26 January 2016

Another Think Came

Inspired in part (and mysteriously) by a beautiful program played by the Boston Symphony on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and evening I made my way to the end of the first movement of the Clarinet Sonata. I did not rush overmuch, but I did have a very slight nagging sensation that I might want to change the ending . . . the last two measures represented a substantial improvement on the first version, which does not survive even in a draught, but there was something which felt just a little rushed about the last gesture. And the whole movement felt to me so sure-footed, I should hate to stumble just at the end.

Yesterday morning (Monday), I felt better about the ending, perhaps 92.4% inclined to leave it as is (well, as was, as will be clear presently). At lunchtime, I read through the score, and an idea came to me for a slight change. (The ending was close enough, that even the improvement should not be over-engineered.) For the space or perhaps two hours, I even fancied I might try a third change, and if I felt roughly the same about all of them, that I might even encode in the score a performer's choice from among three possible endings.

But when I revised the ending late yesterday afternoon, the new ending sounds so perfectly right, that is that.

Oh, and on the bus ride home from the office, I made a start on Boulez est mort, which will start piano-only. For three whole minutes? Well, we shall see.

Tim Phillips wrote from Alabama last night, asking for an E-flat contra-alto part to substitute for the B-flat contrabass in Saltmarsh Stomp. There are only two notes which are too low for the contra-alto clarinet, and it does no serious hurt to the texture to cast those two notes an octave higher.

20 January 2016

More Thinks Coming

The first movement of the Clarinet Sonata is now at the 5-minute mark. (I resumed daily work on the piece this Sunday past.)

11 January 2016

from the heart

Dear ——

I wish

to apologize

I honestly thought

those grapes were


10 January 2016

Weekend edition

At the outset, it is only fair to disclose that I wrote nothing of the Clarinet Sonata this weekend.

Yesterday morning, having been assured that the guitar lines in Things Like Bliss are playable, I prepared (as I had been prepared to prepare) alternate versions for, respectively, flute and cello. I also finished the shakuhachi-&-toy-piano piece, Liv Plays Scrabble (remembering Olivia Kieffer's gracious hospitality when I went a-clarinetting to Atlanta).

Today, I essentially took the day off as a composer. Our HTUMC Chancel Choir sang, this morning, my arrangement of "Brightest and Best," from The Southern Harmony. Since this is an arrangement--easy though it is--which they had never seen before Thursday the 7th, it was quite bravely done.

08 January 2016

First Ears of the New Year

Parenthetically, and not as if I am near that point in the Clarinet Sonata (I am not, as yet), there must be clangor at the outset of Boulez est mort.

There was a meeting of three-fourths of 9th Ear Wednesday night, basically to firm up the programs for 18 March at the Church of the Advent (at which we have, say, 20 minutes of a composite concert) and 19 March at the Nave Gallery (a/k/a Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church, a full concert all our own). Jim Dalton, Charles Turner, and yours truly attended.

18 March program to include (in part):

Dalton: new piece for clarinet and guitar
Turner: Suma Beach for soprano and shakuhachi
kh: just what everyone was expecting, as arranged for clarinet, mandocello & double-bass

19 March program to include (in part):

Dalton: new piece for clarinet and guitar
Dalton: Thoreau songs for voice & guitar
Dalton: The Learned Astronomer for choir unaccompanied
Dalton: Quem quaeritis for choir unaccompanied

Turner: Sonnet to Sleep for soprano, viola and piano
Turner: Suma Beach for soprano and shakuhachi
Turner: KOAN, a miniature opera for two singers and chamber group
Turner: O miei dolci animali for choir unaccompanied

just what everyone was expecting, as arranged for clarinet, mandocello & double-bass
Things Like Bliss for clarinet, two guitars & double-bass
Three Things That Begin With 'C' for clarinet and horn
Agnus Dei for choir unaccompanied

Last year, I began writing Darkest Doings, on the chance of it being suitable for the 19 March program; but I left the score for months in that just-begun state, pending this late meeting, because the finished piece must likely run to 20 minutes, and I deemed that such a piece would too much dominate the concert, and therefore be unsuitable. What I shall at last do with the Doings, I am not at present sure. At some point, I may slightly rescore it so that it would suit a k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble program; I certainly still like the idea of setting that scene from "the Scottish play."

07 January 2016

Brightest and Best

Last night I prepared an arrangement of Star of the East from The Southern Harmony for my choir's rehearsal tonight, and which we shall sing this Sunday morning.  Because that's how we roll.

I also composed my allotted ten measures' worth of Clarinet Sonata today.  A triumph, all around, although this post to the blog is most brief.

06 January 2016

Movements five

More work on the bus ride this morning. Having a lot of fun writing this one.

Originally, I was thinking three movements, but in the back of my mind this began to seem template-ish. I quickly moved (a day or two ago) to thoughts of four movements. This morning, as I was toweling off after the morning ablutions, the thought flitted through my sleepy neurons, Viola Sonata . . . Clarinet Sonata . . . what instrument next? Va Sta in three movements, Cl Sta in four . . . five movements for the third?

And then I thought, No - I'll cast the Clarinet Sonata in five movements, with a short clarinet unaccompanied mvt, and the three middle movements attacca (or does that just make it three big movements?)

I was also originally thinking that the whole piece would run half an hour, but as I start taping out the five movements, we just may run the clock to 40 minutes, if we can make it worth the audience's time.

i. Another Think Coming [ Allegro ]
ii. Boulez est mort [ Adagio ]
iii. Ambiguity & Overlap (Something or other, if not something else entirely) [ Vivo ]
iv. Unanticipated Serenity [ Allegretto grazioso ]
v. After a reading of "The Mysterious Stranger" [ Andante - Vivace assai - Andante ]

05 January 2016

Just checking in

Logging today's progress on the Op.136.

04 January 2016

Stealth Sonata

In writing the Viola Sonata for Dana, there was a deadline, which I met in good time by determining to get some work done on the piece every day, composing at least 10 measures every day.

Maybe that sounds as though the process is "forced," that there would be days where I write measures which aren't good enough and need to be replaced, thrown out.  But in fact, the consistent activity means that my mind is attuned to the piece;  so that the work was in fact quite apt, and of sustainedly good quality.  In practice, I often wrote a good deal more than the 10 measures "required";  so the "hum of productivity" kept me buoyed.

I have no such deadline for the Clarinet Sonata, but I am adopting the same method.  What is different now is, that the decision to write the piece was whimsical, so that before I started work yesterday, there was no "pre-compositional planning" . . . I just hurled noteheads onto the page.  Pretty much did the same today;  but after a few days, a plan will have begun to form;  and then, as I wrap up the first movement, ideas will gel in the back of my musical mind for the remaining movements.

So now, there is a full 30 seconds of Allegro music of the piece.

And tomorrow is another day.

03 January 2016

Another Think Coming

More than five years have passed since I wrote my Viola Sonata for Dana Huyge.

Today (and even though, no, I do not necessarily know a pianist who would play it with me) I have begun work on the Clarinet Sonata, whose first movement is titled Another Think Coming.

02 January 2016

More Bliss

Here on Ye Blog, I reported yesterday that I finished the quartet for clarinet, two guitars and double-bass called Things Like Bliss; just an interlude, really, a bit more than four minutes in duration. I was listening to the MIDI in Media Monkey (part of my QC testing process), and somehow I had left Media Monkey set on continuous play, so that at the end of the piece, it just started right back up. And I thought, in the case of this piece, that da capo actually works reasonably well.

At first, I really was thinking of a straightforward Da capo marking, and then a "second ending"; but I felt that instead I did want to have a (gently) through-composed repeat. As a result the new version is actually a tad more than twice the duration of the original, about nine minutes long. And then, too, I felt that after all, I had no quarrel with the initial four-minute version of the piece, and decided that I did not need to choose between the two versions, but could let them happily coexist.

01 January 2016

New Year's adventure

On my first walk of 2016, I took a path I had never walked before.  It led me something of a merry chase, as I was sure I should make my way back to a path I knew, but the new path twisted, and rose up a ridge, and there were forking paths, and daylight was fading.  I met some three or four rabbits on my way, but fortunately none of the coyotes for which the area is rather known after dark.

The quartet for clarinet, two guitars and double-bass which I began so well on Hallowe'en, Things Like Bliss, lay practically untouched all the while since.  I took it back up today, and I think it is probably finished.  Only probably, as the guitarists need to confirm that some of the repeated notes are manageable at the tempo indicated.  It is only a modest piece, a mere interlude, but getting to the final double-bar of a piece how humble soever is the right way to bring in the new year.