31 August 2014

Tony's boss

Last night, in my ongoing stroll through the Night Gallery, I watched "The Last Rites of a Dead Druid."  Admittedly, thanks to my teenage TV viewing, I have pretty much always type-cast Bill Bixby in his role in The Courtship of Eddie's Father (and, for my own reasons, I never cared for his Hulk project);  so it was very enjoyable to see him in a role which demanded a different range.  Another aspect of good fun was Ned Glass as the shop owner, and the delicate touch of his character being "Mr Bernstein," since one of my earliest sights of the actor was as Doc in West Side Story.

30 August 2014

The season is nigh!

I must have spent about 90 minutes in my choir room this morning, tidying, pulling out folders of music for the first rehearsal (this Thursday), including some Christmas music (we'll sing a Christmas concert 14 December, so getting a start on learning the music must be the right idea). Even just leafing through the three-ring binder "index" of our library, I chanced upon two suitable (and eminently preparable) anthems, one of which we'll use for our first Sunday of singing (14 Sep).

I want the re-introduction of my own music to be a welcome "change," so none of the music we'll put in the folders this week will be my own.

Well, nearly:  one of the Christmas pieces is Bill Grabbe's lovely setting of Hodie Christus natus est, which I arranged.

27 August 2014


... that dashing lad who created the dance element for Ambiguous Strategies, lo, many years since, even Jeff Wallace himself, is come to Boston.

I foresee extended conversation and the periodic beer....

25 August 2014

Frank irreverence

I have to prepare an epic salad. Anyone have a spare copy of George Bernard Shaw's The Perfect Vinaigrette?

Closing in on Labor Day

Viz. Dona nobis pacem: Paul wrote back early yesterday with a warm (i.e., positive) response to the 'A' section. Originally, I had intended to work some more on the 'B' section yesterday, but . . . while I think I have got it off to an acceptable start, I realized that I want first to plan out the 'architecture' of the 'B' section, just as I did with the larger-scale Mystic Trumpeter. I expect I shall "write through" the Whitman text for the 'B' section more efficiently (I mean, in less time, and no whit less musically) when I shall have bent just a little thought to an overall scheme - the benefit of knowing where one is going, which in this case is a bit easier, too, since I have material for the 'C' section, and already have an idea where to go then (i.e., at the end of 'B').

There is ample time to Get It Right, and of course, since Paul responded so artfully to (among other pieces) Plotting, this is an ongoing collaboration which has the composer motivated in all the right ways to go on Getting It Right.

Had a good long talk with Mark on the phone yesterday. Among other matters, we're getting ideas flowing for my trip to Atlanta in November. Olivia is necessarily preoccupied at present with the launch of the school year (and other events, besides) . . . I am hoping before long to have her thoughts on the various scores I've passed on to her.

Choir season is nigh! And I need to compose an article for the church newsletter, this morning.

From south of the equator

Ah, the wonder of the Internet!  Two colleagues and friends from Buffalo days & I have been restored to contact.

Without further ado, a piece for solo harp by Gabriel Valverde.

And a piece for piano solo, played by Gabriel's equally accomplished wife, Haydée Schvartz.

24 August 2014

Divers avocadoes

The first of the Tiny Wild Avocadoes, which I finished a week ago, is called Children's Song.

Other numbers in the Op.125 will include:

A Musical Box
Light on Leaf
Beak and Feather
By the Stream

23 August 2014

Text for the Op.123

(texts from the Mass and from Walt Whitman)


Dona nobis pacem.


I saw the day the return of the heroes;
(Yet the heroes never surpass'd shall never return,
Them that day I saw not.)

No holiday soldiers—youthful, yet veterans,
Worn, swart, handsome, strong, of the stock of homestead and workshop,
Harden'd of many a long campaign and sweaty march,
Inured on many a hard-fought bloody field.

A pause—the armies wait,
A million flush'd embattled conquerors wait,
The world too waits, then soft as breaking night and sure as dawn,
They melt, they disappear.

Exult O lands! victorious lands!
Not there your victory on those red shuddering fields;
But here and hence your victory.

Melt, melt away, ye armies—disperse, ye blue-clad soldiers,
Resolve ye back again, give up for good your deadly arms,
Other the arms the fields henceforth for you, or South or North,
With saner wars, sweet wars, life-giving wars

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.


Dona nobis pacem.

The game is afoot

Although in this post I suggested I mightn't keep it, I left the piano introduction intact.  It takes us to Eb, which is how I designed the first point of imitation in the chorus.  And the only real consideration behind the possible excision is, that those complicated, almost-planing chords wouldn't do, as a general thing, for accompanying a school chorus.

The overall design for the Op.123 is:
  1. Dona nobis pacem, partially set by imitation :: A section, 2'00
  2. Texts from Whitman, periodic solo passages, interspersed with choral statements :: B Section, 4'30
  3. Dona nobis pacem, partially set by imitation :: C section, 3'30
This morning, I wrapped up the A section;  and this afternoon I shall set to work on the B (upon which, yes, I have been a-pondering).  I have quite a bit of material already drawn up for the C section.

22 August 2014


Conductor Donald Teeters dies at 77
. . . best known for his pioneering advocacy of the choral works of Handel in period-instrument performances, but also led numerous world premieres of works by Daniel Pinkham, Scott Wheeler, and others.
Regretfully, my only memory of Don is negative.  At the invitation of a friend, the late John Swift, I allowed myself to send Don a score or two.  Now, he might have told John, No, this sort of work doesn't fit with our musical plans;  but, as it was, he permitted John to welcome me to submit a score or two for his perusal.  And as a result, I was informed that Don considered my work unworthy of his attention, unworthy of the Boston Cecilia's time.

This did not hurt my feelings;  it was but another case where a conductor, who nominally champions new music by living composers, failed to see the musical merit of my work.  So much the worse for them and their musical acumen.

I am sure Don was a fine conductor;  sure that he was a fine and deservedly respected teacher.  I know that many (friends of mine among them) will miss him, and rightly mourn him.

I only wish I had more pleasant occasions to remember him by.

Weekend, sweet weekend

For some portion of this week (and going back into the prior week) I was pulled in a few too many directions.  There’s the ballet I want to go back to (or, go back to again . . . because I have gotten back to it, and its completion is realistically in sight).  There’s the voice-&-marimba piece for Carola and Sylvie, for which the text is now ready.  There is the slight distraction I yielded to, in whipping up a short trio for two violins and viola (for which there is, in principle, standing demand).  There is a piece for “voice plus” for Sara.

But happily I have achieved the necessary focus upon a piece which we need ready at the beginning of September, for which I have a good volume of sketches, and hours of mentation to boot.  So I have Material and the Immaterial, and if we keep to a “one minute a day” plan, the piece can be done by the 1st.

21 August 2014

Angling towards composition

More sketches for the Op.123 chorus-&-piano piece while I was on the bus this morning. From a couple of days ago, I have a piano introduction, and I am not sure I am going to keep it. Ideas are still gelling, but soon I should reach a stage where, as I am ready to write, the piece makes good and rapid progress.

20 August 2014

In the air tonight

Curiously, it is a Henningmusick night (though not in Boston).  Down in Atlanta, Olivia will pass out the parts for My Island Home to the members of the Reinhardt University Percussion Ensemble.  And out in the Middle West, JMW & friends may be reading the first of the Tiny Wild Avocadoes.

A mildly funny story

In my listening, this week I am at last returning to (and listening to the differences among three recordings of) Karl Amadeus Hartmann's First Symphony (Versuch eines Requiems). Perhaps part of the reason is, here I am proposing to set some Whitman (again), myself.

That is not the funny story.

I have a CD player which also serves as an alarm; and for quite a long time now, I have enjoyed waking up, not to a harsh, persistent, repeated alarm tone (well, the tone on this player is not the worst I have known, but the point remains) but, gently, gradually, to strains of music.

One can adjust the volume and the track number . . . I have swapped in and out a few CDs since, so I forget just which track of what disc was the one I selected, but I have left it at that track number for (let's say) three other discs.

The disc presently in the player, to which I was listening (or, "listening," after a time) while waiting for sleep to enfold me, is the Botstein/London Phil recording of the Hartmann First (so far as I know, the only CD on which the Hartmann tone-poem Miserae is presently available). So, as it happened, what woke me was, we might say, almost the least alarming music possible, very soft strokes on a timpani, almost imperceptibly soft. And, as I was well rested, that was all I needed.

15 August 2014

Brief diversion

It's not the piece which I need to finish by or about the beginning of September, but it is a piece which a friend may be apt to read soon. When I cracked open the notebook on the bus this morning, I started sketching a short bagatelle of a trio. There will have to be a set, but I shall only write this first one now, and then get to the choral setting.

13 August 2014

... illa existimans quia hortulanus esset ....

Finished the Op.121 in something of a blur, or, enough of a blur, that I wanted to sleep on it, and decide whether it was really done, or whether it needed anything, when I was well rested.

Op.121 was originally going to be an unaccompanied clarinet piece (The Tower Room Is Empty) for the Bill Goodwin Memorial Concert. However, I decided to write the brass trio, Le tombeau de W.A.G., instead. At first, it was in addition to, rather than instead of; but as the concert was filling up with items, I decided to go with the brass trio, not least because it was finished first.

By no means do I suffer any delusion that, when I have written music down, it is too precious to discard; in the present case, I did not think it right to abandon sketches for a piece in memory of a departed friend. I always meant to put that music to use; and in fact, very soon re-purposed it for "the new Op.121," ... illa existimans quia hortulanus esset .... for cello and piano.

10 August 2014

Crocodiles and the Gardener

You would not know it from my light blogging activity, but I have been busy.  The task of creating a Sibelius file for Night of the Weeping Crocodiles was slow-ish (but, better than the first go).  Got it done yesterday!  Then, in short order, I adapted that file for the Op.16a version, clarinet, mallet percussion (roughly 45% marimba, 45% vibes, 10% Glockenspiel) & piano, which I think will be delightfully colorful (here's hoping Olivia likes it).

That done, I returned yesterday evening to the vc/pf piece I had started for Kirstin back in April, ... illa existimans quia hortulanus esset ... (...thinking him to be the gardener...)

Last night, I managed to write the ending, but the piece had not quite made its way there, so I needed to insert a paragraph. The rapid progress was a result, first, of (essentially) improvising a 16-measure [that figure makes it sound symmetrical and regular, but it is not] contrasting period; second, of at last bringing into this piece sketches I had made for the (abandoned) unaccompanied clarinet memorial for Bill Goodwin (I think I may make note of that somehow in the score — in all events, the material works better with sparse piano commentary as light accompaniment); third, a varied recapitulation of sorts, which I drew up while (ahem) finding myself unwilling to devote my full attention to a Harry Partch piece. At the end of the day, I felt I could probably wrap it up this morning.

. . . and I think I may have.  I shall let the piece cure overnight, and see tomorrow if there really is any serious alteration required.

04 August 2014

Light Weeping

This was the first day of a celebratory vacation-let. Still, got some 20 measures or more of Crocodiles (Weeping), Their Night done. Had a most excellent day.

03 August 2014

Back to the Crocs

Wheels are starting to turn for the November trip to Atlanta.  There will be a crack pianist, so my thoughts turned to both Night of the Weeping Crocodiles and Mirage, which right away I thought would adapt readily for clarinet, percussion and piano: vibraphone in Mirage . . . marimba (plus?) in Crocodiles.

Now that my notebook has come home (!) I could survey the electronic file situation.  From my White Nights work, I knew that I might not have Sibelius files for either trio.  To my surprise, I did find a Sibelius file for both, but the score for Crocodiles was only a start.

So far today, I've worked a bit on furthering the lachrymose reptiles, and then took a break because I found I had a complete Sibelius file for Mirage, and it was just as easy as I expected, to prepare the arrangement for that piece.

02 August 2014

The week that was

White Nights enjoyed something of an enforced sabbatical, as my notebook is out at the computer shop for a replacement keyboard.

Hopes for a première of The Mystic Trumpeter remain alive and well, and I am fantasizing additionally about a second performance in November, down south a ways.

Word is in that a fine pianist will be on board for the 11 November concert, so I am thinking (and without the notebook, it can only be thinking, today) of arranging both Night of the Weeping Crocodiles (not one of the White Nights) and Mirage for cl/pf/prc.