29 December 2017

henningmusick addendum: 2017 Henningmusick Performances

henningmusick: 2017 Henningmusick Performances

But, ladies & gentlemen, we have a late addition:

24 Dec 2017 Fantasy on « I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day », Op.146 № 4 (trumpet & organ version); Jonathan Swygert & al., Atlanta, GA

... and (just like me) of course I neglected to include:

31 Dec 2017 New Year’s Carol, Op.142 № 2; HTUMC Choir; Danvers, MA

... and possibly with our young flutist playing the obbligato.

So, Gentle Reader, in spite of the fact that November was Laryngitis Month, and that my own participation was reduced for a crucial while, I found the Triad concerts to be possibly our strongest musical outing yet.  I was still out of commission for (and conducted two pieces only, i.e. did not sing at all, at) the 12 November Preview Concert in Beverly.  The experience of singing the program for an audience that day, gave us musical targets for Monday evening’s subsequent rehearsal.  My voice was sufficiently recovered that I could sing for the concerts on the 16th and 17th, although it was rather out of rehearsal, and my own personal performance was probably not all I should wish.  But the level of the group for the two "main" concerts was exceptionally good, I felt.

27 December 2017

Soon the year is done

Sunday being New Year's Eve, the choir are set to sing my arrangement (unison choir) of the New Year's Carol.  This morning I prepared an optional flute obbligato, on the chance that our talented teenage flutist may wish to join in the fun.

Neither of my big chamber music dreams for next year is enjoying a smooth sail, and this in spite of my being unusually early with prep.  One key performer for each of the April and October programs has (with grace and courtesy) had to withdraw from the endeavor. I do have time to arrange alternates (and, in fact, have a substitute already for the April project, Heart So White).

The Saturday, 16 November Triad concert's video and audio has at last come in. So soon I should really, truly, at last blog my report of the event.

26 December 2017

Day 13 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition (Belated!)

This has something of an implication (the title) of rewarding a section violinist for borderline-uncooperative behavior.  But again:  What are you gonna do?

I did not post yesterday, as I spent a bit more time driving through a snow squall that was a bit more stubborn, than expected.  And then, when my road was clear, in Connecticut there was wind shear.  But I made it, only about an hour later than planned, and in safety, and I enjoyed a very merry Christmas.

Hope you all did, too.  Dont make Lucy sashay over there.

Day 13, “Lucy’s Seduction of a Bored Violinist” (from 200 Motels)

24 December 2017


This is Karl Henning, and all my stockings are hung by the chimney with care. I'm out of the office until Tuesday the 2nd, and if you leave a message, we'll both wonder why.

Day 12 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

Do what you want to, do what you will;
Just don’t mess up your neighbor’s thrill.

’Tis almost as if he wrote it, then, for America in 2017; and thus ’tis especially apt for the Night Before Christmas.  They just takes care of #1, and #1 ain’t you—you ain’t even #2.

On 23 Dec 1960, The Twilight Zone aired a Christmas story, “The Night of the Meek,” quite an affecting tale with the principal acting done by Art Carney.  This is one of a relatively few stories from the iconic series, to be refreshed for the second series in the ’80s (and itself broadcast 20 Dec 1985).

Zappa wrote his little ditty in or near 1980, but it remains evergreen, because (as with “The Night of the Meek”) the actors may change, but the story remains the same.

Day 12, “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing” (from You Are What You Is)

23 December 2017

Scraps of Firesignage

“Don’t be stuck with leftover dreams in the terrible days to come!” (Give Me Immortality, or Give Me Death!)

“... these sensuous cyborgs can be pleasant companions for your everyday business, household, and even your personal—and I mean very personal—needs!” (Bride of Firesign)

“So give yourself a break: unbutton your jeans, drop your workload, and take the time to watch what the people are watching.” (Just Folks: A Firesign Chat)

“Eat fascist death flaming media pigs!” (In the Next World, You’re on Your Own)

“They conversed inexplicably with an ancient cockroach in a sombrero they knew instantly to be Don Brújaja.” (Everything You Know Is Wrong)

“Too bad, Steve, but thats our little joke:  the dog isn’t for sale.” (Not Insane)

“We know for certain, for instance, that for some reason for some time in the beginning, there were hot lumps.” (I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus)

“Will the real Dr. Pederman please report to neurosurgery immediately.” (Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers)

“It had been snowing in Santa Barbara ever since the top of the page ....” (The Further Adventures of Nick Danger)

“I won’t take any more credit for this victory than necessary.” (Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him)

Day 11 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

Probably, the horse is long out of the barn on this one.  The phrase “freak out” is (practically without exception, by now) used as a colorfully intensive synonym for panic.

But it wasn’t like that in the beginning.  In L.A. in the early ’60s, the freaks were (what will not be a surprise) the youths (and “non-square” adults) who expressed resistance to Social Conformity—think Leave It to Beaver (and if you do not remember Leave It to Beaver, God bless you)—in their dress and grooming.  So that when Zappa coined the term Freak Out! and used it as the title of the first Mothers album, its meaning was more on the lines of “exult in your otherness.”

As not infrequently happens, the phrase (or other Object) goes out into the world, has a life of its own, and wanders (sometimes far, far away) from its original meaning and context.

What are you gonna do?

To speak of the album itself . . . I had a, I do not say troubled, but rather rocky history with it.  My Zappa-head friend from of old certainly had the original double-LP, and I think it quite likely that she played “Help, I’m a Rock” for me.  Fast forward to the Compact Disc Era, and the Rykodisc issue of Freak Out! on a single CD was among my earliest digital music purchases.

And the album failed to thrill me.  I freely confess it.

The remastered MOFO Project/Object release was another matter entirely, however.  The thrills abound.

So there (and here) it is.

Day 11, “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here” (from Freak Out!)

22 December 2017

Day 10 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

The allure of “Rollo” . . . Day 10

21 December 2017

2017 Henningmusick Performances

Even if we call it 'a mixed bag,' it is a year for which any composer must be grateful.  The count is 42 performances for the year.

Why a mixed bag?  Only 8 of the 42 were performances in which I personally did not participate, which seems to me a downtick from 2016.  (That feeling may be mistaken.)

That one (not insignificant) question aside, that my music saw 42 performances in the year is a gladsome thing.  And it includes 14 premières; most of these (to be sure) are modest pieces enough, but they are headed by the Gloria from the Op.106 Mass.

2017 Performances:

1 Jan 2017 New Year's Carol, Op.142 № 2 (première);  HTUMC Choir;  Danvers, MA

8 Jan 2017 Brightest and Best, Op.139 № 1;  HTUMC Choir;  Danvers, MA
26 Feb 2017 Alleluia in D, Op.48;  HTUMC Choir;  Danvers, MA
24 Mar 2017 Mistaken for the Sacred , Op.141a (première);  The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble;  Somerville, MA
24 Mar 2017 Oxygen Footprint, Op.138a;  Ensemble Aubade;  Somerville, MA
24 Mar 2017 Zen on the Wing, Op.114 № 2;  Peter H. Bloom & Karl Henning;  Somerville, MA
24 Mar 2017 just what everyone was expecting, Op.114a;  Karl Henning & Thomas Stumpf;  Somerville, MA
24 Mar 2017 Sound + Sight, Op.140;  The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble;  Somerville, MA
7 Apr 2017 Oxygen Footprint, Op.138a;  Ensemble Aubade;  Jacksonville, IL
8 Apr 2017 Oxygen Footprint, Op.138a;  Ensemble Aubade;  Des Moines, IA
9 Apr 2017 Kingsfold, Op.35; HTUMC Choir;  Danvers, MA
9 Apr 2017 The Woman at the Well, Op.142 № 6 (première);  Marissa Bell, HTUMC Handbell Choir;  Danvers, MA
11 Apr 2017 Oxygen Footprint, Op.138a;  Ensemble Aubade;  Warrensburg, MO
13 Apr 2017 O Traurigkeit, Op. 142 № 7 (première); HTUMC Choir;  Danvers, MA
16 Apr 2017 Song of the Empty Tomb, Op.142 № 8 (première);  Marissa Bell, HTUMC Handbell Choir;  Danvers, MA
30 Apr 2017 Alleluia in D, Op.48;  HTUMC Choir;  Danvers, MA
21 May 2017 God the Omnipotent, Op.139 № 1a; HTUMC Choir;  Danvers, MA
21 May 2017 America the Beautiful, Op.142 № 3 (première); HTUMC Handbell Choir;  Danvers, MA
21 May 2017 Love is the spirit, Op.85 № 3; First Church Boston Choir;  Boston, MA
3 June 2017 I Want Jesus to Walk With Me, Op. 126 № 2 (première); Diamonds From the Dust;  Worcester, MA
25 June 2017 I Want Jesus to Walk With Me, Op. 142 № 9 (première); HTUMC Choir;  Danvers, MA
25 June 2017 America the Beautiful, Op. 142 № 3; HTUMC Handbell Choir;  Danvers, MA
25 June 2017 Pavane (Memories of Packanack Lake), Op. 142 № 10 (première); HTUMC Handbell Choir;  Danvers, MA
20 Aug 2017 Oxygen Footprint, Op.138;  Ensemble Aubade;  Weston, VT
10 Oct 2017 Tiny Wild Avocadoes, Op.125a (première);  The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble;  Boston, MA
10 Oct 2017 Neither do I condemn thee, Op.132;  Carol Epple &al Peter H. Bloom;  Boston, MA
10 Oct 2017 Kurosawa's Scarecrow (Memories of Packanack Lake), Op.145 (première);  The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble;  Boston, MA
22 Oct 2017 Precious Lord, Op. 139 № 4;  Choir of St Paul's Episcopal Church;  Delray Beach, FL
22 Oct 2017 I Want Jesus to Walk With Me, Op.142 № 9; HTUMC Choir;  Danvers, MA
22 Oct 2017 Rendez à Dieu, Op.146 № 2; HTUMC Handbell Choir;  Danvers, MA
24 Oct 2017 Oxygen Footprint, Op.138;  Ensemble Aubade;  Easton, MA
12 Nov 2017 Tuolumne, Op.146 № 3; HTUMC Handbell Choir;  Danvers, MA
12 Nov 2017 Gloria, Op.106 № 2 (première);  Triad;  Beverly, MA
18 Nov 2017 Gloria, Op.106 № 2 (première);  Triad;  Cambridge, MA
19 Nov 2017 Prelude on « Kremser », Op.66a; kh & Barbara Otto;  Danvers, MA
19 Nov 2017 Gloria, Op.106 № 2 (première);  Triad;  Somerville, MA
9 Dec 2017 Just a Smoother Glide With Thee, Op.146 № 6 (première);  kh;  Danvers, MA
16 Dec 2017 Fantasy on « I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day », Op.146 № 4 (première);   kh & Barbara Otto;   Beverly, MA
16 Dec 2017;  Gabriel's Message (Basque Carol) , Op.126 № 7;  Rachel Wimmer, Jean Antrim, Charles Turner, Anne Bennett, Laureen Crosby, Brenda Ferris & Karl Henning.;  Beverly, MA
17 Dec 2017 Fantasy on « I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day », Op.146 № 4 (première);   kh & Barbara Otto;  Danvers, MA
17 Dec 2017;  Gabriel's Message (Basque Carol) , Op.126 № 7;  Rachel Wimmer, Jean Antrim, Charles Turner, Anne Bennett, Laureen Crosby, Brenda Ferris & Karl Henning;  Danvers, MA
24 Dec 2017 Fantasy on « Aberystwyth », Op.3;   kh & Barbara Otto;  Danvers, MA

Day 9 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition—The Birthday Day

For FZ’s 77th birthday, let us hie back unto the legendary Centerville Recreational Facility.  When did I first learn that Jeff was stealing the towels?

It was a magickal spring in NoVa, 1988 it may have been, and a chance walk-in at a strip-mall budget bookstore.  Yes, it was there that (of course) I riffled through a shoebox of cassette tapes (one bearing the inscription “To Bebe w/ love—Dick”) when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a double-long cassette of the 200 Motels soundtrack.  I don’t say that my girlfriend at the time didn’t think I was crazy;  but then, there are reasons she ain’t my girlfriend no more.

Could this have been the first I was aware of Theodore Bikel?  Very probably, very probably.  And now, one more benediction for the world.

Day 9, “Strictly Genteel” (from 200 Motels)

20 December 2017

Henningmusick – the Year in Review

2017 was a banner year, compositionally speaking:

  • POW!  Finished the Symphony № 1 in January
  • POW!  Finished the Clarinet Sonata in June
  • POW!  Resumed work – in significant measure – on White Nights this summer

Let's go to the tape:

Symphony № 1, Op.143; picc, 2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, b cl, 2 bn, 2 hn, 2 tp, 2 tenor tn, b tn, ta, timp, 2 prc (vibes, marimba), strings; duration: 25'. Oct 2016 (1st mvt), Dec 2016 (2nd mvt), Jan 2017 (3rd mvt)
Voglio che Gesù camminerebbe con meco, Op.142 № 4;  handbell choir; duration: 3'00. Jan 2017
Psalm 51, Op.142 № 5;  unison mixed choir; duration: 4'00. Feb 2017
Mistaken for the Sacred, Op.141a;  2 fl, hn, fixed media; duration: 7'15. Mar 2017
The Woman at the Well, Op.142 № 6;  flute, handbell choir, frame drume; duration: 4'00.  Mar 2017
O Traurigkeit, Op. 142 № 7;  choir SATB, clarinet in A, organ;  duration:  3'30.  Mar 2017
Song of the Empty Tomb, Op.142 № 8;  flute, handbell choir;  duration:  5'00.  Mar 2017
Nun of the Above, Op.144; cl, gtr, db; duration: 5'00.  Apr 2017
« Boulez est mort » (Wounding Silence), second mvt of the Clarinet Sonata, Op.136; cl, pf; duration: 9'45.  Apr 2017
Unanticipated Serenity, third mvt of the Clarinet Sonata, Op.136; cl, pf; duration: 2'30.  Apr 2017
Things Like Bliss, version 1, Op.137 № 1f; cl & hp; duration: 4'30.  May 2017
sand dance, Op.137 № 5; cl & hp; duration: 1'00.  May 2017
America the Beautiful, Op.142 № 3;  handbell choir; duration: 2'30.  May 2017
I Want Jesus to Walk With Me, Op.142 № 9;  unison choir, pf; duration: 3'00.  May 2017
Ambiguity & Overlap (Something or other, if not something else entirely), fourth mvt of the Clarinet Sonata, Op.136; cl, pf; duration: 4'00.  May 2017
Ear Buds (The dream of a young man in the woods, listening), Op.135a; orchestra; duration: 9'30.  June 2017
After a reading of "The Mysterious Stranger," fifth mvt of the Clarinet Sonata, Op.136; cl, pf; duration: 8'00.  June 2017
Pavane (Memories of Packanack Lake), Op.142 № 10;  handbell choir; duration: 3'00.  June 2017
O Gracious Light, Op.50d;  mixed choir SATB, string quartet, pf;  duration: 8'00.  June 2017
White Nights, Scene viii: At the Opera, Op.75 № 11;  orchestra; duration: 9'00.  July 2017
White Nights, Scene ix: Nastenka's Story Continued, Op.75 № 12;  orchestra;  duration: 7'30.  July 2017
White Nights, Scene x: The Lodger Has Returned From Moscow, But…., Op.75 № 13;  orchestra;  duration: 2'45.  July 2017
White Nights, Intermezzo II, Op.75 № 14;  orchestra;  duration: 6'00.  July 2017
Kurosawa's Scarecrow (Memories of Packanack Lake), Op.145;  fl, alto fl, cl, hn & fixed media;  duration: 12'40.  Aug 2017
Kurosawa's Scarecrow (Memories of Packanack Lake), Op.145a;  string quartet & fixed media;  duration: 12'40.  Aug 2017
The last man to come to the vineyard to work, Op.146 № 1;  clavichord solo; duration: 0'30.  Sep 2017
Rendez à Dieu, Op.146 № 2;  handbell choir; duration: 3'00.  Sep 2017
Tuolumne, Op.146 № 3;  handbell choir; duration: 3'00.  Sep 2017
Fantasy on « I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day », Op.146 № 4;  clarinet & harp; duration: 3'00.  Nov 2017
Just a Smoother Glide With Thee, Op.146 № 6;  clarinet unaccompanied; duration: 3'00.  Nov 2017

Even allowing for all the arrangements and/or church occasional pieces, there is substantial musical work laid in here.

More to write next year, of course.

Day 8 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

Music of Mystery – the story goes that there was an unaccompanied choral setting of a penitential Psalm, a setting of such exquisite beauty that the Pope (apparently) wished to keep the piece solely as the musical property of the Sistine Chapel Choir, and transcriptions of the piece were forbidden.  The music was composed in the early 16th century, and only three copies of the work were authorized prior to 1770 – two of these, to royalty.  The secrecy of the piece was at last exploded when a musically precocious youth, who was in the Vatican for the proper liturgical performance of this Psalm, wrote it down entirely from his ear’s memory later that same day.

The piece is the Miserere of Gregorio Allegri;  and the precocious youth was, of course, Mozart.

What does this have to do with the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression?  Who knows?  Who cares? . . .

Day 8, “Variations on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression” (from Shut Up ’n’ Play Your Guitar)

19 December 2017

Day 7 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

I was not angry since I came to France
Until this instant. Take a harmonica, herald....
Henry Fift

Recall that One Size Fits All was one of the first Zappa LPs to which my ears were introduced, and that one of the signatures of that thoroughly excellent album (to use an arcane term from the Old Speech) was the guest appearance of Johnny “Guitar” Watson, on “San Ber’dino.”  Later, in darkest Buffalo, one of the rays of light was discovering his return engagement on today’s commemoration.  We cannot wait till we go back . . .

Day 7, “In France” (from Them or Us)

18 December 2017

And you thought they said Revenge should be sweet

A number of my friends saw either The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones (or both), and one result of the tedium and/or vexation of the experience is, they will never, under any circumstances, spend time watching Revenge of the Sith.  I shall never suggest that they are “wrong,” that they “must” watch Episode III.  (And, think about it:  a movie titled “Attack of the Clones.”  Search your feelings, and you will know it must be drivel.)

I have not watched (nor ever will) either Episode I or II;  with that qualification, Revenge of the Sith was easily the weakest Geo. Lucas screenplay I have ever endured.  (I might have written “easily the weakest Star Wars screenplay,” but why pretend that it is anything other than Lucas’s artistic weakness?)

Let it possibly sound silly, but I’ll go ahead and write that I am sure Lucas is not a bad chap.  There is a winning transparency as he tells us that when he set out writing the first Star Wars script, his research largely included Joseph Campbell’s writings on mythology.  So insofar as the Star Wars writing relies on tried-&-true mythic archetypes, it kind of works;  but that research does not go any real distance towards making the researcher a playwright.  Witness Harrison Ford’s famous rebuke of Lucas-cum-screenwriter:  “You can type this shit, George, but you can’t speak it.”

It may be worth drawing something of a parallel:  even as Bob Dylan made himself an enormous success as a singer, despite (shall we say) shortcomings in his singing technique, Geo. Lucas’s deficit as a writer has in no way interfered with his stratospheric success.

That said, what are some of the egregious deficits in evidence in Revenge of the Sith?

At many turns, the dialogue does not rest on a firm framework of prior artistic decisions, but is just “Something which it sounds good for this character to say, at this point in the script.”  Examples:

Obi-Wan Kenobi chides Anakin, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” (which, one observes, sounds rather like an absolute).  Later, when Obi-Wan – I don’t mean for Obi-Wan to sound like a nag here – charges him with having turned to evil, Darth Vader (the nascent Sith) volleys back, “In my view the Jedi are evil.” I defy you to find a more self-servingly relativistic riposte in cinema.

When the Chancellor wishes Anakin to be his eyes and ears at the Jedi Council, he’s just asking Anakin to spy, and Anakin raises no objection in the least.  But when the Jedi tell Anakin that they need to know the Chancellor’s intentions, the Skywalker dudgeon rises to a high point:  that request that he spy on the Chancellor is a betrayal of all his Jedi principles!

The characters cannot be expected to make up their minds, if the writer of their dialogue has not.

A topic which is no doubt treated in greater depth by others, elsewhere, must receive passing remark here:  the cardboard-cutout “romance” between Padme and Anakin cannot be taken seriously.  Not as it is written.  Of course, given the “mythic arc” of the story – they are the parents of the hero & heroine of Episodes IV–VI! – there has to be a “romance,” or else Luke & Leia are the progeny of mechanical sex. (“R2-D2, you are needed in the Naboo Strip Club, stat.”)  There is the odd element which (be fair) rings true within the story, e.g.:  Anakin is immature, which is why he is such low-hanging fruit for the Chancellor (but then, don’t expect us to feel much of anything when the Padme-Anakin relationship withers on the vine).  I want to say that Anakin here is not much more than a cartoon character, but Jessica Rabbit reveals greater emotional depth.  “Honey, you’re carrying my unborn child, but I’m going to use the power of the Force to throttle you, and afterwards I’m going to rage that I knew you were still alive when I left your body limp on the landing pad. Love oodles, your devoted Ani.”

(I do wish that Obi-Wan sounded less passively whiney.  Clearly, he’s going to need that 20-year isolated hermitage on Tatooine.)

If Revenge of the Sith, were a stand-alone, I should think rather less of it than I do.  Since (by design, though not all even of these decisions were artistically sound) it points us to the 1977 movie, I pretty much enjoyed it, the numerous flaws notwithstanding.

At times, the mission of “Setting Up A New Hope” gets a little excessive:  we see Vader and the Emperor admiring the Death Star as a work-in-progress.  Which means, we are invited to believe that its completion will take another 20 years, right?  “Never tell me the odds….”

If ever I report, Gentle Reader, that I have been watching ep. I or II, call Agent Hellboy:  an alien presence will have taken control.

PS/ This is the first I have seen the movie in toto.  A few years ago I checked out the DVD from the BPL, but it was such a heavily used item, it is the most badly scratched disc – whether 45, LP, CD or DVD – I have ever laid eyes on.  At three or four points, the disc hung up on a scene, and I had to cherry-pick a later scene to try again.  All in all, far from the circumstances most advantageous to the movie.

PPS/ In actual Henningmusick news, let’s go to the Magic Mailbox:

Notwithstanding [N.’s] determination to make my musical contributions odious trainwrecks, I think the two concerts came off well, had an agreeable spirit, and were good fun.  If only [N.] were a composer, that I might perform her music as ill prepared as she did mine—not out of any spite, but only so that she should know what it feels like. Speaking purely artistically, I hate her loathsome guts.  I apologize for leaving the scene of rehearsal mid-Torches, but I had to withdraw to a remote part of the building so that I could shout “Why didn’t you just practice the damn music?!” without loss of time or composure for the group. I’m afraid I stood very much in need of that little bit of catharsis.

Even if she had been James Galway himself, I would not have endured such lousy preparation.

Day 6 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

More than a decade later, and in the era of the new compact disc medium, fans of Optional Entertainment could be thrilled by not only the freshly renewed availability of long out-of-print classics (such as Lumpy Gravy) but the breathtaking volume of new material pooting forth from the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen.  In particular, I look back—not on any chance meeting with the Vanilla Fudge—but on the gradually emerging You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore series, and the compilations from the self-implosive “big band” tour of 1988.

For now, I’m through with ado (apart from observing how borderline creepy it is, that the YouTube ID for a track with orifice in the title, includes the characters Sex in the text string):

Day 6, “Alien Orifice” (from Make A Jazz Noise Here)

17 December 2017

Day 5 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

On Day 1 of this year’s observances, Gentle Reader, I wrote of the vinyl Zappa trove I swagged on home from a little used record shack on Rte. 23 North.  My tasted once whetted, I went back.  I believe that Hot Rats was part of my Second Wave of Zappa Inhalation.  Anyone who has enjoyed a Polynesian cocktail at the bar attached to a Chinese restaurant in northern New Jersey will appreciate the anthropological reference of the title.  Your Headhunter, sir.

Day 5, “Little Umbrellas” (from Hot Rats)

16 December 2017

Day 4 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

The journey, begun long ago, of the religious con men is now complete: whenever the word Evangelical appears in print, in pixels, or is heard on the news, the sober-minded reader (or, as it may be, viewer) will be unable to help hearing the coy percussive sound of “televangelical” lips puckering up to the Buttocks of Power.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

More than once over the years, I too have joked that our great Nation enjoys perhaps the only two-party system in the world, which is in fact a one-party system.  There are sharper differences between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy than there sometimes seems to be between the Democrats and the Republicans;  and both parties have unleashed characters which have inspired the unsparing derision of Mr. Zappa.  This year, however, has taught America that there is at least one substantial difference.  Today’s selection in celebration of FZ’s music is a nod to that unique Party, Grand and Old, where being a conspiracy-theorist whack-job is no obstacle to being accepted as a “legitimate” candidate.

Day 4, “Republicans” (from Frank Zappa: Guitar)

15 December 2017

Day 3 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

To what shall we liken the magnificence, the alternating tenderness and ass-kickdom, the beauties and the beauteous high-jinks, the sheer magic of “RDNZL”?  Beginning with the cheap Jedi Mind Trick avant la lettre” of the title, which has ever lured me into misreading it as Redunzel, in parody of a classic fairy-tale—where Zappa may or may not have had that in mind.  Here is the freewheeling chamber-music fancy evident in “Aybe Sea,” expanded in scale, adding in the process an exquisitely lyrical moto perpetuo tune, and (to speak merely from the timeline of my own perspective) the first of countless ear-opening, expertly executed guitar solos.

No More Can This On Stage Be Done.  Search your feelings . . . .

Day 3, “RDNZL” (from You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 5)

14 December 2017

Space Tussles

George Lucas is a great technician.  But an indifferent artist.

There:  I said it.

This week I have entirely enjoyed ‘revisiting’ (explanation of scare-quotes, below) the first three Star Wars movies.  By “the first three Star Wars movies” I mean:  Star Wars (d/b/a A New Hope, first released in 1977), The Empire Strikes Back (first released in 1980) and Return of the Jedi (first released in 1983).  I first saw all three at about the time of their initial release, and probably only once each.  They’re great fun and well made;  they would not be mistaken for great art, but (to repeat myself) they’re great fun and well made.  It has been well observed that (per the classical Roman maxim, “Joy is the most serious business there is”), Star Wars was a peculiarly radical movie to make at the time.  So much of the movie-making of that epoch was Complicated, Gritty, Dour.   America was still flogging herself over Vietnam, culturally (I suppose), and there was an all-but-ineluctable wave of movies digging around the Flawed Humanity Sandbox.

Consider Serpico of 1973.  It’s a serious movie, but not fun to watch.  Star Wars is not a serious movie, but it’s fun to watch.  And that was Lucas’s accomplishment, and gift to American cinema.  Snap out of it! he seemed to say, It’s okay to have a good time at the movies.

What I mean by qualifying revisiting is, the movies I am watching this week are the later, tinkered-with versions.

There are fans for the whom the changes are execrable, intolerable;  and while I honor that perspective, it is not my own.

I do enjoy the fact (as I read it via Wikipedia) it was one of the first films to be selected for the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”;  the movie is a cultural phenomenon, and a landmark in cinematic technique, and no one can take that away from Lucas.

That said, I equally enjoy reading (via Wikipedia, different article) that the National Film Registry refused the 1997 “Special Edition.”

First of all:  I had a great time watching the movies again – “space opera” with astonishingly elevated production values.  Call it my opinion, but I hardly care about most of the tweaks/changes.  I don’t think they are necessarily the improvements which Lucas claims.  In fact, in the case of the added Jabba scene in A New Hope, in which some of the dialogue is literal repetition of lines we already heard between Greedo and Solo shortly before (a scene which itself was probably rewritten when Jabba wasn’t going to work out at the time).  That Lucas does not hear (or does not care) about this tedious repetition, illustrates the problem.  For the most part, the changes have neither my blessing nor my curse.  Honestly, I did not even much care about Jabba’s girlish squeal when Solo stepped over (on?) his tail.  I mean, what sex is a bloated space slug, anyway?  It may be sex, but not as we know it.

The very real job of taking Lucas to task for his weaknesses as a writer, I leave to others.  Though I still smile from time to time to reflect on the fact that probably the best line from the entire franchise was Harrison Ford’s ad lib, “I know.”

I did finish with Return of the Jedi yesterday, and I have to go on record as approving one of the changes.  I was so glad not to have the “Ewok Celebration Song” to endure at the end.  I may not think all that highly of the cut-rate Graceland-sessions-outtake vibe of the replacement – but it is agreeably unobtrusive, anyway.  In the cinema, back in 1983, I felt with an awful strength that ending the three-movie space saga with that (as dim memory perceives) cheesy quasi-disco number, degraded the whole endeavor. Now it kind of resonates with Working Girl, and I don’t believe I much mind.

So, what else?  The crawl text at the start of The Empire Strikes Back tells us that Vader is obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker.  And yet (as I perceive by watching the movies in rapid succession) Vader and Luke never met in the first movie;  it is unclear whence Vader would have engendered this obsession.  Oh, well, poor writing.

Generally, Vader somehow knows that Luke is his son.  I mean, he springs that “I am your father” on Luke, at a particularly awkward time for the young man.  He does not, however, know that Leia is his daughter, until he perceives so through resonance with Luke’s inner thoughts, in Return to the Jedi.

I just think it’s a little odd that Vader is obsessed with finding Luke (whom he never met in A New Hope) at the outset of The Empire Strikes Back, when he had repeated interviews with Leia (including a chemically enhanced interrogation) yet never “felt” (in that indefinable, Force-ey way) that Leia is his daughter.

None of those quibbles really matter;  I knew 39 years ago that Lucas isn’t Shakespeare, so his writing deficiencies are already baked into my model.

A huge factor in the successful tone and flow of the movies, is John Williams’s score.  This comes as a surprise to no one, but I wanted to go ahead and acknowledge this afresh because, while I know many musicians who admire Williams greatly, my own appreciation for his work generally is less fulsome.  I don’t say there were never times, in this week’s survey, when I near had to bite my tongue (“This is the Luke-wallowing-in-self-pity cue”) but the score for Star Wars is a thing of magnificent beauty.  Personally, I don’t need it in the concert hall;  but I rejoice in it while I am watching the movie.  I think I should have to be an unfeeling brute, not to.  Even a Wookiee, as they say . . . .

Day 2 of The 13 Days of Zappaness, 2017 Edition

Not too proud to admit that the first I knew of the mad, sweet musical powers of Eric Dolphy, was the track on Weasels Ripped My Flesh (thanks to Scott Deveaux), “The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue.” (Is it an event? A dish?)

Similarly, the sliver of moonlight which guided my sight to the luminous orb . . . well, there’s another simile that has run off wildly on its own.  I start again.

When in the Long Dark of Buffalo, I whimsically purchased the CD Broadway the Hard Way, and the cover which the band played of “Stolen Moments” was my first awareness of the 1961 Oliver Nelson album, Blues and the Abstract Truth, featuring (among others) Eric Dolphy.

And so, for today:

Day 2, “Stolen Moments” (from Broadway the Hard Way)

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.