30 January 2014
Later, I shall call D'Anna Fortunato to talk about the setting I am writing of Leo Schulte's "The Crystalline Ship" for her and Peter H. Bloom. In fact, I am getting close to wrapping up the voice setting of the text, and must soon make baritone saxophone decisions . . . .
Still awaiting word on the inaugural read-through of the saxophone choir arrangement of Intermezzo I from White Nights.
Our concerts are tomorrow and the day after; and all the music feels reasonably good.
And the time draweth near when, one way or another, we shall know about Quijote and the sheep he counteth.
Here Charles himself talks about the opera:
28 January 2014
A great deal of activity, which I don't like to have the blog remain silent on . . . .
Excellent rehearsals both Sunday (cl/gt/db) and last night (the grand squirrel musicke).
Charles Turner's piece for clarinet and guitar, Spinning, is especially lovely music, a pleasure to play. And Jim Dalton draws beautiful colors from the guitar.
Lots of hard work on (and good progress with) the Jazz for N. Sq. And with Charles's The Unarmed Man. Another rehearsal this evening . . . and I should find myself getting some more sleep, too.
A very nice message came in yesterday morning, requiring parts for the saxophone choir version of the first Intermezzo from White Nights, for a read-through tomorrow (Wednesday). Hoping for good things.
And Peter tells me that the mezzo is indeed game for a new work for voice and baritone saxophone. This will be the first I am writing for baritone saxophone since . . . Out in the Sun, I should think (not counting the Intermezzo, which was a matter of arranging a piece composed earlier). I've decided to set Leo Schulte's "The Crystalline Ship," which is one of the texts I had chosen for the Cantata (that piece which pretty much waits on when I can settle upon the accompanying ensemble). [I plan still to set the Schulte as part of the Cantata, and it will be completely independent music.] So I have started work on that, so far just attending to the voice line.
For the 15 March concert, they need only perhaps 5-6 minutes (I have told Peter that there are more texts for an expanded opus . . . so, yes, pretty much thinking of it already as "Cantata № 2").
Baritone sax . . . I am thinking of judicious, nay lyrical even, use of a multiphonic or two, which in the case of the saxophone can mean more a differently-colored primary pitch, rather than a "chord. " I think I want to get something notated, and then compare notes (!) with Peter while the work is in progress.
26 January 2014
24 January 2014
23 January 2014
For a piece which I began writing 14 months ago (having set perhaps a third of the text), and only this month set myself to complete in earnest, I think the Credo some fine work.
Finishing it Tuesday ending, I began half to wonder if my repetition of some of the points of imitation is too obvious. The points at m.91ff and m.151ff. are at the same pitch level, but I think that the two passages differ sufficiently, and there is enough music intervening, that the connection is subtle and valuable. The intervening similar point (m.119ff) is at a different pitch level (and sets up the final cadence of the piece), and cast in a different meter. The meter and pitch level are recapitulated in the Amen, but for the latter I both mixed up the relations of the voices, added delicate ornamental figures, and smeared the unfolding of the counterpoint. Overall, I think it a passable application of Schoenberg's idea of developing variation.
The points of imitation at m.80ff and m.159ff. (call them collectively A) use the same head motive as B, above, but work to a different cadence. A1 and A2 differ partly in that the latter iteration is unadorned, and also in a reversed relation to B: A1 precedes B1, while A2 follows B3.
m.170ff. is arguably a C, same head motive, briefer point overall, freer treatment. I am pleased that the soprano elision (mm.89-101 / mm.168-170) first connects A1 to B1, then A2 to C.
All in all, I don't think my hand was too heavy, and that the connections are organic.
Suppose I mustn't think of the score as finished, until I have provided keyboard reductions of the four-staff sections. But it does feel done to me . . . and having finished the Credo, a daft thought crossed my mind.
Prelude to the daft thought: the Credo freshly done, I sent it to Paul. Even though there's not the least chance he could do the piece at FCB (a Unitarian parish), since it was partly on Paul's suggestion that I am pursuing the Mass as an overall project, I wanted to send him the Credo, that he may see how the plant is flourishing whose seed he planted.
We had a nice exchange of brief e-mail messages yesterday morning, and I said that I wasn't sure which component of the Mass I wanted to address next, but that I would take a break with a chamber piece first (the mezzo & bari sax piece, a setting of Leo Schulte's "The Crystalline Ship," for a concert Peter Bloom is playing in, in March). Paul then wrote (what already I knew, actually) to the effect of, write us a Sanctus or an Agnus Dei and I'll get it done.
So, mentally I made a quick scan of the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei . . . and here came the daft idea. I was just writing (above) about all the contrapuntal material which I used repeatedly in the Credo; one contrapuntal bit which I pointedly reserved for single use, is the chromatic Et homo factus est. And I thought, how fitting it would be to make use of that in the Agnus Dei.
There: I've said it. Maybe I'll toss the idea out as crazy. But, no . . . turns out I like that idea; and I have composed the first petition of the Agnus Dei.
Thoughts which have stolen upon me overnight: variant of mm.1-9 for the second petition; literal repeat (or strict transposition) of miserere nobis; literal repeat (or strict transposition) of mm.1-7(-ish) for the third petition; adapt a short passage from the Kyrie for the final qui tollis peccata mundi; adapt the Crucifixus point of imitation from the Credo for the dona nobis pacem. I like all the ties, I believe I can make it all work smoothly . . . and in a sense, the only sleeve-up-rolling labor at this stage is the working out of mm. 18-26.
So, I may have an Agnus Dei to send to Paul (and Nana) this weekend.
[I shall probably wait until I write the Sanctus before sending both it and the Agnus Dei to Heinrich.]
This week, I finished a leisurely re-watch of The Maltese Falcon. My feeling (which could change) is that, while Bogart was in more than one film after which was as good, he was never in any better. Sentimentally, I might favor (say) Casablanca, but there I think the consideration is how ultimately sympathetic and likeable Rick's character is. You respect Spade, and feel that at the last he did right; but he comes off as perhaps a little worse for the strife, with an air of damaged goods.
As a footnote, Greenstreet in Casablanca is just something of a jokey distraction, where in Falcon of course he is probably the key player. A pity he probably never makes it to Istanbul.
Elisha Cook, Jr has a more interesting character here in Falcon, than in The Big Sleep (in which he was essentially a walk-on victim), but morally irredeemable: you don't see many things (in cinema of the time) lower than Wilmer kicking Spade in the head after he's fallen down drugged - nor much duller-witted than Wilmer looking back from the door as if he expected the heavily-sedated Spade to stir at all. In The Big Sleep, he was a slight fellow who stood by while others roughed up Marlowe a bit, sure; but if he was not heroic or noble in that, he was guilty of nothing more than a little sturdy sense, probably.
21 January 2014
- I feel pretty certain that I have finished the Credo.
- Had a great rehearsal with Peter. (And he gave me a lift to the T stop in the falling snow.)
- A very nice e-mail message came in from Kirstin, advising me that she intends both to play Nicodemus... herself, and to have a student play the Sonatina.
- Perhaps a fourth item . . . I'm fixin' to write a setting of Leo Schulte's "The Crystalline Ship" for mezzo and (wait for it) baritone saxophone, for a program Peter is playing in (I think) March.
And now, to rest . . . .
20 January 2014
Then came Charles, and we worked first on his trio, The Unarmed Man, which will make a good energetic opener for the concerts. We then spent some time with Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels, although we were only three-fourths of the quartet . . . and lo! I need to practice some of my own notes.
A great portion of today, I spent getting much work done on the Credo . . . very close to the finish.
19 January 2014
Last night we went to Symphony, the first I heard the Bruckner Ninth in person. The BSO and Christoph Eschenbach (how could Philadelphia not have loved him?) made superb music.
Earlier today was only the second time our handbell choir rehearsed When the morning stars sang..., and it is going so swimmingly that perhaps only one more rehearsal (with all hands) will do the trick.
This week saw good progress on the Credo. I set the text (and continuing in the contrapuntal texture which, somehow, I find perfectly genial) Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, passus et sepultus est. Aye, set the text, and I find myself very well satisfied with the result — and then, I found in my sketches another setting of that text, whereof I had clean forgotten, and do not even know when I scrawled it. No, that is not true: the sketch is dated — 22 & 23 Dec. (2012 or 2013? That I really do not know; I should incline to think 2012 since I had entirely forgotten about that page, but . . . I cannot be certain.)
The passages on that rediscovered page: shall I 'recycle' them for some point later in the piece? I just might, you know.
14 January 2014
AOVR (Album-Oriented Vegetable Rock)
10. Joe Jackson, "Beet Crazy"
9. The Police, "Broccoli on the Moon"
8. Chicago, "Hard to Say I'm Celery"
7. Thin Lizzie, "The Bok Choy's Back in Town"
6. Bonzo Dog Band, "Death Cabbage for Cutie"
5. Genesis, "The Battle of Epping Borage"
4. David Bowie, "Lettuce Dance"
3. Billy Joel, "The Radish of Dreams"
2. Pink Floyd, "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Artichoke"
1. The Talking Heads, "Endive During Wartime"
13 January 2014
And since I had a flute quartet in mind . . . I simply have to think again.
Mick is a saxophonist, and the cartoon shows off a barren landscape which is broadly symbolic.
For the information, that Mick is a saxophonist, one is grateful; the general description of the cartoon's illustration, is arguably a verbal kindness. It is the conjunction and which invites concerns of potential mental imbalance . . . .
The clangor of the handbells won the day as we patiently made our way through When the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy yesterday morning, several times. There is enough that is peculiarly new to the group with this piece (and it is the first we've rung together since Christmas Eve), that I anticipated the usefulness of patience; but in fact, my ringers twigged the piece fairly soon; and that, in spite of my having missed a marking or two in two of my ringers parts. So, we'll go ahead and Charles Turner will bring his shakuhachi along for next Sunday's rehearsal. I expect that this experience will further ignite enthusiasm . . . I was not expecting to be able to put the piece together at all quickly, but, we may. We just may.
[We need at least one more piece in the folders to begin work on . . . thinking about that . . . .]
Yesterday afternoon, Charles and I rehearsed his two Angel pieces together for the first time: Send Me an Angel and Dance With an Angel (a tango). Both pieces are good fun, atop of being well written. There is one brief passage in Send Me with the clarinet way up high where I seldom venture these days, and on first reviewing the piece, I sounded Charles out on the possibility of an ossia passage (in case I should have too little practicing time). But yesterday, while I quite regularly mangled those bars, it became clear to me that I should indeed be able to manage. Oh, with that practice thing, yes, indeed.
Last night, Scott shared with me the wonder which is the yodeling pickle. More vinegar would mar it, to be sure.
And this morning, I resumed (at long, long last) work on the Credo. Here is the evidence. It isn't much, but it's where I expect to go with this section of the text. (Actually, I did do more work . . . I have long suspected that I wanted to add a few ornamental flourishes to the contrapuntal sections which, until this morning, were the last of the music I had freshly composed for the piece. Just a few pen strokes here and there, but probably a bit more work in the sense of tinkering with the Sibelius file . . . may need to delete the text from the staves, and then re-add it after I have done modifying the voice-lines.)
(Or maybe it will just be easy-peasey.)
11 January 2014
The first, Canzona semplice, began as a sketch for children's chorus while I was in Tallinn, Estonia. I was in Tallinn teaching English at the Kopli Kunstikeskkool, through a volunteer program; and the music teacher at the school, Priit Poom, suggested that I write something for the school's chorus. My sketches never came to much while I was still in Tallinn (for only one thing, I was writing a tune and harmonizing it, but there was no text in sight, so what would anyone have sung?). A few years later, and now in Boston, I was leafing through my files, and found the sketch. I had composed the melody, and then harmonized it two different ways, in three and four parts respectively. There was no great need to fashion a choral piece out of it, so I arranged it as a simple organ piece.
The middle piece of the Opus 34 set I drew up as a freehand harmonic game, O Beauteous Heavenly Light. Spare harmonies casting sonic shadows into the space. In writing it, I was thinking less in terms of "an organ piece," and more of reminiscence of walking into a quiet basilica, and as I accustom myself to the feeling of the place, realizing that the quiet is not a silence, and there is, not so much organ music, as a hint of organ music.
The third piece emerged from my leafing through a hymnal, where I found an arrangement of a tune from the Scottish Psalter, a fine modal tune with a certain Celtic sturdiness. I puttered with it, drew up a harmonization or two of my own; and the result was both this organ piece, and (in part) a contrasting middle section for a string orchestra piece, Canticle of St Nicholas.
10 January 2014
Holst, The Mystic Trumpeter, Op.18
[ I was waiting until I finished my own setting of the Whitman before at last listening to the Holst; although, chances are high that I first learnt about the text, through knowing that Holst had written this piece ]
Lou Harrison, Symphony № 2 "Elegiac"
[ And, curiously, the first I've ever listened to Harrison's music, I think; a beautiful, richly earnest piece ]
Dvořák, String Quartet № 13 in G, Op.106
[ No good reason why I waited so long to get to know the Dvořák quartets ]
Boris Blacher, Concertante Musik, Op.10
09 January 2014
Before my present appointment as Music Director of my very own choir, it was my musical pleasure and honor to substitute frequently in the fine choir at First Church in Boston. The choir serve an historic Unitarian parish, and although it is nothing to my purpose to speculate upon the rarity of such occasions, of all the times when I sang there, I remember only one occasion when, in the course of the sermon, the minister read from the Bible. (Yes, that Bible.) The combination of the uniqueness of that incident, and the rich poetry which characterizes so much (not all, we never said all) of the Scriptures, had the effect of pressing the event upon my memory, and I made mental note of one of the verses, which struck me as eminently suitable for the title of a musical work.
Thus it is that the piece which I finished two evenings ago, for shakuhachi (the Japanese bamboo flute), handbell choir and tenor drum, bears the name When the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy.
My friend and colleague, Charles Turner, a fellow composer who continues to perform, as well, met with me in the Fall to demonstrate the shakuhachi. To the exquisitely evocative sound of the shakuhachi, I was no stranger; but it was the closest I have ever been to the instrument (and probably the first time I had been in the same room, since Wooster days). Various busy-nesses of the final quarter of the year intervened.
But this past Sunday, when Charles, fellow composer Jim Dalton and I met for organizational work on the coming concerts, Charles gave another demo. That sonic reminder, and the fact that, now that the Christmas services are done, we need fresh material for the handbell choir, inspired me to write the piece.
The top of this page is a draught of material in Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels; but immediately below is the start I made on When the morning stars sang..., starting with figuring out how many bells our hands could accommodate. The pitch world of the bells is a scale with no perfect octave; that is, as the scale ascends, the interval pattern begins again at the minor nInth.
In preparing for the two concerts a-coming, some few communal decisions have been needed for the pre-publicity housekeeping. We have at last (democratically, and yet quite efficiently) determined a name for the Event, a fusion of elements of the sundry works: Bards, Gazelles, Squirrels & Sonatas.
And a name for the ad-hoc ensemble has been unanimously approved; it was a suggestion of my own, but one which arose while we all (and with the help of some virtual friends) were bandying ideas (and a suggestion from Florida, The Four, was spoken of well by more than one of us).
The basic inspiration for my suggestion came from a Firesign Theatre bit, when they did a doo-wop number and called their quartet The Eight Shoes. Similarly, as we are four composers, I suggested The Eight Ears.
But then, thinking that the art of music does not, in a sense, exist unless there is audience to hear it, the thought came to me that more than our eight is needed.
So the name of our group is: The Ninth Ear.
08 January 2014
Increasing likelihood that I shall arrange the Magnificat from the Evening Service in D for flute quartet. And so, thoughts turn to how I might forge a set of three pieces for flute quartet. (Yes, perhaps the Marginalia, again.)
Also thinking of ... no, planning to adapt the Cello Sonatina for mandocello. Yes, I mean it. For one thing, the temptation to write for another "new" instrument, in celebration of the new year, is curiously forceful.
07 January 2014
06 January 2014
Après-mystère :: Much of the summer of 2013 I spent composing a setting of Walt Whitman's "The Mystic Trumpeter" for soprano and clarinet. The original intent was for performance at King's Chapel, where the weekly program requires about a half-hour of music. Partly because my Mystic Trumpeter on its own would have made for too short a program, and partly because I am all for giving the public what they want (provided what they want is more Henningmusick), I composed Après-mystère as a sort of epilogue. I originally wrote it thinking regular flute; the substitution of the piccolo flute was Peter's suggestion.
Zen on the Wing :: The idea of the Opus 114 pieces is, three instruments (flute, clarinet, mallet percussion), four pieces: one piece with the entire trio, one piece for each constituent pairing. Each of the duos which include the percussion - just what everyone was expecting, clarinet & marimba; Feel the Burn (Bicycling into the Sun), flute & vibraphone - is rather energetically rhythmic. So I decided that Zen on the Wing would be a serene, sostenuto contrast.
Swivels & Bops :: Once I had written not only Heedless Watermelon, but also All the Birds in Mondrian's Cage for Peter H. Bloom and myself to play together, I knew I should soon write a third piece to round out the Opus 97 set. Swivels & Bops is dance-music for turtle-doves. Every Christmas, I used to wonder what the two turtle-doves would like to dance to.
Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels :: In Russian folklore, the squirrel is a symbol of joy; this is fair enough, but just because the squirrel is a small creature does not mean she is all that simple. The world needed (I felt) more music to reflect the opinion of many a squirrel, that the trees are not nearly so tall, nor the acorns so surpassing sweet, as in bygone days. The squirrels are far too discreet to express their feelings in words; the music must speak on their behalf.
05 January 2014
Inclined to start the new year (understanding that Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels is the completion of a project begun in 2013) with a piece for instruments I've never written for before. Thoughts are crowding upon me, a piece for handbell choir and shakuhachi....
03 January 2014
Nana Tchikhinashvili, whose choir Moderato Cantabile in the Netherlands sang my Magnificat on two or three occasions in 2008, writes to say that the choir will sing the piece again, both in concerts in the Netherlands in May and June, and for an event in Rome in October.
Yesterday, I finished Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels, Op.117, the quartet for flute, clarinet (in A), guitar and double-bass.
And somehow, I was determined to finish a workable bass flute adaptation of the Angular Whimsies . . . so tonight I completed Whimsy brevis (Sharper Angles), Op.100b for bass flute and piano.
02 January 2014
A pair of concerts (31 Jan & 1 Feb) in Danvers and Somerville, with fellow composers Jim Dalton, Nancy Rexford & Charles Turner, and flutist Peter H Bloom, which will see the première of Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels, Op.117.
The Libella Quartet will sing Annabel Lee, Op.111 again (March, I think).
Cellist Sara Richardson Crigger will play Nicodemus brings myrrh and aloes for the burial of the Christ, Op.85 № 4 on 6 April.
The next King's Chapel date is 15 April, so there will be scheming of a new piece.
The First Church Boston choir will sing Love is the spirit of this church, Op.85 № 3 in a service during the AGO festivities here in Boston (June).
And I have high hopes for premières of Plotting (y is the new x), Op.116, just what everyone was expecting, Op.114 № 1, My Island Home, Op.115, and even Airy Distillates, Op.110. Oh, and the Organ Sonata, Op.108, and perhaps even the saxophone choir arrangement of Intermezzo I from White Nights, Op.75.
01 January 2014
Bruckner, Symphony № 7 (Chailly, Berlin Radio Symphony)
Haydn, Symphonies Nos. 45 in f# minor (Farewell) & 46 in B (Academy of Ancient Music, Hogwood)
Ryan Gallagher, Oboe Quartet (Ensemble ACJW)
A tantalizing taste of the Jack Gallagher Symphony № 2 (As Sparks Fly Upward), the ending (Falletta, LSO)
Schoenberg, Phantasy for violin and piano, Op.47 (Janneke van der Meer & Sepp Grotenhuis; and again, with Israel Baker & Glenn Gould)
Bach/Stravinsky, Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel hoch (the composer conducting)
Of new music composed in 2013: total duration of, say, 1 hour 40 minutes
Of new arrangements of music composed prior to 2013: total duration of, say, 31 minutes
Does not include the quartet version of Angular Whimsies, a distinct case of grafting music newly composed onto a previously existing composition (nine and a half minutes)
It felt like my most productive year, musically, and the metrics bear me out . . . .
A New Year’s Guide to Classical Music [ Breakfast with Paul ]
The ninth in a series of Paul Cienniwa's timely attempts to de-marginalize classical music.
Horns & [H]alleluja [ Haydn Seek ]
Mike McCaffrey discusses two signal Haydn symphonies from 1765.
"The solution is more exposure to live concerts." [ On an Overgrown Path ]
The blogger notes the unnecessary blockage which is the devilish work of the "Classical music [...] version of the military-industrial complex." (What, the solution is not a small coterie of huge names, to be compensated on the order of business CEOs?)
Journal [ Rebecca Perriello ]
The tree, the sky, and some birds who man the frontier where the twain meet.
Rules, whether they may niff or not [ Renewable Music ]
Follow them, or mess with them?