13 December 2017

The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition: Day 1

Back in the deeps of Time (as it now seems) the very first Zappa albums I bought, discovered in an out-of-the-way shack on Rte. 23, were Uncle Meat, Chunga’s Revenge, and Burnt Weenie Sandwich. I really did not know what I was in for. I had been introduced (partially) to Absolutely Free, We’re Only In It For the Money, and One Size Fits All. So uppermost, perhaps, the impression had been of unbridled buffoonery, especially in the lyrics.

Nothing of what my friends had until then played for me, prepared me for all of the (as I should now describe them) chamber music instrumental tracks, nor for the variety of tone and texture.  Nor was I previously aware of the “avant-garde doo-wop” element of Zappa’s discography, of which I got so representative a taste, on both Uncle Meat and the Sandwich.  It was all an astonishing sonic novelty, and I was a little surprised at myself, for taking to it so totally and immediately.

Thus it is that today’s track, to inaugurate this year’s celebration of the late, great Frank Zappa, must be:

Day 1, “Aybe Sea” (from Burnt Weenie Sandwich)

12 December 2017

Christmas concerts are a-coming

Excellent rehearsal yesterday with harpist Rocío Rodríguez.  We sorted out what the cl/hp component of the concert program will be;  and worked out the logistics of harp movement and lodging.

It will all seem something of a blur between now, and the close of Sunday’s concert.  And then, Sunday the 24th will be a blur.  But, all good blurs, I think.

Advent II post-mortem

Long day, yesterday [Sunday . . . going to press late].

Winter storm Saturday evening into Sunday, perhaps 5" of wet snow; so, two cars to clean off ere I might head off to church.  Needed to be at church early to set up the handbells.  Good service.  Grabbed a warm sub for lunch, counting on a long joint rehearsal. Good rehearsal, and ran as long as (but no longer than) I had anticipated.  Executed the three-stop grocery run.  Delivered the goods, in time to turn around and head to the four o’clock Master Singers concert.  The highlight, which indeed opened the program, was my dear friend Pam Marshall’s Shepherds & Angels, a 12-number suite for choir accompanied by harp, violin & tambourine. After the concert, met with the director, who apologized for not yet listening to the music I sent.  I assured him that I am alive to the busyness of the season;  he in turn affirmed that he doesn’t mind my reminding him.  I think I shall wait, either until after New Year’s, or when we have the latest Triad concert hoisted up to YouTube. On the way home, picked up the mono RCA cable (the miracle of Amazon locker), which proved exactly the thing wanted to get the sound from the telly to the sound bar.  Quite an impressive difference.  It was too late to start up Godfather III, so I contented myself with some of the videos from Genesis and We Can’t Dance.

There are only two items of Henningmusick on the docket for this weekend’s Christmas Concerts:  the revival (i.e., only the second performance ever) of Gabriel’s Message, my arrangement of the Basque carol for two baritones, small unison women’s chorus, flute and violin;  and the new Fantasy on « I Saw Three Ships » originally for cl/hp, but here for clarinet and piano.  The harpist had a struggle with the bug that’s making the rounds, so she was not able to spend practice time with it;  we’ll swap in something else, I am thinking of What Child Is This.  The flutist whom Charles hired is a bit . . . reactionary.  There’s a measure at the end which she seems unable to count (she inserts a beat of rest).  Charles tried rehearsing that wrinkle out, but she just would not get it.  And then she had the cheek to call the writing “awkward.”  I kept my own counsel, but I certainly thought of the proverb, “A bad workman blames his tools.”  “Awkward” is now become my second-favorite cloth-headed response to my music – the first being, of course, “The worst viola sonata in the world.”  I really don’t see that being displaced anytime soon.

09 December 2017

Adapting a Classic

For the memorial service for beloved HTUMC member Lucille Akin, her son requested a jazzy rendition of Just a Closer Walk With Thee.  The compositional work was done 26 November-ish, as recorded here.  (This is not today's performance.  This is from 5 Dec, but I did not want to publish it ahead of the service for which it was written.)


07 December 2017

Day's-end trivia

At a holiday lunch, the chap next to me asked (and it was not mere politeness, though it may be that my earlier visible disinterest, in the conversation about sports organizations, may have inspired the polite query) How's the music coming?

As I took 10 seconds to consider just how to narrow my answer, I realized that here was someone with whom I had not shared the fact that I completed my First Symphony earlier this year. So that was the Big News I selected for sharing.

“I don't know yet who will perform it, or when—but the piece is done.”

He allowed me to send him the MIDI mp3 playlist. The key may be He allowed me—it was not at all that he pressed me for the chance to listen.

Still: there's a chance he may. And, if he do, there's a further chance that his ear may take a fierce fancy to it.

It's possible.

No knowing, even so, if anything musical may result.  But, my work may touch yet another mind.

Last night, I dreamt that the adjective unmemorable was used of people who have difficulty ... difficulty ... hang on, it'll come to me ....


A Cookie Too Far

Here, plumb spang in the middle of re-reading the wonderful, beguiling, fu-fu-funny autobiography of Goshen's favorite son, Phil Proctor, I was ready to write the review.  It has posted to Amazon, but here, Seekers, is the Unexpurgated Version:

The Fortune Cookie That Got Away

It isn't enough to say, this is the More Sugar you've clamored for all these years. We've all yearned for that second tub of slaw, and here the justly celebrated and certified pre-cloned Philip Proctor has drawn the curtain at last to reveal the flaming Ford.

Has he told us too much? You'll never know until you follow the yellow rubber line to your seat. As we begin reading this Psychic, Psurrealistic Pstory with all its rich detail, the author's winning, humane tone (which grounds the elemental force of his quicksilver sense of humor), and with the seemingly inexhaustible cast with which the stage of his life has been peopled, the good Proctor's head-spinning autobiographical no-regrets vignettes have us by the thrusters.

My mind, too, by design owes more to the 4 or 5 Crazy Guys than my analyst could, without violating confidences, attest to, let alone relate. Had I stumbled upon the vast alien warehouse in which my several grammar schools have been tidily crated & stacked (and I know they have, I just haven't found the warehouse yet) the awe thus inspired would scarcely vie with the candid tour of his life whereon Phil P. leadeth us.

In writing his stories and novels, P.G. Wodehouse arranged his narrative so that the reader would be sure to find a laugh on every page. Mr. Proctor does this, and more; for I find not only amusement on each page, but something educative, as well. ("Unless you're careful," as my late Dad was wont to say, "you'll learn something new every day.")

With all good-faith attempt not to spoil anything for anyone – nowhere else, but in Gospodin Proctor's non-noir memoir, have I learnt:  the real purpose of Soviet-era movie-houses;  the flight path of Og's pants;  the true story behind "Yale Distorts";  how a theatrical professional copes with the irresistible reflex provoked by the appearance of a cross-eyed cat wrangler;  just how tough Vaughn Meader's luck was;  the product which an industry paid out $650K to bury forever – "Nasal Hipstick";  and much else which propriety and fairness to the author suggests I ought to leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to buy the book and find out for your own self.

All right, so I've absorbed a great load of learning, and was amused practically beyond human endurance in the process, but is it any use?  Is anything any use?  As Bartholomew Fayrsijn, the great Phleggmish philosopher and mutton confectioner argued, "Just dig a hole deep enough, and if you're not in orbit in those dark times then, when will you ever be?  Fuck you, too."  Sure, you could be sealed in a steel box just like Nino, but what chance do you stand of thinking your way out again, if you don't read this book?  Twenty years later, and it will still knock you out.

From here, the story is visualization.  Reading this book did what I asked of it, but it did far more, and we're still trying to put the kitchen garden back in order, a week later.  What did I expect of the book?  That it would fill me in on the History, Linear and Otherwise, of The Firesign Theatre;  that it would instruct me in a great deal else of Philip Proctor's activity, at least of all that has so far been declassified;  and that I would know more of Phil (I call him "Phil," though he'll wring my neck if he catches me at it) as a person, as a Mensch, как человек, as a result.  Well, seekers, I have been informed, at my hotel.  I was re-grooved, without the need of being taken away, no zizzing or dripping.  But if I expected a Groupon for appetizers for two and a pitcher of apple-cinnamon mojitos at Ernie's Chock-o'-Taqueria in San Clamarón, well, I've got another think coming, and I can wait.

If I have not yet left you with the semi-delible impression that this is the best book I have read this year, let me conclude with the straightest poop of all, an instance of instant inspiration from one of innumerable, hefty slices of life under which this literary pie plate groans so copiously.  We learn that Phil's maternal grandmother's family, the Stivers (this is in the chapter which, in an unauthorized pirate edition, was headed "Encounter in Goshen") were makers of furniture and coffins.  In a flash, it was revealed to me:  And what is a coffin, but the last piece of furniture you'll ever need?"

I read this book (I first saw it in the author's own hands, not in vain but in Washington, D.C.), I love it – the book, not the District – and I encourage any of you who can still read, at any time when you come down out of the tree where you've sat to learn how to play the flute, to read it and love it yourselves.

Read it, love it, read it again.

Karl Henning
Boston, Mass.

P.S./ [This does not appear in the review.]  Considering the running commentary on the radio shows which have been handed down to us via the Duke of Madness Motors release, about The Words You Can't Say on the Air – it is just too danged funny that the automated Amazon algorithm rejected my review for containing an allusive, Not Abusive!, "Fuck you, too!" Which of course were Principal Poop's stirring words in the wings of the Pep Rally.  Welcome to The Future!



06 December 2017

Love is the Spirit

. . . was first sung by the First Church Boston choir, under the direction of Dr Paul Cienniwa, eight years ago today.

Last night I dutifully practiced, and played through Just a Smoother Glide With Thee.  Yes, I shall practice some more.


05 December 2017

Radio Then (4.xii.2010)

[Seven years ago yesterday, thanks to Lance's kind generosity, a two-hour radio program was dedicated to my work. To my knowledge, there is no document of the event]

On Saturday, December 4, 2010, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, I [Lance G. Hill] will present a tribute to Boston composer and clarinetist KARL HENNING [on WPEL 96.5 FM, Montrose, PA]. Karl has an impressive background with his education having a double major in composition and clarinet performance for his bachelor’s degree from the College of Wooster in Ohio, his master’s degree in composition from the University of Virginia-Charlottesville, and his doctorate in composition from the University of Buffalo. His teachers included Charles Wuorinen and Louis Andriessen.  Karl has also served as a choral director in the Boston area. Among his premières is his 40-minute unaccompanied choral setting of the Saint John Passion, first performed in Boston. Karl has over 100 compositions with opus numbers at this time. He also spent time in Russia. It would be safe to say that he no doubt acquired much inspiration for his choral works after hearing the famous Russian choirs. Karl Henning is also a noted clarinetist and has performed in many venues playing his music and that of others. His own works are diversified and are given unique titles.

The music of Karl Henning will include the following repertoire:

♫ Lost Waters, Op. 27, Nos. 1-4 (complete) with Mary Jane Rupert, harpist ["Irving's Hudson," "Thoreau's Walden," "Whitman's Ontario," and "Carlos Williams' Passaic"

♫ Three Things that Begin with 'C' [Cats, Clouds, and Canaries], Op. 65a with Karl Henning, clarinet, and Peter Lekx, viola

♫ Murmur of Many Waters, Op. 57 with Gordon Stout leading the Ithaca College Percussion Ensemble

♫ Castelo dos anjos (Castle of  the Angels), Op. 90 with Boston vocal ensemble Tapestry

♫ Pascha nostrum, Op. 52a, Choir of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, Mass., Karl Henning, director

♫ Song of Mary, Op. 39b, Choir of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, Mass., Mark Englehardt, director

I offer information about Karl Henning at the outset of the broadcast.
The program can be heard anywhere in the world [via the livestream broadcast that day] if your computer is equipped with speakers and you adjust your time schedule to equate to 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. My usual descriptive dialogue about the artist or subject matter precedes the musical content.

I hope you will enjoy the program on Saturday, December 4, 2010, which is now heard across our great planet. I look forward to your comments, especially from those who hear the broadcast via the Internet. I am very pleased to know the program is being heard around the world including the entire United States. ♪


04 December 2017

These past several days

Thu:  Church choir rehearsal, the first at which our new organist has officially been our newly appointed organist.  With the approaching Christmas concerts, there is a lot of material in the folders.  However, two of the octavos we sang this past Sunday morning, and will not make further use of – so future rehearsal becomes a little easier.  We have a most welcome guest we are expecting for the Christmas Eve Lessons & Carols, and I should both select the additional material, and assemble a pack for said to guest to prepare.

Fri:  Went to MCC in Bedford for a Faculty Concert, heard Orlando play.  Altogether a fine show.  That said, MCC in Bedford appears to be an utter dead end for Henningmusick.

Sat:  Took the day off.  Well, almost entirely off:  started a new Christmas cl/org piece a Gavotte After « Il est né » Need to wrap this up soon, but I won’t lie – it is impossible to think about compositional progress this Monday morning.

Sun:  After church, a sleeves-rolled-up rehearsal for the Christmas concerts of 16 & 17 Dec.  The interludes which I composed (fl/vn/org) for Torches will be fine.  Good “re-acquaintance rehearsal” for Gabriel’s Message, too.

I think I have figured out how to get sound from the TV to the sound bar;  all that was needed, is the manual for the TV (to clarify the jacks on the reverse) and – now – the right sort of cable to connect the proper TV jack to the sound bar.  Although this was the original purpose for which I bought the sound bar, the appliance is already a success, as I can send music to it via Bluetooth.

What a wonderful world . . . .

Watched Vincent Price as guest villain “Egghead” on Batman last night (originally broadcast 19/20 Oct 1966).  Nelson Riddle’s (IIRC) music for this episode is a playful ingenious variation on “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”;  predictable, we might call it, but very well executed.

And, this week I complete my inaugural survey of the Langgaard string quartets.  High time, some may say.


30 November 2017

Seven Years Since (Considering the Viola Sonata, 30.xi.2010)

Not just for the obvious reason (pleasure in the fact that fellow musicians and music-lovers respond so favorably to the music) I greatly enjoy Leo Schulte's essay [reprinted on this blog here].

I've started to read Alexander Waugh's (yes, Evelyn's grandson) Classical Music: A New Way of Listening, and the lion's share of the chapter I read this morning was good discussion on meaning in music . . . which we could summarize by a caption to one of the chapter's illustrations, to the effect that Beethoven wasn't thinking of moonlight when he wrote his piece, but there's nought wrong with 'hearing' moonlight in it.

So at first, it surprised me when Leo wrote that he hears Berg in the opening. But once I set that surprise to one side, I saw where he hears that . . . in short, one of the aspects of the essay which I enjoy (and find instructive) is getting a sense of what an entirely different pair of ears (and eyes) finds in this piece of my own.

Very gratified that someone else is so fond of the Più mosso ancora . . . it probably fits the "schizoid" descriptor, but that section has layers which were carefully 'plotted' (I have fond memories of one evening in the staff lounge in the basement of the MFA as I worked on the more 'mechanical' aspects of it), and other layers of pure fancy, or fancy as nearly pure as my composition is capable of.


29 November 2017

Potpourri (not Popery)

Good nature, is good religion.
As to your joiner’s versatility, what is a coffin, really, if not simply the last piece of furniture you’ll ever need?
Exercise your brain each day. If you don’t, nobody does (your own, that is).
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

“Like dark-meat chicken,” Mr. Proctor said, “stringy and gummy.” Well, I may not always eat unidentified rat parts, but when I do, you can be sure they’re fried in Crisco! Poor man’s tempura, we call it.

Afterwards, what you need is not so much a palate cleanser, as a palate scourer.

The technological conundrum of our day seems to be: we build machines for consistency of performance, but their performance doesn’t appear at all consistent, does it?

Two foreign words which sound misleadingly innocent to an English speaker are skitsnack (Swedish for bullshit) and pappekak (Dutch, whence the anglicized poppycock), from Middle Dutch pappe “soft food” (see pap) + kak “dung.”

Humans: they have the capricious wilfulness of cats, only without the intelligence.

Idea for a monograph:  Actors who dont appear in a hit movies sequel, because they negotiated the new contract with a mistaken sense of how important they werent, to the project.

I’m not Amish, but I once dreamt that I’m Calmish. We were so poor those days, we didn’t have flies enough to make shoo-fly pie.

In sweetener news:  Big Sugar suppressed a study from 50 years ago connecting sugar to cancer; and a current study suggests a link between high-fructose corn syrup and opioid addiction.


28 November 2017

Back to scripting the Future

They're raising money to save a "clock tower," but ... the clock is not near, let alone on, a tower. I suppose that they would despair of raising funds to restore a Pediment Clock.

Maybe it's really a Twilight Zone movie ....


27 November 2017

The In-Laws [henningmusick: Compare & Contrast sine nomine]

henningmusick: Compare & Contrast sine nomine

Well, on the lines of this blog serving (me, at least) as something of a surprising remembrancer, here I have practically dated my fondness for the remake of The In-Laws.  And I stand by both my enduring fondness for the original, and the quirky-in-its-own-un-derivative-right remake.

Composition, you ask?  I have brought The Nerves into the graph paper dimension.

Watch me roar.


26 November 2017

Towards a Smoother Glide

This morning, I made some minor modifications to Just a Smoother Glide With Thee.  Starting tomorrow, I shall git practicing.

Last night, I watched The Wrong Man again. Hitchcock’s maxim was: Always make the audience suffer as much as possible. The suffering is a bit more acute in this one, knowing that it is based on the actual hellish experience of real people. This is only my second viewing, so this was the first time I appreciated Herrmann’s exquisitely delicate scoring in (e.g.) the scenes where Manny is losing Rose.

Although the periods/episodes were too irregular for the simile, my ears have over the years had a pendulum-ish experience with Moses und Aron. (And, as with the Berg Kammerkonzert, the pendulum at last came to enduring rest on the positive end.) But for a long-ish while, it would have been fair to say that I admired the opera, more than I enjoyed it. Now, I do genuinely enjoy it, although even so, it has been a work that I’ve gone to only when my ears were itching for it.

So, naturally, I revisited the opera last night, hopping in (perhaps capriciously) at Act II Scene 2, Wo ist Moses? For whatever posy of reasons, on this listen my ear is especially alive to Schoenberg the master colorist at work.

Well, let me speculate upon one reason:  my nascent work on The Nerves, somehow, has my ear piercing the Schoenberg score to a degree of specificity which is here new.  Given that Moses und Aron is a grand work, ambitious in compositional scope, I was apt to neglect all the passages of delicacy.  But this is nothing new, from (for instance) my familiarity with the Shostakovich Fourth Symphony.  So I have but learnt to move the lamp to a different angle, and lo, I see Schoenberg in  new light.

On the lines of High Time! I am listening to Martinů’s Ariane . . . in fact, I have a few of his operas which await my attention.

So much wonderful music, so little time.



25 November 2017

Don't Do the Hustle

One of the things which I find requires periodic vacation, is to relearn just walking.  Thus today, I went for a walk, a walk on which, through which, I gave no thought at all to anything I might do, when the walk was done.

The walk was not one item on a To Do List. I just walked.

Thus too, I went walking, not caring just when I might return home. In the matter of Time, it was a walk of pure Liberty.

There was no limitation of time. I just walked.

I walk a lot, even when there are the subtle ferrets fetters of something I am to do afterwards, sometime I need to be elsewhere. And there is value even in these perambulations.

But when I can just walk, there is the elated sense that nothing else in the world matters.


The Emancipation of the Winds

Early in October, somehow, I learnt of a clarinet choir based in Toronto.  On 9 Oct, I sent a query via their website, asking in essence if they would be interested in giving Misapprehension (the piece for clarinet choir in 15 parts, yet another piece awaiting its chance to be heard by an actual audience) a try.

A week later (which is to say, a perfectly decent interval within all courtesy) a representative of the group replied:
We're always interested in looking at new compositions. Could you send a few pages of the score and is there also a recording of the piece available? I can't promise that we'll be able to schedule a performance (especially a composition in 15 parts), but one never knows.
Which is a perfectly gracious and well-spoken invitation.  I began to compose a response, and would have sent right away, if the soundfile had been immediately accessible.  (Which it ought to have been, really.)

Anyway, Gentle Reader, I have at last sent, and (as ever) we shall see.  The bonus:  This has been an occasion to revisit the Op.112, and (an unsympathetic observer might suppose this is automatic, but no such matter) I think it tender, evocative, purposeful.  That is, I am puzzled why we have not found a group to perform it.

I am reminded that The Mystic Trumpeter is Out There, and abiding judgment.

So many puzzles.

This morning, The Nerves earned some more progress.  Delighted (in my revisitation of Misapprehension) to find that the new piece is completely distinct from other pieces of mine.  Pleased with the gradual progress.  My expectation is that the piece will reach a point of sufficient Self, that work can continue in parallel with resumption of The Daily Grind on Monday.


24 November 2017

Smoother Glide

In more somber news, our parish will have three funerals or memorial services in the coming weeks. For one memorial service, there was a request for an upbeat jazzy trombone solo, Just a Closer Walk With Thee. I consulted the Pastor, who reported that clarinet would do just fine. I have known this for two weeks and a half, but between laryngitis, the Triad concerts, and Thanksgiving, it is only this morning that I saw to the requisite composition.  Thus has been born the Op.146 № 6, Just a Smoother Glide With Thee.

By apparent chance the other day, I went from watching an episode from season 2 of Batman, with Shelly Winters as the “guest villainess,” Ma Parker, to Lolita, in which Shelly Winters is the widowed mother of the title vixen.  Nelson Riddle was a composer who did work on both projects.

23 November 2017

Walkies of thanks

The (or, A) thanksgiving place.

I’ve heard quite a bit of my music here, heard it before I committed it to paper (or to its electronic equivalent). Much of this music has yet been heard by no one apart from myself.

For all the good, I thank this sweet place.


For Thanksgiving, I betook me to a path along which I neer walked before.


It turned out (in only one, and not the most important, sense) to be a dead end.

More of The Nerves

For the joint HTUMC/2nd Congregational Church choir concerts—coming up in little more than three weeks—the last piece of the puzzle for which I was on the hook (and only by mine own consent, mind) was, a pair of instrumental interludes (flute, violin & organ) for the John Joubert Torches, from the Oxford Book of Carols.  This work, I got done with fair efficiency yesterday.

There is a request for Just a Closer Walk With Thee in an upbeat tempo.  Whether I may see to this today, or let it “cure” through today and do the work tomorrow, remains to be seen.

Yesterday’s work on The Nerves was largely (that is, not quite entirely) a matter of formalizing in the score some ideas I had in mind on Tuesday;  and I have made some more additions today.  All this work (we might say), and yet we have not quite 30 seconds of music to show for it.  But the work is accretive, and I am tightening what I had written before even as I gradually extend the canvas.

I am thinking half an hour-ish for the entire work (in four movements, as noted here).  So I am planning on The Nerves bristling for some 7 minutes.


20 November 2017

The Nerves, and The Nerve

Gentle Reader, in this very blog yesterday you may have read of the conceptual genesis of Karl’s Big (But Happily Incomplete) Map to the Body.  Mention was made that In the beginning was a musical Idea;  and I can report that part of my musical activity today was to start recording and building upon that Idea.  That is, I have begun composition of The Nerves in earnest,

Another task was, I sent an mp3 of MIDI realization of the flute/violin accompaniment to my 2015 arrangement of the Basque Carol to the instrumentalists involved.

Also, I broke out the individual tracks from my Tascam-recorded audio of the cracking Triad concert of last night.  (Soon, really.)

And sent Mr Gregory Brown, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at our Saturday program at Harvard-Epworth Chapel, the sound file of last night’s performance of his men’s choir arrangement of The Dying Californian.

And, mostly for fun (I have my doubts that it will be taken up) I am half done with a setting of Hodie Christus natus est, for choir SATB, three percussionists and piano, which is an adaptation of a passage from Intermezzo II from White Nights.

You know:  just because.



19 November 2017

Well, not yet

Last night's Triad concert was excellent, and I shall write more about that, only not just yet.
One of the uses to which I put this blog, Gentle Reader, is as a kind of remembrancer. I've formed an idea today, and I want to make note of it now, while it's fresh in mind—because holiday season is upon us, and this composer is liable to distraction.

So...I had a musical idea today for the first movement of a symphony for band. First, there was simply this abstract musical germ. Then, because (a) I do not at all mind extramusical suggestion, and (b) in the band world, it may help, I christened this movement The Nerves.
Not to make a tedious diagram of the process, I'll jump to the end.

The piece to be grandiosely titled Karl's Big (But Happily Incomplete) Map to the Body (Symphony N° 3 for band). In four movements:

1. The Nerves
2. The Heart
3. The Eyes
4. The Arms

Durations? Still mulling.


17 November 2017

henningmusick: Scheming the Avocado [17.xi.2014]

henningmusick: Scheming the Avocado:

AREA 3 of Illustration #2 I drew up on the flight from Atlanta back to Boston.  Well, AREA 2, as well, only I had gotten AREA 2 right, where I found that I had gotten realization of the viola part (i.e., the game of applying the rhythmic value series to the pitch series) wrong.  And though I discovered that I had gone wrong, and made an attempt to fix it ... I found it something of a visual mess.  So I inscribed it RE-DO (as you may see), and realized that I could simplify the matter with a sheet of graph paper.  (This graph paper was in my three-ring binder from the time that I was working out the rhythmic profile of the Thelonious Monk tune "Evidence.")
The result is the apparently not musical, but refreshingly clear and reliable, Illustration #3....
Three years since, then, I had lately returned from Atlanta, and even laid in some Avocado work on the flight home to Boston.

Last night, we had a most enjoyable choir rehearsal at Holy Trinity Church.  It is that time of year when we face the (most welcome) Thanksgiving hiatus, and must take thought for afterwards, as the Christmas concert loometh.  Still a number of decisions, covering details which may not be musical, may not be great, but which want to be attended to.

I also rehearsed my Prelude on « Kremser » with (while the ongoing appointment is not yet quite official, it is already apt to call her) our new organist.  Just the fact that I can play some of my music with the organist, is already a refreshing (and not at all unreasonably asked for) change.

The voice, you ask?  Well, better and better.  I doubt I can sing the entire Triad concerts this weekend, but perhaps I can do a reasonable job playing the Dying Californian. (There is a double meaning in that.)



16 November 2017

Cracking wise

The first thing that needs saying is, Beethoven never did me any injury. I cannot remember a time when I did not find his music inspiring.

It is many years, too, since I first heard Wendy Carlos's electronic realizations of and elaborations upon "the glorious Ninth" of "Ludwig van." It would be foolish of me to pretend that some molecules in the present formula do not owe something to that wicked clever example.

Most immediately, I suppose, is the remix I created of a handbell choir rehearsal take of Charles Turner's arrangement of The Hebrew Children. The idea-question formed, What if I applied this method to an object of The Literature?

As with the Turner, I gravitated intuitively to an example which I like. In hindsight, affection for the source material is probably a prerequisite for the musical success of the result.

Without further ado, my repurposing of a stone-cold classic:

15 November 2017

The music of resisting forgetfulness

Through the miracle of finding, in a drawer, my card, which I wasn't looking for, today I learn that I have been a member of ASCAP since 2001.  The lesson is: you can learn things about yourself, all the time, each day (perhaps) if you only allow yourself the freedom of non-remembrance.

This Sunday just past, at the choir rehearsal prior to the service, the Pastor enthusiastically shared with me a suggestion for improving the flow of the service (a general suggestion, not something requiring action that morning) by having the choir sing a short response before the Invitation to the Offertory.  From time to time I have considered, not for any specific purpose but only as a general matter) adding such a choral response—by which I do not mean at all to rob the Pastor of his thunder, I only mean that I was predisposed to receive such a suggestion favorably.  Another fine idea on his part was, that it not necessarily be a single fixed number.

Remembering the regular use which the late Bill Goodwin made of the Dresden Amen at First Congo in Woburn, I looked for that in a hymnal, found also the classic Danish Amen . . . and my inner ear generated a monophonic three-fold Amen in Eb.  I took some mental time to compose it out.

I did not have pencil and paper to hand (not that it would have required great effort to scare them up) so I made the decision not to worry about recording it then, but trusted either that I would remember (notwithstanding rather a distracted busy day-to-day experience, Gentle Reader) or that it is not worth remembering.  That last is admittedly too harsh a notion:  music relies on the favorable inclination of the recipient.  And there are many pieces which we hated the first time we heard it, but which afterward become especial favorites.

In any event, yesterday evening I did recall both the Project, and this not-as-yet-notated Amen of my own.  Now, I am not saying that it is anything especially memorable;  only that with very slight mental effort, I ceased to have forgotten it.

On Sunday, our doughty handbell choir rang my modest arrangement of the hymntune Tuolumne.

08 November 2017

What I was working on four years ago [henningmusick: A duo done]

henningmusick: A duo done:
Yesterday, I finished (at long last, we might even say) the clarinet and marimba duet, just what everyone was expecting, five-minute jazz-ish (I have to add that -ish, lest I field accusations of trying to practice jazz without a license) flurry of energy for the two players.  The piece had lain largely finished since mid-September, at which time I needed to concentrate not only on practicing for the October recital at King's Chapel, but on writing a short piece for Peter & myself to play.  As I was writing that piece (Zen on the Wing) I formed the idea of a trio (title yet to be settled upon), concluding a set of three subset duos, the four pieces all together to comprise the Op.114.
So (you see where this is going), if four notes be a start, I have started a flute/marimba duet, Feeling the Burn, a piece with as yet no home.
Ah, Feeling the Burn (Bicycling Into the Sun) . . .  I do not think it has gotten past those four notes, and I shall probably discard those, and start afresh.

I mean, when I do start afresh.



07 November 2017

Another arrow

Although it feels a bit like Charlie Brown imagining that he actually gets to kick the football, at last, this time . . . I have sent The Mystic Trumpeter to a call for chamber scores.  Take it, Gentle Reader, as read that I have reviewed the score and even the first performance, and I continue to stand by my work.

Very good Triad rehearsal last night.  In a good place, so to speak, with our Preview Performance this Sunday, and then a final rehearsal a week from last night, before the official concerts.

I mean, a good place, with the expectation that my singing voice will be ready to take part this Sunday.


04 November 2017

Poised for recovery

Largely over the laryngitis;  the vocal folds are not yet equal to the demands of singing.  Which must mean that even plain speech could, if overdone, be a strain.  Which is why I am less voluble than is quite my wont these days.

Per yesterday’s post (which I had actually pretty much composed on Thursday) I did draw up the harp part for Rise Up Early;  most of the work, indeed, I did up in Burlington while waiting on the oil change for the Civic.

This may mean that my work for the Christmas concert is done means that probably the only other composition-ish work to do for the Christmas concert, is the instrumental interludes for Torches.

The combination of (only a little prematurely) feeling at renewed liberty, and having met fellow composer Aaron Jay Myers for a cup of coffee yesterday evening, set me to beginning a fanciful trio for clarinet, electric guitar and violin, Mysterious Irritants.

And I am thinking of submitting The Mystic Trumpeter to a call for scores, only I must learn if Clarinet in Bb truly means that it must not be Clarinet in A.



03 November 2017

Those Ships Three

Wednesday night, I wrapped up the cl/hp arrangement of I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day, a brief (if colorful) two-minute piece to serve as an intermezzo for our Christmas concert programs. Against the apparent ‘stasis’ of the piece remaining in A (and at about a forte) throughout, there is the rhythmic device of switching from 6/8 to a sort of Double in 2/4. Will report when the harpist & I have a chance to read together.

That accomplished, I then addressed what I somehow felt was the most nearly challenging task on the What Our Harpist Needs to-do list.

Last year, one of the successful novelties in our Christmas concert was a cheerful Carolyn Jennings octavo, Sing Merrily a Song. The choir is unison for most of it, the last few pages have the choir in two parts, with an optional third.  Apart from the piano accompaniment, the octavo has indications for a flute (but no separate flute part appears to be provided, or available) and for “bells or glockenspiel (very light). Last year, then, I created the flute part (so that our enthusiastic young flutist would not wrestle with reading from score, no, no, no) and I added (what I consider) a proper handbell choir complement, 9 ringers.

Well, my idea this year was to add the harp. Im not saying that this task was absolutely ‘more work’ than my own arrangement of I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day, but it has to fit properly into an already-existing octavo.

This is feeling like just about work enough for our doughty harpist ... will add harp to one more of the choirs pieces, an arrangement of a Slovak carol, Rise Up Early, and that will do it. This work, I'll see to early-ish Saturday.


01 November 2017

henningmusick: Quiet Beginnings—Ninth Anniversary

henningmusick: Quiet Beginnings


November the first, 2008, saw the dawn of this here blog.  The composer cannot claim to have been the most consistent of bloggueurs, but when he blogs, he means it.

The purpose of the blog, you ask? Gentle Reader, I suppose the primary purpose is to chronicle new compositions and fresh performances. Even in this, it must be conceded, the composer has not always posted when there has (in fact) been news.

Not at all certain that I can promise, as any steady thing, to undertake to do better.  But the blog does go on.

The really important item to note, of course, is that I continue to compose; that is, both that I continue in the practice of composition, and that my work waxes better and better. The larger Environment of the Music Industry does not suffer me any particular encouragement;  this is nothing new.  The composer has found spiritual means to pursue his work for his own reasons, and upon his own terms.

So let us cheerfully affirm:  Damn the Industry!

Full steam ahead.


31 October 2017

henningmusick: Proofing! — The Sheeply Corrigenda (31.x.2013)

henningmusick: Proofing!


Although one might argue that I am merely making more work for myself . . . it turns out that this supposedly-additional task is proving greatly added value, as I find several errors in my adaptation.

Probably, I am enjoying this entire process more than some right-thinking people could quite endorse . . . .


And, another piece which (a) when I look at and (in my mind's ear) listen to it, my heart exults in having written it, yet (b) remains completely unperformed.

Still mending from the laryngitis. Sunday I began the cl/hp arrangement of I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day. I also met the music director of a nearby community chorus.

And there was evening. And there was morning.



27 October 2017

henningmusick, A Year Ago Today: First Movement Done

henningmusick: First Movement Done



The first movement is done. 
I may wait a couple of days before starting the second movement. 
Or, I may not.


Yesterday was the first anniversary of completion of the first movement of the Henning First. I shan’t apologize for continuing to exult therein.



When will someone perform it? We do not yet know. The question was rhetorical, but nothing negative.  In fact, there is something of an exciting mystery in not knowing, when one is free from any anxiety attached to that lack of knowledge.



Not to say that I do not care whether it is performed—certainly I do. But the act of composing the Symphony was not a dare to the Universe, so that my sense of fulfillment depends on the Universe’s rapid and positive response.  I wrote the piece for joy in feeling musically capable of writing it, joy in the sound which I know would be the result if fine musicians perform, joy in a good job done.



This year, the composer is mending from a bout of laryngitis. The good news is, that it did not strike the week of (nor the week before) a concert. Rehearsing my church choir last night was an interesting experience.



Monday I should certainly attend the Triad rehearsal, though I have no lively expectation that my voice will be ready—my part in the rehearsal (as a singer) will be mental.



Ah, the gloom of October mornings! Over the years, I have accumulated much experience, in the activity of getting the corporeal Henning to work in this annual October gloom. It is my considered opinion that nothing dispels that pall with anything like the surgical effectiveness of listening to a Haydn symphony.



And if you don’t believe me, just try it.




26 October 2017

A happy homonym

Originally – we’re talking many long years ago – I fundamentally misunderstood the expression “natural high.”  I thought it meant when someone greets you in a way that is not forced, obligatory, or otherwise constrained, but in a way that expresses that he is really pleased to meet or to see you: a natural hi.  Well, so I was a teenager then, all right.


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.