30 July 2014

Looking ahead

The date is:  Tuesday, 7 October.

The Mystic Trumpeter may well ring forth at last! Evelyn pronounces it doable, and she is showing the piece to her voice coach. I've mentioned to her that I thought about adding a couple of clarinet notes to the solo voice stanza, as reference points, and wish her opinion.

And of course, there are those rapid triplets which I shall need to practice, practice & practice.

And Peter H. Bloom is on board to play the epilogue miniature, Après-mystère.

For the November Atlanta trip (which reminds me that we need to confirm the timetable), Olivia will take a good long look at (and listen to) just what everyone was expecting.

At the very least, my clarinet will be in fighting trim this autumn!

27 July 2014

One reason out of the 15

Well, it turns out there are practical, spiritual and musical reasons to use hymnals.
Hymnals make songs less disposable. Okay, obviously you can throw a hymnal away if you want. Text on a screen is there one second and gone the next. There’s no visible permanence. But hymnals are symbols of consistency. They give life and breath to the great songs. They demonstrate that what we sing is worth keeping around.
In other news, well, we knew all along that the lowest common denominator approach is rubbish:  Audiences can cope if given the opportunity.
Everyone involved in classical music should look again at my photo and ponder . . . .

26 July 2014

The Fickle Finger of Fate

The notebook has gone a bit dodgy, and has been consigned to the computer garage for the spa treatment. As a result, I am on forced sabbatical from Sibelius.

Spent much of the evening assembling a loveseat, with commendable success.

In the afternoon, I luxuriated in a four-episode Twilight Zone-a-thon, the first four episodes of the third season: "Two" (one of my very favorites, I think), "The Arrival" (whose ending took me by surprise, again), "The Shelter" (one of the most terrifying, I think), and "The Passersby" (which I don't think genuinely predictable, I think it just made such a strong impression when I first saw it, that I was not going to forget its arc). So: Zowie, what a show of strength to open the season!

Listening today was the latter half of the Shostakovich Op.87, the Bruckner Ninth, and the soundtrack to Grosse Pointe Blank.

With no access to Sibelius, I suppose I should work with paper on the piece for CarolaSylvie, as a practically (possibly, utterly) finished text is in hand.

25 July 2014

Reserving the right to shake things up

Mind you, when I wrote on Wednesday that the question of the text is completely settled, I might have written instead, I have a text I like, so there is no pressure.

Leafing through Leaves of Grass yesterday, I found a favorite passage in Song of Myself which might serve just as well, or even better. Or perhaps (since Whitman's lines can be wilful in their variable lengths, not that I consider that at all a bad thing, as a reader) I may toss a salad of suitable ingredients, from the two passages I have this week been perusing.

Meanwhile, Lee has come through with a complete verse rendering of The Mysterious Fruit, will give that a close read today. As I am not sure when the Song of the Open Road project may actually materialize, I am reassigning Op.123 to The Mysterious Fruit.

Had a great time reading Bill Bryson's book on Shakespeare (from the Eminent Lives series). I applaud the author who concludes the first chapter with the frank, manly disclosure:

... this book was written not so much because the world needs another book on Shakespeare as because this series does. The idea is a simple one: to see how much of Shakespeare we can know, really know, from the record.

Which is one reason, of course, it's so slender.

The book is essentially (1) Here is some historical context, (2) These are the actual facts we have in our possession viz. Shakespeare, and (3) Here is some of the conjecture spinning from the facts, but however attractive, it remains conjecture. This book taught me more than I ever knew about the Spanish Armada. (Admittedly, I had not done any particular research.)

I've started reading the sample of Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars on my Kindle.

It's always seemed to me that the work is what is most worth caring about and that Shakespearean biography, with its few indisputable facts, its suppositions, its conjectures, its maybes, does more to distort than to illuminate the work.

I have nothing against literary biography in general, but I suspect most serious literary biographers must be a bit dismayed at the fantasies spun out by Shakespearean biographers on the basis of such fragmentary evidence. Just as in the old story of the man who persists in searching for his keys under a streetlamp (even though they're not there) "because that's where the only light was," Shakespearean biography, especially the obsessive-often circular-attempts to make inferences about the work on the basis of the few known facts and anecdotes about the life, can be a distraction from the true mystery and excitement, the true source of illumination, the place the hidden keys can actually be found: the astonishing language. (Look how little we know about Homer and how little it matters.)

Thus most efforts to forge, fabricate or flesh out the life (as opposed to placing the work in its cultural context) have ended up doing a disservice to the work because they lead inevitably to a reductive biographical perspective on the work and use the work to "prove" suppositions about the life.

I think I shall probably wind up reading this in full, as well. There are such powerful resonances with the foodfight which often arises over Shostakovich.

This morning, I began reading James Shapiro's Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? . . . hard copy, toting the book around with me. Not so heavy as the Gershwin biography which I really need to take back up and finish.

Although the experience wound up spread out over a few evenings, actually . . . I revisited The Witches of Eastwick, which I had not seen since watching it on the big screen the season it opened. Pretty good, although at times I found the soundtrack rather a musical nuisance. Felt awfully sorry for Veronica Cartwright's character throughout (the Cassandra role). Bothers me, too, that the Principal found it horrifying that (wait -- for -- it) a school band was playing Mozart musically. Glad I watched it again, for another movie in which Cher did quite a creditable job of acting. Nicholson was hammy, in a role which pretty much needed hammy for fuel. I'd say he was a good man for the role, though I am not sure I rank it among his finest performances.

Watched a couple of episodes of the third season of Rod Serling's Night Gallery last night. Largely enjoyable, though it certainly has the feel of 70's television + Serling not "in control" to the degree which enjoyed with The Twilight Zone. Certainly fun to watch episodes with John Astin and Leonard Nimoy. I may or may not go through and watch the entire season.

23 July 2014

Done with the search (what, already?)

As I have been mulling a choice of text for the young-choir-&-piano piece, Paul sent to suggest Dona nobis pacem ("5-10 mins"). Which I think perfectly apt. In my quick-&-mussy search yesterday, I found that (reflecting the intersection of two facts: that perhaps as much as 35% of the world's population fancy themselves poets; and that everybody loves peace) a Google search mostly gave me New Age-related links of no use and less interest. I did, however, find a couple of 17th-c. poems, which are lovely and most worthy of setting to music, but which (understandably for the time and place) make reference to (e.g.) one born in a stable (on the Prince of Peace theme). In our present instance, we want a text free of specific theological implication.

Even though the petition dona nobis pacem comes straight from the Mass (which, naturally, is a cornerstone reference of Western culture), there are two settings of that text already slated for the program. Sure, that puts the musical pressure on.

When Paul and I talked this over in person, he mentioned that he thought of the Vaughan Williams, which naturally is on too grand a scale to be practical for this concert.

But . . .

In the same search which turned up the 17th-c. poems, I found a Whitman poem (and I had been thinking of Whitman from the first, had in fact quickly thumbed a bit through the actual book yesterday morning) of which one stanza in particular would suit. So, with Paul suggesting that I set Dona nobis pacem (with which, face it, I should be well challenged to create 10 minutes of music), I have been brought face to face with "the Vaughan Williams model." Not so large-scale a piece, naturally . . . and (thinking as I type) not sure whether to leave it as a single movement, or to make it three movements, with the Latin text for bookends, and a musically "enriched" return to it after the English text for a larger central movement.

We shall see. I feel certain that the question of the text is completely settled.

22 July 2014

The weekend's leisure done...

Sunday morning at St Aidan's (picture below) was a lovely occasion, musically satisfactory. The Prelude on « Kremser » (admittedly, nay, designedly, not a great challenge) went perfectly;  I had a good time noodling on the hymns, something I've not done in a long while, but a type of musical activity which reaches back even to when I was a teenager; and Paul & I improvised coöperatively to excellent effect (I thought) for the Offertory (entirely Paul's idea, to give credit where due).

Following up on a fragment of conversation, I may likely arrange Kremser for oboe; which is to say, a task which will require next to no effort.

Lee reports that work continues on a versification of that episode from A Center of the Universe which I've selected for the mezzo-&-marimba piece for Carola & Sylvie.

One of the basses in the First Church choir is also a publisher, and we once had a chat on the lines of, If you published a piece of Henningmusick, what would that piece look like? The answer coincides neatly with a proposal (more of a suggestion, really) Paul once made, that I write a piece technically suited to a good high school chorus, with piano accompaniment, setting a general-use (i.e., non-liturgical) text. It was always a good and sound suggestion;  I've just been about other musical business.

This line of discussion warmed back up this weekend, as Paul told me of a concert he is planning, on the theme of Peace. So, here I go, looking for a good (public domain, non-sacred) text on that sublime Subject. Cannot be hard.

20 July 2014


About to head over to church with Paul, for to play my Prelude on « Kremser ».

18 July 2014

Pre-Fall River Shuffle

1. Vaughan Williams, A Pastoral Symphony (1922). i. Molto moderato (Haitink, London Phil) [?/1287]
2. Jeff Beck, "Loose Cannon" from You Had It Coming [580/1287]
3. Bartók, String Quartet № 5 (Sz.102, 1934). iii. Scherzo: alla bulgarese (Emerson String Quartet) [988/1287]
4. The Beatles, "Savoy Truffle" from The Beatles ("The White Album") [817/1287]
5. Дмитрий Дмитриевич, Six Romances on Verses by English Poets, Op.62 (1942). № 5, Sonnet LXVI; Shakespeare (Fyodor Kuznetsov, bass) [943/1287]
6. Robert Fripp, "I Smile Like Chicago" from Exposure [226/1287]
7. Дмитрий Дмитриевич, Prelude & Fugue in B-flat Major, Op.87, № 21 (1950-51). (Nikolayeva) [1270/1287]
8. Дмитрий Дмитриевич, Four Romances on Verses by Pushkin, Op.46 (1942). № 2, Weeping Bitterly (Fyodor Kuznetsov, bass) [333/1287]
9. Дмитрий Дмитриевич, Entr'acte between Scenes 2/3, from Katerina Izmailova Suite, Op.114a (1963). Allegro con brio (Jurowski, Cologne Radio Symphony) [480/1287]
10. Ginastera, Variaciones concertantes, Op.23 (1953). Variazione drammatica per viola (Pons, Orquesta de Ciudad de Granada) [1172/1287]
11. Jeff Beck, "Roy's Toy" from You Had It Coming [807/1287]
12. Penguin Café Orchestra, "Numbers 1-4" from Penguin Café Orchestra [688/1287]
13. Stravinsky, The Flood (1962). vii. The Covenant of the Rainbow (Knussen, London Sinfonietta & al.) [1108/1287]
14. Elgar, Elegy, Op.58 (1909). (Barbirolli, Hallé Orchestra) [304/1287]
15. Hindemith, Suite "1922," Op.26 (1922). № 1, Marsch (Jn McCabe) [996/1287]
16. Сергей Сергеевич, Visions fugitives, Op.22 (1915-17). № 2, Andante (Béroff) [1207/1287]
17. Vaughan Williams, A Pastoral Symphony (1922). ii. Lento moderato (Haitink, London Phil) [437/1287]
18. Cage, Cheap Imitation (1969). ii. (Schleiermacher) [223/1287]
19. The Bobs, "My, I'm Large" from My, I'm Large [667/1287]
20. Nielsen. Symphony № 5, FS 97, Op.50 (1921-22). ii. AllegroPrestoAndante un poco tranquilloAllegro (Blomstedt, SFSO)

It's quite a long while since last I listened to the Sansa Fuze on shuffle, but today is a reminder of what rattlin' good fun that can be.

17 July 2014

Just the facts, please

From a recent post at Haydn Seek:
I have already, in these pages, had a rant here and there concerning the judgmental attitude displayed by people who should know better. I believe once one has taken it upon himself to illuminate some cultural phenomenon for the rest of society, it is not then necessarily incumbent upon the writer to go further and to pass artistic verdicts which are, by their placement within books of fact, given the aura of being fact themselves. I dearly resent this practice, and so should you. It should be up to you to decide whether this or that work is something you wish to listen to, and even enjoy.
. . . which precisely mirrors my ancient quarrel with Harlow Robinson in his old biography of Prokofiev, where he blandly disses the magnificent Second Symphony, and unnecessarily runs down some other perfectly enjoyable scores.  Tchah!

16 July 2014

Fresh ink

This is a historic day for my White Nights. The "reclamation" of all the previous work is done, and today saw the first entries to an actual score (as opposed to text outlines) of Scene 8, At the Opera. The eight-year-old outline is incomplete, and (what is probably a new notion) I tinkered today with an introduction. But all the raw material is there, courtesy of Rossini, and I simply need to teach myself the art of collage. And I have the patience for trial-&-error.

15 July 2014


Still cogitating, but there will be a slumbering mouse, guile against royal claims, and mysteriously selective toxicity.

Last night I watched Outland. I saw it on the big screen, back when it opened, but I hadn't seen it since. I remember more or less liking it on first viewing;  I don't mind having seen it again, but at this point I don't think all that much of it. Connery is fine, to be sure, makes the role human and believable. When he loses words, and just says, "Oh, f$#k it," I was disappointed in both the script and the actor. I mean, sure, haul off and belt Sheppard;  but the line, the timing, the placement...downgraded the whole enterprise. Boyle was all right; the role did not call forth anything from him (and his was a varied talent). All the ballooning faces got tiresome. The bar got old. For most of the movie, the exchange between Lazarus and O'Neil was good, but then at the end, lapsed into the maudlin (against which Lazarus had scolded O'Neil earlier). The score was quite good, a notch better than the overall enterprise.

Shan't need to watch it again.

Poised for the fresh work

All the mental hand-wringing seems now a thing of the past, and the long-awaited landmark is now reached:  we have ready scores of all the numbers previously composed.
  • Op. 75 № 1: Overture [duration 11:00]
  • Op. 75 № 2: Scene 1. St Petersburg, City of the White Nights [duration 13:00]
  • Op. 75 № 3: Scene 2. A Walk in the Meadows [duration 6:30]
  • Op. 75 № 4: Scene 3a.  Nastenka at the Bridge [duration 6:00]
  • Op. 75 № 5: Scene 3b.  An Awkward Pas-de-trois; A Relieved Pas-de-deux; & The Dreamer's Elation After [duration 8:00]
  • Op. 75 № 6: Intermezzo I [duration 6:00]
  • Op. 75 № 7: Scene 4.  The Dreamer Awaits Nastenka [duration 2:00]
  • Op. 75 № 8: Scene 5.  The Dreamer Explains Himself [duration 13:00]
  • Op. 75 № 9: Scene 6.  Nastenka's Timid Sympathy [duration 1:30]
  • Op. 75 № 10: Scene 7.  Nastenka's Story Begun:  At Home With Granny;  Then, Enter the Lodger [duration 9:45]
Total duration of the music now at the ready: 1:17:15

Last night, I rested.  Well, apart from a most enjoyable conversation, setting in motion a piece for voice and marimba

14 July 2014

II.vii progress report (3)

Partly because Scene 7 is shorter than Scene 5 (10 minutes VS. 13 minutes), partly because the tempo is generally slower and the texture generally lighter, partly because, even where the textures are rich, there is a periodicity which helps simplify the task in Sibelius: I finished Scene 7 last night.

Is it really done? I'm in a peculiar bit of fog with this scene; maybe it's the interval since I last worked on it; maybe it was rounding up to the end of the quasi-Marathon of re-doing the existing numbers; maybe it's a disruptive self-second-guessing; or some unseemly blend of the lot. Perhaps, too, it is just being "spooked" by a comment ("Add anything here?") I had left myself in a text box in the Finale file . . . and at a passage similar to a string choir passage in Scene 1: as I was plugging that number into Sibelius, I found myself nagged with the question, "Is enough 'Happening' here?"

Most of the music in this Scene, I've never suffered any doubt about. To both this passage, and the earlier one in Scene 1, I made some light-handed additions. But then ... my mind soon settled down viz. Scene 1. The additions which I made (arguably, a little impulsively) do not mar the piece at all, so I leave them . . . but now the passage does not bother me, and I question whether the additions were genuinely necessary. I am close to just such a "ruling" on the questionable passage of Scene 7. There's now a new "punctuation" of the horns at [Q], and I am toying with the idea of having that repeat a few measures later. Basically, the horns, trombones, tuba, bass drum and timpani between [P] and [R] are all new to the piece. Maybe that addition was "just right," the slight addition which is gradually dispelling any doubt I have of that bit.

My feeling last night was, maybe there is nothing "wrong" with the piece; and even if there may be, there is no need to "fix" it this week.

This morning, I think it may just be fine. So: keep still another 24 hours, and see what I think tomorrow morning.

13 July 2014

II.vii progress report (2)

Sailing along with Scene 7 . . . now at page 13 (of 18).

Left a note to myself in the old Finale version:  ADD ANYTHING HERE? at measures 276-277 (meaning the whole passage).  This is the Scene which I arranged for an irregular sextet for the Volcanic Airborne Event, back when . . . and I don't recall what I may have done with this passage, on that occasion.

So:  Add anything here?  Maybe.  Don't touch that dial . . . .

12 July 2014

An aside, on Night the Second

In the book, the Second Night is, in essence, the two characters (Nastenka, and the narrator, never named, so since he calls himself a Dreamer, that will serve) sit and talk, telling one another about themselves. At first glance, entirely non-dramatic.

So I've parceled out the Act (Night the Second) thus:

= The Dreamer waits for Nastenka to arrive, unsure that she will: Scene 4 (the present, two dancers)

== As Nastenka never knew him before their chance meeting the night before, she demands to know “everything about” him: Scene 5 (story, corps de ballet and The Dreamer)

= Nastenka responds with "timid sympathy" (The Dreamer is probably a bit overbearing): Scene 6 (the present, two dancers)

== Nastenka tells of her home life with her Granny, and history, of their taking a Lodger into their home: Scene 7 (story, Nastenka, Granny and The Lodger)

=== The Lodger takes them to the opera: Scene 8 (story-within-a-story, Nastenka, Granny, The Lodger, corps de ballet)

== Nastenka tells of her falling for The Lodger (a development in our story which conflicts The Dreamer, since he has Hopes), and the ensuing crisis: Scene 9 (Nastenka, The Lodger and Granny)

= The Dreamer is touched, and assures Nastenka of his help, agreeing to deliver a letter: Scene 10, concluding the Act (the present, two dancers)

Scene 5 itself is in three large parts, in sequence (though not in proportion) reflecting the book:

  • The first (mm. 1 – 103) is The Dreamer speaking of himself (a little self-disparagingly, though even so, probably with a touching honesty, rather than ‘artful’ social modesty) as an unfocused eccentric; part of the music, then, is a variant on the tune at the beginning of Scene 4 which represents The Dreamer, solus, awaiting Nastenka’s arrival.
  • The second (mm. 104 – 327) is a series of vignettes and characteristic dances. From the standpoint of the ballet tradition, the idea is a nod to (e.g.) the Grand divertissement in Act II of The Nutcracker. The “justification” from the text is, The Dreamer’s discursive talk of himself includes at one point a Whitman-esque list of literary and social allusion . . . so practically from the first time I read the novella, I have recalled Cleopatra e i suoi amanti (which, it turns out, refers to a verse fable by Pushkin), so I knew I wanted to write an Egyptian Dance. And again, when first I read it, I noted mention of The Little House at Kolomna, which even at the time I knew was Pushkin, knowing it for the source of Stravinsky’s one-act opera, Mavra . . . which drove the decision to include Parasha’s Aria from Mavra (itself too brief to come even close to counterweighting the Egyptian Dance, hence my “padding” the Aria with my own varied Tropes). (The ostinato chord accompaniment is my own device, I did not simply steal from Stravinsky. Not that there would have been anything wrong with that . . . .) That’s enough to mention for now, except that (whether I had this in mind nine years ago, I do not know) in preparing this fresh ‘edition’ of the Scene, I realized how the 6/4 material of the Debussy Nuages allusion (also a nod to his adapting Musorgsky, and my passage there uses both Musorgsky’s harmonic noodling, and Debussy’s, by turns) recalls to me the Promenade ritornello in Pictures at an Exhibition (I mean functionally, though, again, there is the neat Musorgsky tie-in).
  • The final section (mm. 328 – 438) is The Dreamer being himself, we might say, unable to hide his feelings from Nastenka, and full of the sense that God has sent her, “my good angel.”

First light

Well, not really. I arose at a very well-rested nine of the clock.  Got a page of "the old Scene 7" wrapped up before heading out for a walk.

11 July 2014

II.vii progress report (1)

Made it through the first four pages (of 18).  I think we may burn through this 'un!


What if . . . I manage to “pour it on,” work as much as I can endure this evening, tomorrow and Sunday, and earn my way to the end of a refurbished Scene 7 before shut-eye Sunday night?  It's a pipe-dream, to be sure . . . I want to take my walks in the morning, and we have plans of heading to the beach.  But Scene 7 is shorter (by three minutes) and a good deal less active (apart from the Spanish Dance closing the scene) than Scene 5.

It may just be possible . . . .

10 July 2014


Scene 6 is done, and I am content with that task.  And now, to bed . . . .

II.v progress report (5)

’tis done. 20 pages of tabloid size paper, 438 measures, and just a nudge past the 13-minute mark.  Which makes it the longest scene in the ballet.

I almost wrote, the longest scene in the ballet so far, but if I do not keep it that way, I should need to revise my overall plan for the piece.  Which I do not think indicated.

Scene 6, Nastenka’s Timid Sympathy, is very brief.  In fine, Night the Second is the two characters talking together.  The brief Scenes 4 & 6 are their interchange in the present;  Scene 5 is story-within-story, The Dreamer going on at length about himself (in fairness, upon Nastenka’s expressed demand).  And Scene 7 is Nastenka’s Story Begun.  At 10 minutes (and another hard copy in fine print), Scene 7 will be another week’s work.

Scene 6, though, is but a minute and a half.  With just a little luck, I can have that done so quickly, that I can get just a start on Scene 7 (full orchestra, but with the string choir divided into 8 parts) tonight.

09 July 2014

Postcard to Somerville

Dear -,

I've been in "the ballet bunker," back at consistent work (at last) on White Nights. The task so far has been the "restoration" of the scenes already composed (composed long ago, really). It is well, as the dual result is a score with all the detail added, so that parts can be ready at a moment's notice, and (as it is some years since last I did any fresh work on the piece) I am reacquainting myself with, well, my own work...so that I can resume composing in a manner entirely organic with the 90 minutes of music already done.

A sublimely impractical project, but at the last, the musical world will suffer no doubt that I am a composer . . . .

State of the Ballet

In the old-stuff-that-wants-reconstruction-in-Sibelius pile there remains only these 2 ¾ pp. of Scene 5; Scene 6 (90 seconds of, essentially, bassoon invention, representing Nastenka's reaction to The Dreamer's ramble); Scene 7 (a 10-minute "domestic ballet," Nastenka telling of life at home with her granny, and the entrance of The Lodger into their life); and Intermezzo II [side bar approaching]

... I jumped ahead with this one, which I think is done. I've just had a close-ish look, and the question before me turns upon 19 measures of timpani solo: When I wrote this eight years ago (!), did I mean for this to be solo timpani throughout? I may have. Or did I mean to add an instrument as counterpoint to part of this passage? I may have. The challenge, of course, is to try to re-discover what I had in view then, long ago, without front-loading the question with any "stuff" from this year. (I am also not in any rush, as - per above - I have the rest of Scene 5, and Scenes 6 & 7 to occupy me first.)

[exit side bar]

Intermezzo III is as yet only an incipit, 27 measures (and I am not sure that I am done with those last four measures, even). Probably I shall proceed with the "execution" of Scene 8, which has only been an outline for a decade . . . it is a story-within-Nastenka's-story, the evening at the opera. Though I think I shall keep it to 3 minutes, it is a mash-up of two Rossini overtures, Barber of Seville (which is what they go to see at the opera) and La gazza ladra (partly because I just love it, partly because of the subtext the title provides, since for the first few nights, Nastenka is in torment about The Lodger. I left it at a point where I had detailed an outline of how my (re-)composition would track the two Rossini Ur-texts (and my own mind on the cliff's-edge of, can I pull this off, or is it really just a bad, hackneyed idea?) So, it is high time I put that project to the acid test.

Scenes 6 & 7, though, will almost assuredly occupy me to (say) 20 July. Then (and even though it is "out of turn"), probably I'll see to Intermezzo II, which should be one evening's work or so. I'll leave Intermezzo III until I reach that point "honestly" . . . so I shall hope to have Scene 8 done, and to our satisfaction, by August.

With God's help, I should be at the point of composing fresh material to the end of wrapping up the whole, the weekend which starts the month of August.


While it has never been my wish to micromanage the choreography (my aim being to compose music of a certain character to support a given moment or event in the general scenario which I've drawn from the novella), certainly I see the usefulness of adding to the score of White Nights specific references from Dostoevsky's text. These can not only serve as landmarks for the staging, but will help bring the score "to life" for any conductor considering the piece for concert performance.

How wonderful to be restored to a place where every task which contributes to the ultimate completion of the ballet is unalloyed pleasure.

08 July 2014

II.v progress report (4)

Last night, while thunder pealed in the distance, and then the rains poured down in torrents for perhaps 20 minutes, I brought Scene 5 to the end of the Tropes Upon Parasha's Aria. Now there remain some four measures of p.18 of this tiny-print-tabloid hard copy of the 'old' version, which runs to p.25. Offhand, I think I stand some hope of reaching the final double-bar tomorrow (Wed) evening.

The thought occurs to me that this is the 21st century, and I can furnish an alternate version of Scene 5. The decision is not yet entirely firm, but I may well endorse this modified version of the Egyptian Dance as the preference, but leave the Scene with the original Dance as an authorized variant, if there should arise a conductor with an orchestra for whom those frightfully rapid semi-quavers hold no fear.

Part of my recreational listening these past seven-ish days has been the Tallis Complete Works, and I am starting to get ideas for the Gloria; or (in part) ideas I had earlier are taking more definite shape, and reacting to Tallis in the process. Time was short, and we had to prioritize; when I was working with Lux Nova to get imprints ready for the AGO event at First Church, and one of the (many) thoughts I had was the Kyrie, it was decided to hold off until the Mass is complete. White Nights is the priority, and will remain so; still, the back of my mind considers just what I want to do with the remaining Gloria and Sanctus.

There are also just some slight refinements I should make to the Credo, not any recomposing, just some voicing specs.

07 July 2014

On the adjustment of velocity

Overall, it is a great satisfaction that I am at last moving White Nights from a state of A) a group of numbers which are composed, but whose scores have needed touching up, plus B) a group of numbers which are composed, but which I had not yet finished to even the modest degree of getting them from Finale files to PDFs which I might present to a conductor, plus C) two or three numbers which exist either as beginning sketches only, or as outlines on plain paper, plus D) roughly 25 minutes of music which just plain wants composing . . . to a condition of getting all the work that I have done heretofore ready for the stand(s). Which in turn will prepare my desk so that I can finish composing the remainder of the ballet.

I am on track to get working on The New Composition in August; so the whole ballet complete by year's end, is a realistic goal.

"You move too fast, slow down," as Garfunkel & Simon nearly sang:

As I re-vamp White Nights, in a few places I have found that the metronome marking from (let's round it to ) ten-ish years ago is just too darned fast. The Walk Through the Meadows needed to be allowed to relax a bit. The Scherzo signifying The Dreamer's Elation needed to be dialed back a notch, lest it give the impression of demonic panic. And the most complicated operation of this sort to date has been the Egyptian Dance.

The Egyptian Dance sets out at an easy groove of minim = 60, in garden-variety cut time. All very well. There is then the broad-but-mildly-disorienting 'B' section in 13 (9 + 4). That, too, is all very well, the 2/2 and the 13/8 dancing with grace and verve. The trouble was with the interior 'C' section, which hops around [ 6/16 + 3/4 ] and sundry variants.

The original idea was for the quaver (and then the semi-quaver) to remain constant. But in revisiting the Egyptian Dance this weekend, the woodwind and string figures in the 6/16 proved so very rapid, that I doubt the material would be intelligible in a theatre. And (as Peter H. Bloom and I were saying in another instance), they're such good notes, I think they should be heard.

Slowing down the whole is not practical (both the 2/2 and 13/8 sections would lose their flight). I've opted for a "modular slow-down," of having the dotted-quaver of the 6/16 measure take the pace of the crotchet of the sections before and after. That required some slight tailoring of the seam for the re-transition. On the whole, I think it successful; I am still mulling detail (as well as the possible need to add something, probably not at all much, to one section, to guard against tedium).

A fleeting thought of Christmas

Though I had near forgotten, word should come one way or t'other about the Christmas music. A message came a week or so ago, requesting the MIDI audio for God Rest Ye Merry; and though they were not asked for, I sent I Look From Afar and Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song, as well.

06 July 2014

II.v progress report (3)

Whew, done at last (I think) with the Egyptian Dance. All the percussion (which I love) was a bit of work; and while I had no qualms about changing the [ 9/8 + 2/4 ] measures to 9 + 4 / 8 . . . for the middle section with its ever-changing [ 6/16 + 3/4 ] and variants ([ 6/16 + 4/4 ] , [ 9/16 + 3/4 ]), the solution was perforce to break the measures up. Not a great sacrifice, really . . . and with the type this tiny on the hard copy, the loss of the measure numbers as a reference is almost no loss, since I cannot read those numbers without the magnifier, anyway.

So now I am at p.15 of the 25-p. score; not going to finish Scene 5 today, at any rate. Think I'll finish p.15, five measures remaining, a return to the Debussy allusion qua transition to the tropes upon Parasha's Aria . . . and I may call it quits then.

05 July 2014

Time capsule

One curious aspect of working again on music I originally wrote years ago, is how vividly I remember the places where I worked on this or that scene.

II.v progress report (2)

Earlier today, I worked through the section of Debussy-&-Жар-птица allusions, a passage which I half dreaded that I would return to, after all this time, and find it lacking;  but I find it quite well done.  Well, I still like it, at any rate.

And now I am at a perky, almost-frenetic dance which I had completely forgotten.  The accompanying sustained chords have the winds staggering their breaths, and so that bit of the dance is fairly time-consuming to re-create;  but the result is everything I should wish.

Before long, I shall get to the Egyptian Dance, but I don't imagine I should finish that tonight.

04 July 2014

II.v progress report (1)

It's The Project Made Possibly by a Magnifier . . . the score of Scene 5 as a friend graciously provided in response to my sending off the Finale file is 25 (tabloid) pages long, but the pages I've been working on typically have 29-30 measures.  At this point in the Scene, there are many empty staves which normally would be hidden away;  but instead, I have tiny, tiny print to work from.

That said, I've made it to the first measure of p.4 already (almost two minutes of music, mostly string choir textures).  This is a stretch of music I've not thought about for several years;  so it is a great relief to find that the music remains (I believe) good as is.  (Adding articulations, dynamics, &c.)

Done for the night.  Onward tomorrow!

Un morceau

Night the Second opens with just a two-minute scene (Scene 4), the Dreamer has been waiting for Nastenka, and she arrives.  Wrapped that up in just a few hours.

Scene 5 (The Dreamer Explains Himself) is rather more substantial, 13 minutes is listed on the score of the "original" edition.  And I have a complete weekend clear . . . let's see what I can do.

The stuff some people write

A virtual neighbor writes:
And one of the aspects that I love about Boulez's art and in fact most, all of the composers I hold dear is it's [sic] intellectual ferocity.
Intellectual ferocity is like wet consideration; the adjective fails to modify, or have aught to do with, the noun. Boulez is an intellectual, which is neither good nor bad, but just his character; and questions of good or bad application of the intellect remain. Where he has been ferocious, please, let us not unctuously rationalize it as a virtue by lauding it as a pursuit of the intellect.

State of the Nights (White)

As I posted here on 21 May of the present year:
I: Music finished: one hour and 17 minutes' worth. Though the first order of business is, getting all of this "live" again, as Sibelius files. If I can manage that by Independence Day, I shall consider it the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World.
Here it is, the overcast dawn of Independence Day, and if we have not quite threatened to crowd the present Wonders, I am well pleased with the progress.  New (and improved) editions in Sibelius are done for:

  • Op. 75 № 1: Overture [duration 11:00]
  • Op. 75 № 2: Scene 1. St Petersburg, City of the White Nights [duration 13:00]
  • Op. 75 № 3: Scene 2. A Walk in the Meadows [duration 6:30]
  • Op. 75 № 4: Scene 3a.  Nastenka at the Bridge [duration 6:00]
  • Op. 75 № 5: Scene 3b.  An Awkward Pas-de-trois; A Relieved Pas-de-deux; & The Dreamer's Elation After [duration 8:00]
  • Op. 75 № 6: Intermezzo I [duration 6:00]

Total duration of the music now (at last) "in the can": 50:30

The order of business today, then, is to send copies of the refreshed score to a certain colleague . . . and to plunge ahead into Night the Second.

03 July 2014

Accelerando al fine

Today, I finished both Scene 3b and Intermezzo I, so Night the First is completely done.  No material changes to the Intermezzo, only there was no reason not to share out those long brass lines in the final Poco adagio section (mm. 121-135).

01 July 2014

On whimsy and the accessory

Normally, and even though the dress code permits otherwise, I wear a tie to the office. I like to, and I like the look of a tie.

One day last week (possibly because of the warmth of the weather, though that seldom impedes me) I went to work neckwearless. And in informal chat with a couple of co-workers, the lack was noticed; and I did joke that I felt naked without the necktie.

So, on a lark, at lunchtime I sauntered up to one of the bargain shops, and bought this 'un for ten dollars. And the cashier approved warmly of my color choice. "More men should wear pink," she advised.

Only a game

Early this year I fantasized that 2014 might be the year when there is a Henningmusick première each month of the twelve.  I should go back to the tape, but I think there has already been a lapse . . . but no matter, if I might still manage 12 premières in the year.  And there is fresh potential for July. Watch This Space.