minor.

Nor have I completely forgotten My Island Home . . . though I seem to be itching to whip up a Christmas-ish duet for clarinet and violin.

02 December 2013

Plotting, mostly

I have been delinquent in blogging. So what to catch up with?

The passacaglia in Plotting expands nicely, and sprouted a fresh eleven variations yesterday. (And I scribbled three more on the train this morning.)

The piece (Plotting, i.e.) is invited to an outing on 5 April, hence the focus.

Our composers' collective concert has become a brace of concerts, Friday 31 January and Saturday 1 February. I think I want to write something new for that.