17 October 2017

Oh, how very prescient a snark!

To them who cry, “More cowbell!” – Cowbells later.  First, there must be sorrow.
– Porridger’s Almanac (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Six years ago today (17 October 2011), John Rich asked:  “Karl, you composed a ballet right? If yes, has any ballet company been interested in performing the work?”

To which Greg Cook shortly replied, “It’ll take another 7 years for him to finish it.”

Now, we may ask the Oracle if it is mere chance that I am planning to wrap White Nights up in 2018.  Or, we may just assume that Greg is himself the Oracle.

Darn spooky, I calls it.

16 October 2017

“What is your work?”

On the lines of Don’t discredit what is true, because it is a liar who speaks it...

A voice from many years past, a character who was at best neutral, and at worst bête noir, posed the actively fructiferous question, What is your work? It is a question, for the artist, with a wide variety of applications, at several levels.

This passage which is costing you labor to hammer it out right, is this your work? No, the finished piece which is the goal, that is my work.

This apparently irrelevant exercise which is required of you this week, this semester, this class period, is this your work? No, my work is something bigger, longer-lasting.

& cetera. These two immediate examples only scratch the surface. The question will mean more to you, Gentle Reader, as you apply it to your own workdesk.

One problem—one big problem—in the World Out There is the pressure, social, monetary, networkly, for art to be “socially relevant.” As if the Chopin e minor Prélude is insignificant because it addresses an audience of one, the listener in his own study, rather than addressing the problems in the workplace. As if to affirm the old materialistic fallacy that a pair of boots is worth more than Shakespeare.

So when I see tweets asserting (e.g.) that Art is our weapon and Art is a form of resistance, I see that which is too small, which is easy and smooth in its marketability. Click-Bait Art.

I ask the rhetorical question, Is your Art a Being to which you give birth? Or is it instead a mere tool?

What is your work?

15 October 2017

The Never-Happened. The Steady, Reliable Support. And, Towards the Future.

[ from the archive — 15.x.2012]
Not much in the way of news . . .  have I mentioned that the First Church Choir are singing a concert in January, and that at least two bits of Henningmusick will feature on the program? Love Is the Spirit and the Alleluia in D . . . possibly also the Kyrie.
The long-awaited recording of Angular Whimsies may actually be sent to me before year’s end.  Or not.  We shall see.
No news on the flute solo piece which I submitted for the call.  The flutist has posted an apologetic advisory that she will be in touch, eventually.
A tantalizing e-mail message has come in from my old trumpet ace schoolmate;  The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword has not been forgotten . . . .
Or, perhaps it has been.

To poetify one aspect of my regular experience:  The path forward for many artists is paved in part with the rubble of past hopes.  Of all the What may happen in the future items of five years ago today, the only element to reach fruition was the performance of Love Is the Spirit on the January 2013 concert.

Does that sound like a complaint?  It is none, for I am deeply grateful for a fine performance of Love Is the Spirit by the wonderful First Church Choir, who have adopted the motet as one of their signature pieces.

Pictured below is the spire of the Sixth Meeting House of the First Congregational Church in Woburn, the site of the creation of many earlier works in the Henning catalogue.  It was arguably journeyman work—but it gave me the opportunity to practice composition regularly.  Its “importance” is not so much the music which I wrote (much of which is modest in scope and intent), as in the invaluable workshop for an extended period.  This has wound up being yet another occasion to express gratitude to the late William A. Goodwin for years of belief in my work, and sustained material and moral support:  because I cannot say that I could have written my recent Symphony, now, without the artistic preparation which Bill made possible.

Looking to April 2018—two years ago at about this time (the PDF of the last score is dated 18.x.2015) I had begun composing a two-singer scene from The Scottish play.  The occasion for which I was speculating the piece (it occupied the since-repurposed Opus number 138) was a potential concert which either changed, or got canceled entirely.  I may at some point finish the piece in that guise, but I want to embark on another setting of that scene, for two female singers, three winds and fixed media.  Musically, entirely a different tackwhich will indeed mean that, should opportunity arise in future to resuscitate the “Old Op.138,” it will keep.  The new scena will run quite a bit cooler than the Op.129, whose première was so stunningly created by Barbara Hill Meyers, one of the singers for the Op.147 to come.

14 October 2017

A few harmless thoughts on David Cronenberg’s The Fly

There may, or there may not, follow spoilers.  I’ll try to avoid spoilers.  I know how disappointing they can be.  But, although, yes, I shall try, I am making no guarantee.  Because I just may riff.

When Seth Brundle tells Ronnie that something is ‘missing’—that because what he has succeeded in ‘teleporting’ is inanimate matter, but that his efforts are not successful until he can teleport living creatures—of course, he is entirely wrong.  The ability to teleport even inanimate items across space is a huge accomplishment;  think how it would simplify (or might) the postal service.  But, of course, that would not have made the movie.  We might likewise advise Othello, “Hey, what if you just ask her about the handkerchief?”

At last, I watched the whole movie last night.  There’s quite a lot of it that I hadn’t seen before. But (somehow) I had seen all the “shocker” bits ... so that (very much like my later fondness for Ridley Scott’s Alien) I could watch the whole with reasonable equanimity.  Still, it is something of a wringer to watch.  Which is really the power and the art of the undertaking.  It is impartially true that I saw much last night, upon which my gaze never fell earlier.  But I do half wonder if some of what I took as new last night, may have been frames which I had seen before, but as I was still in shock over previous gore, I did not mark the scene at the time.  It is possible.

There are many excellent and understated bits of humor.  (Mostly in the first half-ish of the movie, well, sure.)  “Designer phone booths” is (if by now sufficiently anachronistic that the next generation will probably fail to get the joke entirely) wicked sharp.  Before this, when Ronnie first enters the lab, and Seth sits down at the piano and plays “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” à la energetic lounge pianist (that looks practically like an oxymoron, but let it stand) it is a rarely delicious musical moment in the cinema of our day. (Did Goldblum play it himself, or did he but mime expertly? Wonder if we learn, in the commentary....)

I nearly wrote that the score is surprisingly romantic, but in fact part of the impact of the horror (it is not all merely gross-out scares) is, the romance between Brundle and Ronnie.  I certainly did not know that this was a Howard Shore score, before.

... but I send anyway

You cannot collect the rejection slips, unless you send in your work.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Nothing will come of it.  We know this;  and we do it anyway.  I have sent in the Larghetto (second movement) and Vivo assai (third movement) of the Op.143 to two separate calls for orchestral scores.


If I think, Nothing will come of it, so it is not worth even bothering, then the thought is bitter in its binding my hands into inaction.

But if I send, even though I think, Nothing will come of it, I affirm that I believe my work worthy of the consideration;  at least in theory, I give an actual person the chance to review the work (and dare him or her to reject it);  and my knowledge that Nothing will come of it inoculates me from the bitterer forms of disappointment.

Nothing will come of it.  We know this.  But I do excellent work.  And someday, it will be recognized for its excellence.

11 October 2017

henningmusick: This morning’s sing [11.x.2009]

henningmusick: This morning’s sing
The composer was very pleased. We sang my Exaltabo Te, Deus (I served as a substitute tenor this morning) when the basket was being passed . . . but it is also a somewhat longer anthem than the choir normally sing for the First Church Boston service. The m.d. told me that the last two minutes of the piece, the congregation had settled nicely into the piece, and their attention was glued. “Magical,” quoth he.
Very well do I remember that morning.  It was the first proper performance of this Psalm setting, which I composed while visiting St Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe, Penn. It was one of my first efforts at “inhabiting” the soundworld of Russian Orthodox liturgical choral music. In this, I think it was likely a reasonable success.

10 October 2017

After the Avocadoes

A thoroughly enjoyable, and well-attended concert today at King’s Chapel. Carol, Pam & Peter played beautifully, and they all like the music well enough that they stand ready to repeat the program.  Which I plan on doing.

Right at the moment, however, I believe I shall loll on the sands.

09 October 2017

Concert Eve

Excellent dress rehearsal this morning.

No time to blog...off to Triad rehearsal.

08 October 2017

The (Near) Future of Henningmusick. And, an Anniversary.

Tue 10 Oct at King’s Chapel, Boston:

Tiny Wild Avocadoes (selections), Op.125a (2016) — première
Neither do I condemn thee, Op.132 (2015)
Kurosawa’s Scarecrow (Memories of Packanack Lake), Op.145 (2017) — première

The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble
Carol Epple & Peter H. Bloom, flutes
Pamela Marshall, horn
Karl Henning, clarinet & fixed media

Sun 22 Oct at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Del Rey Beach, Fla.:

The St Paul’s Choir (Dr Paul Cienniwa, Dir.) sing
Precious Lord, Op.139 № 4 (2016)

Sun 22 Oct at Holy Trinity United Methodist Church, Danvers, Mass.:

The Chancel Choir sing
I Want Jesus to Walk With Me, Op.142 № 9 (2017)

Tue 24 Oct at Stonehill College, Easton, Mass.:

Ensemble Aubade
Oxygen Footprint, Op.138 (2016)

henningmusick: Symphony beginning:
In the perhaps optimistic expectation that life will carry on 9 November and beyond, I have started work on Symphony № 1.
There are layers of optimism here . . . starting a large piece, and hoping to bring it to its completion . . . starting it, with the apparent implication of a № 2 . . . writing a large piece, not knowing if or where it might be brought to an audience . . . &c. &c. &c.
But, over the past couple of days, a musical idea has taken root in my inner ear, and its only practical application is, for orchestra.

One year ago today, after years of kinda thinking “I want to write a symphony” (and, more than one, really), something mysterious-but-crucial clicked, and (a) I felt absolutely ready to write such a piece, and (b) the Symphony was exactly the piece I wanted to write just then.

At the milestone of just one year after the initial conception of the piece, it is utterly premature to “complain” that the piece has not been played yet.

But, yes, I am eager to seek a performance, this I do not deny.

Most importantly to the composer, he is well pleased with the piece, and looks with pride on the fact that this musical achievement looms large in the previous twelve months of musical activity.

07 October 2017

Just when I did not quite mean to

[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition, nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends. His only competition was with himself.
— Françoise Gilot
For reasons which I have shared on this blog before—principally, because I desire to finish White Nights first—I am not, not going to set to actual work on it.  Yet.

Nor let me mislead you, Gentle Reader, into taking this in any way as a lament, in even the least degree.  Because my Muse is there, assuring me that there is work to be done;  and this is the unalloyed Good Thing.

Directly after I have my choir and handbell ringers settled with Christmas concert material, and when I shall at last have wrapped up the ballet, I find that I already have a plan for the Symphony № 2.
  • The first movement to be a Prelude for the brass
  • The second movement to be the Sonata-Allegro (of some sort or other)
  • The third movement to be a Scherzo for the strings
  • The fourth movement to an Adagio
  • The fifth movement to be an Intermezzo for the woodwind
  • And a dashing final, sixth movement
My feeling at present is to aim technically, again, at “a good community orchestra”;   to score it as I did the first, only with the addition of harp (and, I expect, with a different, specific percussion complement);  and for the whole to run (say) 35 minutes.

I do, in fact, have a specific idea for the opening movement.  Whether I wind up using it or not, I should scribble it down for future reference.  But that memorandum aside, I am not working on this Symphony.  Yet.

05 October 2017

About ye Music on Tuesday’s Program

NOTES (Packanack Lake not pictured)

Tiny Wild Avocadoes :: These are originally scored for a trio of two violins and viola.  I composed them for conductor/pianist/violinist/teacher John McLaughlin Williams, as teaching pieces (to develop ensemble, rhythmic accuracy, &c.)  Each piece is designed to cover two pages, and all three players play from the score – hence the pieces’ brevity.  John and two friends premièred the first and second of the Avocadoes, shortly after their composition, on 12 Nov 2014 at St Clare’s Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Last year-ish, I felt that the pieces would work equally well for a trio of winds, and thus we bring these exotic fruits today.  Psychologists and Bio-ethicists have dedicated a great many, and very expensive, man-hours to the question of their nature, but there is no doubt that these are no avuncular Avocadoes.

Neither do I condemn thee :: This was an oblique commission (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Flutist/conductor/cuatroista Orlando Cela sent me a message one day, When are you going to write me a piece?  “Flute-plus-what, and of what duration?,” I queried back;  and the result was this present flute duo.  The title comes from an incident from the Gospel.  Not to retell it in detail, its essential meaning is:  Never worry about anything wrong you have done;  but instead, find someone whose behavior you find especially offensive, get a mob together, and punish the bejeezus out of the offender.  Afterwards, bask all together in a self-righteous glow.  There is a school of thought which wonders if this may be an inaccurate reading of the Gospel, but few Evangelical public figures take that dissenting view at all seriously.

Kurosawa’s Scarecrow (Memories of Packanack Lake:: In the parlance of our times, It’s complicated.  Phase I was a piece for the church handbell choir which I direct.  I puttered with a rehearsal take of this for Phase II, which is the fixed media in the present piece:  octave displacements, superimpositions, rhythmic augmentations and diminutions of the “raw material” of the handbell choir recording, to which I added gestures which I played on (or breathed through) a dime-store plastic recorder, sounds which (when I slowed them down electronically) sounded delightfully – to my ears – as a “poor man’s shakuhachi.”  Also added, some laryngeal sounds similarly ‘treated’ so as to sound like an exotic field recording.  Phase III, the final piece (although, to be honest, I believe that Phase II constitutes a final piece in its own right) incorporates phrases played live by the quartet of winds.  Differing in some ways from my previous live-instruments-plus-fixed-media works, this piece thus has two defined elements (the fixed media, and the composed-out wind phrases), but the interaction between the two is indefinite, a result of chance (or, perhaps, the clarinetist’s whimsy).

04 October 2017

Stranger [thoughts on the final movement of the Cl Sonata]

[ a scrap of paper from 7 June 2017, rediscovered today ]


My speed-re-reading of “The Mysterious Stranger” taped the movement out for me.  The novella is set in a sleepy German town, but – Twilight-Zone-like – I take it as standing in for Hannibal, MO . . . Twain’s point is not criticizing mediæval Germans.

So the opening Larghetto (soon to accelerate to Andante) is Home, Americana, and it is the boys’ simple faith and outlook thrown somewhat off-balance by the fact, the character, the unexpected contradictions, the occasionally stern reproaches of Satan.  The central Vivace assai will reflect the central dramatic crisis of the trial, and Satan’s essentially untamable nature, even when he is ‘helpful’ (as when he promises that Fr Peter will be happy the rest of his life).  Then, a brief (comparatively) return to the Americana material, further colored by the Stranger, as when Theodor learns that life is a grotesque and foolish dream, and one doubts that he despairs of the revelation, but embraces it quietly.

Because the start is so slow, this first sally materialized quickly.  This morning, I found the tune I had composed (a month ago?), and I harmonized it while riding the Red Line into town.  (I am glad I found it!  I do like it, and feel that it fits in very nicely.)  I have an Arlington Philharmonic rehearsal tonight, but it begins late enough that there is a good chance I can bring the Sibelius file up to date before I report for percussion duty.

St Paul’s, Ten Years Ago

From the Archive :: 4 Oct 2007

Bless the Lord, O my soul is on for this Sunday, 7 October.

Nuhro has been bumped [a] week, from 4 November to 11 November.

And if Pete [Lekx] takes to the piece, we may add 
Steve Hicken’s The Rings of Saturn to our 5 December recital program.

Pete & I later refreshed The Mousetrap for an exclusive audience of student composers at the College of Wooster.

Last night I arranged Louis Bourgeois’ Rendez à Dieu for our doughty handbell choir at HTUMC.  And there is a hymn which (lacking our organist because her car was put out of commission by vandalism) we deselected this past Sunday, as it was too unfamiliar to us;  but it is a beautiful tune, and I am contemplating arrangements for both the choir, and the handbells.  Maybe together.

On that theme, I may re-arrange My Lord, What a Morning for the handbells & choir.

03 October 2017

henningmusick: The adventure begins [3.x.2013]

henningmusick: The adventure begins

And so, today marks the fourth anniversary of my first rehearsal as M.D. at H.T.U.M.C.

It’s all been going delightfully, and long may it so continue. (Next rehearsal is the day after tomorrow.)

Excellent Triad rehearsal last night. It was the first we had all six men for to rehearse The Dying Californian, and the piece is in good shape. I had prepared a series of 4:3 rhythmic drills for strengthening ensemble confidence in the Salve; but last night was a by for that piece, and probably a week’s rest was a good idea.

Henningmusick rehearsal tomorrow evening—our King’s Chapel concert is a week from today.

What to do tonight? A couple of handbell pieces, I should think. Rehearsal of the handbell choir starts this Sunday. Must have music marked and in the folders.

02 October 2017

What's up

Eleventh-hour Plan B for a service;  taping out exercises to build rhythmic confidence in the ensemble for the 4:3 ratio;  refreshing my frame-drum-beating-while-singing skillz;  planning the choir’s anthems for the month of November;  resigning myself to a slightly smaller handbell choir;  and always, looking ahead to the Christmas concert.

Oh, and Henningmusick rehearsals Wednesday and Monday for the King’s Chapel concert on 10 Oct.

29 September 2017

Part pas-de-deux, part jeu-d'esprit

Enjoyed the greatest of times at the Library of Congress yesterday witnessing two legends of comedy performing an act which jeopardized their Executive Washroom privileges.  The protein—I meant, protean stage-&-mic talents Philip Proctor and David Ossman (What’s Left, that is, of The Firesign Theatre) regaled us with the History of Radio, from Wireless, to Wired, to Wireless again, with many pertinent diversions into the classic Firesign grab bag, from Ralph Spoilsport and Police State, to the never-satisfactorily-explained nose injury at a great sandstone building.  The hall was packed.  We all wondered where Ruth was.  We held our breath upon learning the origin of the Porridge Bird conundrum.  We learnt anew that all we had to fear, was he.

If you get a chance to see them, shift on your sanitary pedestals and run, do not walk, nor hesitate to sit on those antique cheese logs.

My spirit celebrated this morning by composing the clavichord bagatelle I had half-promised David Bohn, the no-more-than-100-notes-thank-you-very-much call for scores.  My brand-new piece is titled, The last man to come to the vineyard to work.  Partly because the name Zappa somehow emerged when Eric and I were catching up yesterday, I wrote the piece with the thought of what kind of keyboard piece might be a hidden bonus track on the Uncle Meat album.  I do not say it is in the style of Zappa, but in a style compatible with that of the Bard of Cucumonga.

(Photo by Doug Krentzlin.)

28 September 2017

Prelude to DC, remembering Admee

Two years ago today was the first rehearsal of From the Pit of a Cave in the Cloud, a monodrama for soprano & four winds. It's the score which scotched what had promised to be a budding collaborative relationship with the talented soprano who performed so beautifully in the première of The Mystic Trumpeter—the text was too intense.

This afternoon I fly to Washington, to meet with an old friend, and together to witness Philip Proctor & David Ossman, late of The Firesign Theatre, performing at the Library o' Congress. Buzzy Coathanger will be there.

27 September 2017

henningmusick: Ink barely dry [26.ix.2009]

henningmusick: Ink barely dry

... on that train last night (whose departure was not at midnight, and which did not leave for Georgia), I finished out the piece. It is a brief (four minutes) companion to the flute-clarinet duet Heedless Watermelon, written to fill out the April date at King’s Chapel.

On the bus this morning (as ever, really) and passing the silhouetted Bunker Hill obelisk, and reflecting on the birth of All the Birds in Mondrian’s Cage. Which of course immediately becomes an occasion for renewed gratitude to my excellent colleague and longtime collaborateur-provocateur, Peter H. Bloom, with whom I have performed the piece any number of times these several intervening years. And, the piece remains fresh.

This morning I sent some minor, oh so very minor, corrigenda for the Gloria to Lux Nova.  Also, the Sibelius files for the Op.28 organ pieces.

They Might Be Giants (student shown for scale)

It was before my time, so the student in the photo would not have been Henning, anyway.  Still, given the accompanying text, rather glad I was not there.

Of course, it is but an alumni magazine, so it is probably unfair to insist on so stern an interpretation of the sentence.  Allow me, for old times’ sake, to play Devil’s Advocate with a tendentious excision:  Each of the men pictured here (except the student, second from right) . . . helped shape contemporary music in his own way.  Bad luck, Wm Appleby, for being the one party in the photograph who shaped no contemporary music.

There you are, basking in the light of the Great Men, though.

26 September 2017

Dreams of Schoenberg

First of all, we know that none of this is historically true.  But, that is not the standard we apply to what happens in dreams.

There was a brick house in which Schoenberg (supposedly, per above) lived while he was in residence here in the United States, and I went to visit this – as we might call it – pilgrimage site.

It was an architecturally unexceptional two-story brick home.  Ranged at intervals along the front lawn were signs reading “Opus 29,” “Opus 30,” on through “Opus 33,” the idea being that, Mad Tea Party-like, Schoenberg composed each piece in that corresponding part of the building.  It was a design error in my dream that there were three signs reading “Opus 33.”  Or maybe it meant that the work took Schoenberg so much effort, he worked on it in three different locations in the house.

The dream then moved to a concert hall where a violinist whose acquaintance I made recently was playing the Schoenberg Violin Concerto (Opus 36), only in the dream this Concerto involved dramatized extended techniques, such as drawing the violin across a bamboo pole held by the violinist’s husband, who assisted.

Must have been all that sea air Sunday.

23 September 2017

Thoreau A-Go-Go

Revisited (at apparent random—only apparent, I suppose—a chap made a request on a Facebook group for “some of your favorite non-standard pieces for clarinet”) Thoreau in Concord Jail.  Overall, I am happy with my performance (and I think that any of the various quibbles I might make, with my take at this concert, would be ironed out with a month of sustained practice);  I am entirely pleased with the piece as a composition;  and I even enjoy (in that peculiar, Cageian way) the occasional intrusion of street noise as a kind of counterpoint.

Even as my practice of composition does not operate in a chamber hermetically sealed against the winds and weather of the world without, it feels suitable, that my performance of this just-the-lonesome-clarinet piece interacts by apparent chance with events in the community without.

22 September 2017

Studies and Tropes

From the Archive :: 22 Sep 2009

One or two borderline quackly moments in the performance of the Studies [i.e., the Studies in Impermanence] . . . but overall, I am very pleasantly surprised at how well I managed to play the piece. (Yes, that means that I shall need to try again to better it, but still . . . .)

One thing is, I didn't feel that I was 'lagging' at all through the course of the piece; nor that any pause was 'trending pregnant'. Pace felt good, and I felt that the audience was 'with' me. Bottom line, though, is that the performance ran just over 24 minutes.

Tropes on Parasha's Aria from White Nights, though, got to a strangely deliberate start. It works, but it feels a little dirge-ey.

Little-known fun fact: I used (i.e., sang) the Tropes on Parasha's Aria for an audition for the Trinity Church Choir once. (It was fun, finding the text from Stravinsky's Mavra, to plug it into my adaptation.) So, I do not think the piece intrinsically funereal.  The above was my report at the time of a performance in the West End branch of the Boston Public Library.

This composer needs to inquire a bit more actively after possible venues for The Band to play, well, all the music which we essentially already have tamed. Not genuinely tamed; never genuinely tamed. But near enough, that refreshing them will not require an extensive rehearsal schedule. So, I have sent a message; and I need to follow up with a query yet elsewhere.

Separately, I am dizzy—not literally, of course not literally—at the realization that less than a week from now I shall attend a performance of Those Legends of the Firesign Theatre, at the Library of Congress.

The Dream Limerick [henningmusick: Not a huge story, but true — 22.ix.09]

henningmusick: Not a huge story, but true:
At the last I had found five slips of paper, had written the five lines, and arranged the five slips in order on the counter:

    Out East where the first sun is settin
    Lives a rare and athletic Tibetan
    She speed-meditates
    On her saffron ice-skates
    She’s the Tibetan Mary Lou Retton.

Paradise Lost, it is not....

In fresh news (such as I have got, Gentle Reader) the passages of the Gloria which we have rehearsed these past two weeks with Triad have proved very encouraging.  I can say more than that:  each week a different singer warmly praised the piece.  When a piece is in rehearsal, of course it makes all the difference that the musicians believe in the score.

This week is the first that Thos Stumpf and I have seen one another, since I inundated his email inbox with the Clarinet Sonata, and when he has some capacity, read it we shall, meseems.

And last night, my doughty church choir revisited I Want Jesus to Walk With Me, with all its myriad, tricky read-me-or-be-shamed rests.

19 September 2017

Refreshing the slate


Sleepyheads, Wake Up! — good prospect for a reading, should really wrap it up

White Nights — still a work purely on spec, can in principle aim for completion 1Q18

New stuff:

[the HTUMC Christmas Concert] . . . should think about some pieces with harp accompaniment

Flute duo for Carol and Peter . . . working title, Gym Bags in the Dark

Concertante piece for cello and orchestra . . . working title, Sleepwalking to Olympus

17 September 2017

henningmusick: Recital [17.ix.2009]

henningmusick: Recital:
TODAY!! [i.e., eight years ago]
Noise in the Library
The Exquisite Sonic Disturbances of Karl Henning
Heedless Watermelon, Opus 97 (2009) flute & clarinet
Irreplaceable Doodles, Opus 89 (2007) clarinet solo
The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword, Opus 94a (2008) alto flute solo
Lost Waters, Opus 27 (1994-95) harp solo
Studies in Impermanence, Opus 86 (2005) clarinet solo
Tropes on Parasha’s Aria from White Nights, Opus 75, the ensemble
Peter H. Bloom, flutes
Mary Jane Rupert, harp
Karl Henning, clarinet
Thursday, 17 September 2009
West End Branch, Boston Public Library
151 Cambridge Street
Free & Open to the Public.
Just try to shush ’em.
Eight years ago tonight.  I am not sure we have ever made so much noise in any library since.

This morning is my church choir’s first Sunday of the season “on duty.”

The beat goes on.

15 September 2017

One Twilight Realm

“You have a choice.”
—one theme in both Minority Report and Hellboy, neither of whose screenplays (probably) was written by a Calvinist
Any number of times over the years, and in many different contexts, I have repeated, no doubt in paraphrase (even allowing for English translation) a witty and illuminative distinction made by a 19th century German critic (named, I believe, Kraus—but don’t hold me to it) between the two German-speaking capitals. In Berlin, he wrote, they describe the situation as “serious, but not hopeless”; but in Vienna, “hopeless but not serious.”

More about hopeless but not serious in a moment.

Over the past twelvemonth (and not to the exclusion of other composition) I have 1. composed my first Symphony (there may seem to be a degree of hope implicit in the use of the ordinal number first, which I neither confirm nor deny); 2. completed (i.e., composed the bulk of) a major Clarinet Sonata; and 3. resumed significant work on the full evening’s ballet, White Nights. These three pieces are, without rival, my major instrumental works. They have not yet been performed (—in fairness, the Symphony is still warm off the press, so a performance as early as now, while by no means impossible, would only have been a wild chance—) nor is there as yet any prospect of a performance.

We might say there is (at present) no hope of their being performed.  So often when the word hopelessness is used, there is an implication of permanency, of a compulsion upon the individual to resign himself to an absence of hope.

Right at the moment, it seems hopeless. So what?

At the moment (and, all right—it’s been a long moment) I write a lot of music that is not performed. And, it ought to be conceded, I am (though by no means a dotard) rather past the age one might normally think of for an up-and-coming composer. Maybe the Symphony will someday be played in my hearing. Maybe in my lifetime. Maybe not.

But the hopelessness is not a fixed element. It may be only, that there is no hope at present.

This, Gentle Reader, is all just reflection, just thoughts.  No decision is being made, no resolution taken, this day.

My state of mind remains, so far as I can tell, unchanged. I compose, not because I am paid to do so, nor really because I have any expectation of being paid to do so in the future; I compose, because I enjoy doing so. I compose the music which I should like to hear, and which I should like to know the thoughts of listeners, should it be given them also to hear. I compose because, when I have completed a given piece, I find the arc of activity gratifying, I find the musical result, the fact that there is a finished musical object, gratifying.  I dig the resulting music, as (I believe) any real gone cat would.

While I am not at all suggesting that I would be anything other than much better pleased for the music to be performed for an audience, and for the audience to register and express their enjoyment of, delight in, the music—I enjoy, indeed to a degree I exult, even in this twilight realm, where there are completed compositions which sleep awhile, sleep for centuries it may even be, before they are awakened unto an audience.

My lot, then, is hopeless, but not serious.

When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.
—Dmitri Shostakovich [ note to self: try to confirm ]

14 September 2017

Auspicious beginnings

Monday evening, Triad made a good start with rehearsing the Gloria. Then, Tuesday evening, Carol Epple, Peter H. Bloom and I read through the Tiny Wild Avocadoes, the first time the wind version has sounded out, causing actual air molecules to vibrate.

The performances will be in October and November, and they will be excellent, if I do say so myself (as, I suppose, I just did).

henningmusick: Commuting here, commuting there

henningmusick: Commuting here, commuting there:
No actual writing yet today. Read through Nicodemus some three times, and also through the present state of just what everyone was expecting once. [14.ix.2012]
There was a time when just what everyone was expecting was still being written?  In a state when even the composer was expecting something?

Got together with an old friend to catch up over a nice dinner last night (the Great British Beer Company, in fact).  How pleasant for the composer, in bringing his friend up to date on musical activity over the last twelve months, to list (and tell the background stories of) the First Symphony, the Clarinet Sonata, and the revivification of the White Nights.

12 September 2017

And, next

Triad rehearsal last night.

k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble rehearsal tonight: the first try of the wind Avocadoes.

What thoughts I have this morning, Johannes, about the opening of your F Major symphony, and a piece in 6/4 which was conducted in 3/2, ostensibly for clarity, but which sucked all the musical life out. The Flattest Brahms in the Universe.  Something for which no conscionable musician would ever wish to be responsible.


Something I read this morning: “...150 previously-unreleased tracks....”

What I immediately thought: “Man, all 150 of those must be sooooo good....”

Dear composers,
Thank you for your patience. I’m sorry to say we were not able to program your piece this season. Choosing 15 from 750+ pieces was very hard, but I’m excited about the world of new music after having seen a slice of what you are doing. We’ll be announcing our season shortly, and we hope you will keep in touch and share your work with us again. 
Thank you and all the best!

11 September 2017

Checking in

Triad auditions yesterday;  first rehearsal of the season this evening.

Still awaiting word on the call which was to have been announced on the first (but for which we got the nice courtesy message).

The Cantata Singers invite me to sub for a spring concert, but I need to consider whether I really want all those late weeknights for so sustained a time.

09 September 2017

Knick knack, Packanack

Excellent rehearsal of the as-yet-not-world-renowned k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble tonight. Kurosawa’s Scarecrow sounds lovely, as does the flute duet, Neither do I condemn thee. We rehearse the Tiny Wild Avocadoes this Tuesday.
The composer was asked about:

1. The Scarecrow. The fact is that at the time, I believed I was simply exulting in the phonemic play, in the phrase “Kurosawa’s Scarecrow.” But not long after I coined the phrase, or at the least, formed that title, I watched for the second time The Seven Samurai. And my wondering eyes saw a scene in which an armored scarecrow was raised to draw fire from the attacking bandits. Of course, I had seen the movie a few years earlier for the first time, and I cannot, therefore, discount the possibility that the image, the idea, lodged somewhere in the Henning brain. (So many odd things do there lodge.) There the question rests.

2. Packanack Lake. It isn't as if the lake really meant that much to me, ever. There was a time in my life when I lived nearby, although I saw the lake more frequently reading the map that I did with my eyes. For our present purposes, there are two emotional notions. The first is that, bodies of water have always meant something to me, and this was one near to which I long resided, but which I did not know. I knew of it (savoir) but it was not familiar to me (connaître). The second is that the lake was part of my life, insofar as it was any part, at a curious in-between period in my experience...I had been graduated from high school, it was my ambition to go to college to study music, but I had no understanding of how I might do so, and I was simply working odd jobs. It was a kind of twilight in my life, but neither can I deny that the twilight is a romantic, suggestive, hopeful hour.

(That part of the world was never really home, was not to be mine.)

Watching for only the second time the episode “Requiem” of The Avengers. One of the changes which is crystallized in the introduction of the character of Mother is, Tara is borderline cruelly kept out of the loop, in a way which would have been unthinkable with Mrs. Peel, so that Tara is not really Steed’s colleague in the same way. Likewise, there is an element of girlish crush and jealousy on the part of Tara. To be clear, I am glad that the series continued, and I enjoy the Tara King episodes on their own merits. I suppose this is just a longhand acknowledgement that criticism of the post-Diana-Rigg Avengers is not hidebound fussiness.

07 September 2017

Past & Present

[As to the decisions I faced then (eight years ago today), what if that almost magnetic repulsion was all in my head?]

First HTUMC Choir rehearsal of the new season, this evening. The search for a new (and a finer) organist goes on; we have capable subs slotted in for this month and next, meanwhile. Our first on-duty Sunday is the 17th.

Many of the anthems which I have scheduled for September & October, we have sung more than once before; so there is a lot of rehearsal I can do which is just singing the part along with the choir. For my “torch song” version of I Want Jesus to Walk With Me (which we sang the last-ish Sunday before the choir disbanded for summer), and for Allen Webber’s arrangement of Come, Thou Font (on a tune which is not St James’s Air), I will have MIDI piano which I can play from my phone, via bluetooth, on a portable speaker. (No, but really.) We shall see how it goes.

Looking ahead, we may or may not be able to  mount a Christmas concert this year. If we find as able a musician as we intend, and as soon as we hope, even a new colleague installed as late as the beginning of November might be expected to manage. Against that hopeful possibility, I should start to assemble concert material this evening.

There is also a Plan B, in the form of a harpist whom I may recruit. Or, perhaps the concert should be a hybrid of Plans A & B.

Let me ponder ....