16 July 2018

Last Nights and the Morning

Marry, sir, they have committed false report;
moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily,
they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have
belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust
things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.
– Dogberry

Meditating among liars, and retreating sternly into myself, I see that there are really no liars or lies after all,
And that nothing fails its perfect return—And that what are called lies are perfect returns,
And that each thing exactly represents itself, and what has preceded it,
And that the truth includes all, and is compact, just as much as space is compact,
And that there is no flaw or vacuum in the amount of the truth—but that all is truth without exception;
And henceforth I will go celebrate anything I see or am,
And sing and laugh, and deny nothing.
– Walt Whitman

It is true that I began work on Scene 11 of White Nights yesterday, although there are already notes which I need either to shed, or emend, or slough off to some other scene.  But my initial sketch at what is now m.42 will not do for the nervously happy character which is wanted.  (I think I know exactly what will serve, though.)

If that seems like a slow-at-best start (and, maybe it is) I feel more than compensated by my having gained a freshly clarified global sense of The Rest of the Ballet.  It is sinking in that (if we stick to the Plan) I have 32 minutes of music remaining to compose.

  1. In the first place, that is (in principle) achievable this year – this we know from the 2017 accomplishments of the Symphony № 1 and the Sonata for Clarinet & Piano.
  2. I now have a fair idea of the three most substantial of the six numbers remaining to be composed:
    • Scene 11 (upon which I am presently at work) [scheduled for 6'30]
    • Intermezzo III, the 'rain-sodden' Intermezzo – highly specific, detailed ideas already in mental sketch for this [scheduled for 4'45]
    • Scene 13, the final scene, Morning – a different idea than has sat on the shelf all these years, but wonderfully apt [scheduled for 10'00]

Now, I do not mean to appear to obligate myself to wrap up the ballet by year's-end.  It may happen;  it is perfectly within reasonable possibility.  It may be my refuge of artistic activity, if it should turn out (what would not be anything like impossible) all three responses expected between now and October are negative.

I suppose I am feeling that Scene 11 is the right thing to tackle at present, and then I should – truly, I should – see to A Heart So White.

So – frankly to fantasize for the moment – if I should complete White Nights this year, and both A Heart So White and It Might Happen Today enjoy their respective premières in October and November, that clears 1H19 for the completion of Karl's Big (But Happily Incomplete) Map to the Body.

15 July 2018

Radiant, not rain-sodden (yet)

They say it’s up that one man may be buttered,
And off that another man may be cheesed;
But no knowing if he is gratified,
Or instead, he is mildly displeased.
– Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

One observation more I wish to add to the musings upon Counting Sheep (or, The Dreamy Abacus of Don Quijote), which is:  I feel that it is my most significant pre-Passion compositional landmark.

This morning saw the inaugural performance of Five Smooth Stones From the Wadi, with Marissa Bell (flute), Barbara Otto (organ), & yrs truly (clarinet).  Within its admittedly modest niche, the piece seems to me a reasonable success.  We all found it a gratifying piece to play, and it pleased the hearers.

Tomorrow (if there is no delay, and a delay is so common in such undertakings that we might almost rely upon it—almost) we may receive the Thank you! but sorry message for the Ear Buds.  So what do I do today?

Why, resume work on White Nights again, of course.  Night the Third is, in my now-long-established scheme, the only night which is a single scene;  but now I think I may change that.  In the novella, there is the simple line, She had arrived a whole hour before I did.  And now I think I want to begin Scene 11 with the Dreamer walking to their meeting, in an echo of his walking music from Night the First.  Perhaps we leave it as a single scene, with a sight of Nastenka already in place, as the Dreamer walks.  The scene itself is Nastenka nervously happy, expecting word from the Lodger, and the Dreamer, who has found that he has fallen for Nastenka, who hopes through the scene that she feels that, and will respond to it.  And at the close of the scene, the Dreamer nearly reveal his love.  (Music for nearly revealing love . . . I think I just about hear it.)

In my original outline, I had rather lazily noted the text (as an indicator for the musical character) dreary and rain-sodden.  The chapter begins indeed with the line:  Today has been dreary and rain-sodden, without a ray of hope, like my approaching old age.  The ambiguity being that this appears in fact to be the condition after their meeting on the third night.  Further down the page:
I had thought she would not even notice today’s rain, but still she has not come.
Yesterday was our third rendezvous, our third white night . . .
So I think the dreary and rain-sodden music must instead be Intermezzo III.

In all events, I have now made a start on the Op.75 № 15.

14 July 2018

To all the windmills I have tilted at ere now

Worth stating at the outset that the theme of this post is celebration.

It is now seventeen years since I first composed Counting Sheep (or, The Dreamy Abacus of Don Quijote), an 11-minute fantasy for piano and woodwind quintet.

(I believe I found the alternative orthography for the Don in Washington Irving.  Possibly when I tarried in Oklahoma.)

The piece was not played then, nor has it ever been played since.  Relatively recently, I tried to find an audience for it four years ago, and indeed last year.

(There was even, once, long ago, the mad idea of arranging it for wind ensemble in hopes of a reading.  By which I mean, I actually prepared and submitted such an arrangement.  But, honestly, I do not see any reason to preserve that temporary whim of orchestration.)

There is no news, now, about, my Dreamy Abacus, no, it remains a dream.

I am posting merely to say that whenever I revisit it, it remains a most beautiful dream.

Whenever I write a piece, where there is a group or event for which it is meant, but it winds up (for whatever reason) unperformed, naturally there is a sense of disappointment;  I am not made of marble.

The disappointment is a moment, not a marker.  I write the next thing.  Far from being mired in this or that disappointment, I live in each new piece which I complete and in which I take fresh artistic pride, in each performance, year in, year out, to which an actual audience responds with pleasure, and perhaps even a measure of astonishment.

The Henningmusick catalogue has become extensive enough that (and perhaps this is only an admission that my attention is limited) music which I wrote 20, or 10, or even four years ago may drop out of my awareness.  One benefit of this phenomenon is, one morning I am looking through the files, and I find (say) Counting Sheep—and the gratifying thought freshly arises, What a cool piece.

Am I disappointed anew?  No.  I remember the disappointment of the time as a fact, sure.  My feeling today is pleasure at the thought and fact of the work, and (yes) some puzzlement that the piece has (still) not been performed.

What can we say today?  “It hasn’t yet been performed, but I know that someday, perhaps soon, it will be”...?  I know no such thing;  what I know is, the piece has lain unperformed for nearly two decades.  There is no external reason on this wide earth why it will not lie unperformed for another equal or greater interval.

What I know is, I think it a great piece, and I am fiercely proud to have created it.

13 July 2018


Two chamber works now sent in to another call.

Towards a Lecturette

...and wouldn’t it be my luck
To be caught without a ticket
And be discovered beneath a truck.

Time will tell just who has fell
And who’s been left behind,
When you go your way and I go mine.
Bob Dylan Robt Zimmerman

[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself.
Françoise Gilot

Weeks remain to me for the figuring out, but figure out what to say to an audience, about my composition, before they listen to it, I must. Highly encouraging is the report of an excellent rehearsal of the Op.116.

High-level points (in the parlance of our times):

  1. A composer is possibly just like anyone else, only he wants to bring into the world new sounds, not just the sounds that we all already know, much of which we already love.
  2. I am not only a composer, but a performer. I am never remote from the audience.
  3. While it is not a question of musical talent per se, many of us, on first listening to a piece which is new to us, have the experience, not of being puzzled by what may at first sound unusual, but of finding the sounds, the content, engaging and even attractive--whether we “completely understand” it, or not.
  4. If I baked you a chocolate cake, my intention would be that you enjoy it, not that you “understand” it.
  5. The very first time that we heard the Beethoven Fifth Symphony: did we completely “understand” it?
  6. What have I done, in this piece?

Maybe I won’t use all of this. Maybe I shall.

Three days to the Ear Buds decision.

12 July 2018

Frustration? Or, what was needed?

The Sisyphean tale of yesterday morning is, that I tried repeatedly to execute nominally simple tasks in Sibelius, the sort of things which should be just a couple of mouse clicks, and done in a quarter of a minute, but...Sibelius would get hung up, or…

There, I’ve started in the middle again.  What I tried to do yesterday, before shipping out to work, was to get a start on adapting Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road for clarinet, violin, cello & accordion.

This is really inexplicable (apart, quite possibly, by PEBCAK), but...as I was reassigning the horn part to the cello, I had Clef Problems.  Here and there, the writing is high enough that the passage should be recast onto tenor clef.

However, I was doing the work, not in the score, but in the part.  Which oughtn’t to be a problem:  if I’m working in the cello part, and I change an F-natural to an E# in the part, that change is reflected in the score, as it’s all a single file (unless one expressly extracts a part-file).

Again, not that it ought to have made any difference...I was working within the part, to change the slurs (a notation which serves different technical functions for a string player, than for a wind player).  While I was at that task in the cello part, I saw, Oh, here I need to change to tenor clef for four measures. So I made those changes, too, in the part.

Then, when I was done, I returned to the score, and failed to understand why I saw no clef changes in the cello line, in the score.

Well, I never figured it out, so there is no light to be shed here, in this blog post, on that annoyance.  For our purposes here, it suffices to illustrate that, between this mysterious failing of the software, and the unusually sluggish, stop-&-go performance of the program yesterday morning, a task which ought to have taken 10 minutes occupied me so that I missed not one, but two buses, and wound up driving instead.

Now, as to the real reason why I retail this story.  Now it can be told:  The viola saved me.

All right, yes, that was hyperbole.

The original scoring is:  flute, alto flute, clarinet, horn.  What I was doing yesterday was 1) transferring the flute part to violin (and modifying the slurs, for the same reason as mentioned above);  2) transferring the alto flute part to the accordion;  3) transferring the horn part to cello.

Now – not that having some cello passages cast in tenor clef ought to be any problem, mind you – overnight, I realized that the solution was to include a viola rather than a cello in the new scoring.  And to have the accordion assume the horn part, and give the alto flute line to the viola.

This apparently trivial shuffling is actually a far superior solution, musically.  There is (in the original piece) a section where the flute and alto flute play in octaves, and that homogeneous octave is now reflected in the passage’s assignment to violin and viola – and there is one isolated note, which is the perfect candidate for being sounded pizzicato, thus rendering the decision all the more natural and idiomatic.  And, there are other passages where the clarinet and horn have duet work, which is now clarinet and accordion, also a highly satisfactory solution.

So maybe the momentary impossibility, yesterday, of managing a cello part, was all a cosmic nudge to find . . . the viola.

11 July 2018

Diabolical Alignment (as a Catalyst)

We are not nouns, we are verbs...I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.
– Stephen Fry

‡  ‡  ‡

I had a dream, looking at a map, not as a person looking at a map held in hand, but a floating awareness looking down at the world, but the world was not the world, it was the map of a part of the world.  And in my dream, I beheld Albuquerque, not a place, but an imprinted name far below me, as I floated above.  And I saw in a trice that "Albuquerque" is Spanish for "To the buquer what."

‡  ‡  ‡

Not that I have already caught up to clarifying some of the more cluttered drawers in the Henningmusick catalogue (I haven't) but I am about to add a third alternate scoring to the tale of Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road.

(Periodically there is a diabolical alignment of my fondness for a certain piece I've composed, with impatience for the fact that nobody – or, nobody else – seems to want to perform it.)

We did, of course, perform the piece in April. I speculatively prepared two brass quartet scorings of the piece, which (as with so very many such rescorings in the past) seem to have sunk into oblivion almost without a trace.

Quite probably, nothing will come of this, either;  but I am amused to arrange it for violin, clarinet, accordion and cello.

Yes, it will sound nice.

No, it may not ever see an actual performance, either.

Better to record, then:  Yes, it would sound nice.

‡  ‡  ‡

Five days more until we should hear about the Doom upon Ear Buds.

10 July 2018

The known, the likely anticipatable, and the unexpected

Like clockwork, I see a call for scores for Band of Brothers (the names have been changed, because we're all of us mostly innocent). They're going to get half a metric tonne of submissions, and (no more than earlier occasions) no piece of mine will ring their bell. But I should submit something, anyway.  If you don't play, you certainly don't win.

On a different kind of playing, I am thinking of kind-of-joining a wind band. Depends on if they'll have me, in the first place, and perhaps if they mind if (purely for reasons of my own schedule) I go easy, on a concert-by-concert basis. Obviously, if I'm in for (say) the first concert in the fall, I'd take the obligation seriously.

At the end of 2009 (!) I sent a message to a local conductor. I don't know that he ever saw the message. No matter, such messages can be a surprisingly frail, unreliable medium.  On the near relative to a whim, I reached out afresh, and we connected. Without making any promise too large, he has allowed me to send a score. We shall see. Sometimes, I am pleased simply that there has been a conversation.

It is a rare thing, truly, for any musical benefit to be harvested from social media. For that reason, it is a great jubilation to report that we sold a copy of the Op.34 organ pieces. Grateful that the music is part of the Lux Nova Press catalogue, and grateful to the organist to whom I was probably completely unknown before I supplied the link to the Lux Nova Press webstore page.

09 July 2018

Zwischen Kino und Konzert

At the start of Zwischen Kino und Konzert, a nearly 50-minute documentary about Nino Rota – I went back and watched it in its entirety, and enjoyed it very much – the narrator warms up with explaining that Rota and Fellini enjoyed a long collaboration, and that Rota’s music helped to impart to Fellini’s films a characteristic aura.

And I am sure that is perfectly true.  The slight irony (very slight, and no discredit to anyone, I trust) is that this documentary is an extra on the Criterion edition of 8 ½  (and fitting, as the opening footage for the Rota documentary appears to be the gala opening of 8 ½), and after minutes and minutes of silence (sometimes sound effects) and dialogue, the first music employed in the film is Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.  And then Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture.  And then Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers.

Staggeringly impressive that he scored (per the documentary) 145 films, including a period (1952-54) in which he scored 12+ films a year.  Funny story about his being denied the Academy Award for The Godfather because he had adapted a tune from 1958’s Fortunella.  With self-effacing understatement, Rota described it as simply taking the “ironic march” he composed for the earlier movie, and “slowing it down” so that its character became romantic.  The adaptation was much more involved than that description lets on.

Meanwhile, in Boston:  Seven days more until we should hear about the Doom upon Ear Buds.

The text and what-have-you

In November, our Mara wrote:

In an effort to delay bedtime, Emma sat down with her ukulele and improvised a song. She legit made up these lyrics on the spot. #deep #epicbedtimeshenanigans

It’s all right, you’ll feel better soon.
I don’t care if you get a little wound.
It’s okay, I still love you,
Even if I don’t care.

But it’s a good thing to not care,
It’s not our business.
But sometimes it is us.
I don’t care but where I’m going,
It might be just a little trust.

I need to stay my own way,
When I find what I do,
And who might tell me to.

I need to go to my own way,
It might happen today.
I don’t care what I do,
Who tells me to?

It is us who doesn’t care,
And it’s us who does care
If you give your business.

It’s all right to share,
It’s all right to share,
When we’re tired,
It’s all right to share.

Following up in late December, I sent to Mara:

Psst, I really do mean to set Emma’s “It’s all right to share” to my own music, if she will permit.

And her reply:

That’s great!  I asked her about it, and she said yes!

The last word of the second line can be made to rhyme either with ‘crowned’ or with ‘crooned’;  maybe it should be the latter, echoing the vowel of ‘soon’ – or maybe no rhyme is meant.  Back when I first thought about the text, I was planning to use that stanza twice, and use both pronunciations.  However, as the music flowed forth, there was no space (or, need) for the duplication . . . so I have reached out to the author’s mum, to ascertain the intended reading.

Musically, I do think it is done.  I am proofing the score, mostly for the odd beaming tweak.  I expect a piano reduction will be a good idea (though the men of Triad would manage just fine without).

Once I set to work on the setting, I (perhaps arbitrarily) aimed for a 5-minute piece.  Before I had a solid sense of the rate at which the text would play out in the setting, I drew up a scheme for stanzas to bring back after the end of the text as received (including the alternate “I don’t care if you get a little wound”).  It turned out that there was no need for the extra repetition, and all I ‘added’ at the end were the lines (as they appeared on my penciled ‘expansion’:

I need to go to my own way,
It might happen today.

08 July 2018

It Might Be . . . done

This morning, made good progress on It Might Be Today, even as I needed to mind the clock. Went to Danvers for rehearsals at church after the service—our first go at Five Smooth Stones From the Wadi.  We are to play it—we shall play it—in the service next week, and it will go very nicely;  given my quirky rhythmic sense, the first rehearsal is perforce an exercise partly in our finding our mutual footing.  A good rehearsal, and good to have gotten it out of the way a week ahead of “show time.”

This afternoon, I may well have finished It Might Be Today.  As there is no rush, I am letting it rest overnight, and shall try the question further in the morning.

Four years ago today, I was mulling the remaining movements of the Mass.  Apart from the general fact that (apart from the Kyrie long ago) all the performances of movements of the Mass have been sung by Triad . . . it rather puzzles me that the Sanctus has not yet been sung.

About time to set in to serious work on A Heart So White.

Eight days more until we should hear about the Doom upon Ear Buds.

07 July 2018

There are Valkyries, and then there are Valkyries

Also, this movie [Repo Man] features the most wonderful adaptation I have yet heard of the Ride of the Valkyries in cinema.

When I wrote this, on Independence Day, I had clean forgot the use of the Wagner near the start of Fellini's Otto e mezzo, where (indeed) it is the first music of any sort to be heard in the film.  I suppose I can let the remark stand, and distinguish between its use in the Fellini film, and the creative adaptation in Repo Man.

And It Might

The undeniable beauty of Liszt’s work arises, I believe, from the fact that his love of music excluded every other kind of emotion.  If sometimes he gets on easy terms with it and frankly takes it on his knee, this is surely no worse than the stilted manner of those who behave as if they were being introduced to it for the very first time;  very polite, but rather dull.  Liszt’s genius is often disordered and feverish, but that is better than rigid perfection, even in white gloves.
 — Debussy, writing as “Monsieur Croche”
My mind reaches back, for some mysterious reason, to Buffalo, when I wrote a trio for clarinet, soprano & tenor saxophones, The Improbable Harmonica.  Or, no, for quite a specific reason, but let me give some of the background.

The then-Chairman of the Music Dept grew suddenly and inexplicably hostile to my work, and informed me that he had written to the Graduate Committee recommending that my teaching assistantship be removed from me — to be reallocated, I suppose, to someone whose work pleased him better (the Graduate Committee declined to do so).

If you ask me, there is no feeling in the world quite like knowing that the Chairman of your Department makes free to use his power in efforts towards your removal from study.

I began writing The Improbable Harmonica.  It was at once both an act of artistic defiance (“See if any of your pets can write something this good”) and a resolve to keep on with my work, the way I wanted to do the work.  I was then studying with Charles Wuorinen, and although Charles at times might have preferred that I make other artistic choices, and he freely offered his opinion and observations, he stopped well short of telling me what I had to write.  So as to the Chairman, I was less than ever of any mind to reshape my musical work to suit a self-appointed cultural despot.

On a much lighter plane, one member of the trio (itself, a subset of The Fires of Tonawanda), fellow composer-performer Gary Barwin, amiably complained that I had written, for the soprano sax, a clarinet part.  And as I work, today, on It Might Be Today, I think I may be at it again, writing clarinet parts for a men’s choir.

And, Gentle Reader, you are wondering what It Might Be Today is.

There was a time when it might have been a piece for women’s choir.  Back in November, quite possibly right after the Triad concerts on which we had sung the Gloria, I started to take thought for what I wanted Triad to sing next, whether something already in my catalogue (the Magnificat would be nice) or something new.  I immediately tabled the Magnificat, so that I should not seem to sink into a rut of Liturgical music (and all the more the right decision, as we revived the Agnus Dei for the spring concerts).  As a change of pace for my own work, I was thinking of a piece for women’s choir, and keeping an open mind for what text might suit, suit and inspire.

A dear old friend from the St Paul’s choir days, Mara, posted on Facebook that her daughter, Emma, in a creative strategy to resist being sent to bed, had improvised a song, and posted the lyrics to boot.  I wrote to Mara asking if Emma would permit me to set the words to my own music, and permission was granted.  I did not act on this at the time (chances are, I had gotten a start on The Nerves about then).

It was not until the conclusion of the Triad season that I returned in earnest thought to the project, and when I did, I knew that I wanted to have the fun of singing in the piece, myself, and so I shifted from women’s to men’s choir.  As recorded here, I set to work on Tuesday the 26th of June;  and the piece sat around as a 55-second start for a week.  I had an idea for a contrasting section, but I also felt that we did not want the contrast so soon.  Worked on it very well this morning, and (given that the piece is a kind of part-song) chances are strong that I basically have all the material needed to finish sculpting the piece.  I think when completed it may be around five minutes;  and as of this morning, two minutes and a half are composed . . . and what is there strikes me as practically finished.

What am I listening to, as I work on this piece?  The 16th-century choral polyphony of the Leiden Choirbooks, some JS Bach Cantatas, Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain.  None of this, probably, has any direct bearing on the work I am doing, but . . . it is what I am listening to.

06 July 2018

To boldly have things happen to you

I got counterpoint of my own, I said, and you can’t help me out.
So take your meditations and your modulations and ram it up your snout . . . .
– Who am I jivin’ with this Not Actually “Cosmik Débris”?

Monitors three,
Let her be.

It is one thing, to get caught out in the rain in July.  Quite another, in November.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Last night I watched “Return to Tomorrow” from Season 2 of Star Trek (first broadcast 16 Feb 1968).  Spoilers Follow.

And, by the by, file this squarely in the My Quibbles Notwithstanding, a Thoroughly Enjoyable Show file.

It is not merely that the screenplay is another Deus ex machina deal, but that all the action is on the part of the aliens, which is to say that the screenwriter’s marionette strings may not be showing, but you know they’re in the background through the whole show.  All of the ‘activity’ of the crew of the Enterprise is passive, because all the power is in alien hands.  Kirk gives a stirring speech asking for the crew’s assent at one point (and, nice writing, too).  But since our understanding is, they’re in the alien’s hands, whether they like it or not, Kirk’s rousing speech amounts to a plea that everybody just like it, to the degree they can (“Bones” to a somewhat lesser degree than everyone else).  Because both Kirk and Spock are going down to the planet, Kirk doffs the con to Sulu – which has enormous dramatic potential for Geo. Takei, only not so much, as they’re in the alien’s hands (see above).  The episode is also a vehicle for having Kirk smooch an attractive female crewmember while physically controlled by an alien, and then being sheepishly not-quite-embarrassed when he “comes to.”  The drama of the story winds up coming from disunity among the aliens;  and one of the aliens dies – and the crew of the Enterprise are doomed as a result, only – surprise! he’s not really dead.

One of the undoubted pluses to the episode, however, is in giving Leonard Nimoy some more range with Spock, as the Science Officer is a vessel for the Wicked Alien.

End of the Spoiler Zone

A few hours prior to watching me some Star Trek, I took, what I seldom do take, a draught I.P.A., and in excellent company.  Regardless of what some may suppose, it is not every day that I enjoy a Goose Island I.P.A. at the Hub Pub, and in the company of someone who – right there in sight of a puzzled bartender – mimes scraping reeds, but whose miming is jolly convincing.  Now if only Meredith can get Dan to do the work on the reeds, now that he has the imitation down so pat.

(We don’t really hold much of any hope, there.)

At the vineyard at last (the ultimate laborer, that is)

Jimmy Carl Black:  If we’d all been living in California, it would have been different.
FZ:  If we’d all been living in California, we wouldn’t work at all.
– from Uncle Meat

Theodore Bikel (singing):  And may the Lord have mercy on the fate of this movie,
And God bless the mind of the man in the street.
– from 200 Motels

Michael Palin:  Actually, I’m a gynecologist, but this is my lunch hour.
– from The Poet McTeagle

On 28 Sept 2017, I was in DC, enjoying An Evening With the Firesign Theatre, or What’s Left of Them with my old UVa mate, Eric Brissman.  The next morning, as reported here, I did most of the work writing a brief bagatelle for clavichord, for David Bohn.  Not surprising, since I approached the task in a needless hurry, there was a wrinkle or two to “compose out.”  Indeed, there is some rhythmic gnarliness, in the form of non-intersecting irregular groupings, which I offered to reconfigure in a less reading-resistant manner, but David gamely persisted with the Ur-text.  And this week, David allowed The last man to come to the vineyard to work to go live:

05 July 2018


It’s a little weird seeing Repo Man for the first time, in this “So many people have been a few weeks too long in the conspiracy-theory pickle” epoch.  Also, having read Don de Lillo’s White Noise, multiple times.  Is it comedy, or docudrama?

The trenchant wit of the script gives joy to the butterflies of my soul.  I want to joke that the ending is just like 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  It isn’t, of course, but maybe I am not the only one whose mind will flit to that other transcendent apotheosis.

The movie as a project is probably perfection.  There is a grubby grit to the production which I should not want to be characteristic of most of my viewing, but it works here.  My mind buzzes with questions which ultimately reaffirm the movie’s power, rather than gnaw away at it.  Harry Dean Stanton is a marvelous actor, capably playing a squalid character.  Emilio Estevez is perfect as Otto, which is not quite the same thing as claiming that he is a great actor.  The cast is so good, you’d think they were farmed for the purpose.  The sound and music are (in the parlance of our times) bitchin’.  The televangelist and the vegetative state of Otto’s parents are entirely true to life, as we know from current events.

I almost want to watch John Wick and Repo Man as a double feature.  It would be a mighty loud afternoon, though.

Those small revelations which startle (somewhat)

Today the forecast indicates another brutal heat index.  The comparative morning cool simmers at 74° with 98% humidity.

As I knotted my necktie this morn, it suddenly occurred to me that I (probably) need never purchase any more neckwear, this side of retirement.  Nice to know that the budget will not suffer any pressure at that point.

As I laid out divers necessaries on the kitchen table, the further fanciful thought came to me, of buying my next tie only when I should become A Famous Composer™.

Given the uncertitudes of the artist’s life in these United States, my fame may be achieved (if even then) only after my death.

Should that be, let this blog post stand as a request to some surviving fan of my music, to leave a silk tie on my grave.  Let its colors be joyous.

04 July 2018

Ho jo to ho

In an arguably unusual choice for Independence Day, at long last I've watched Repo Man.

The musical correspondence between the descending repeated-note guitar lick, and Otto scrambling down the stairs, was priceless.

Also, this movie features the most wonderful adaptation I have yet heard of the Ride of the Valkyries in cinema.

03 July 2018


Listened to the entirety of the Bach b minor Mass, from start to finish, today. Yes, I've done so before, but I'm jiggered if I remember when. Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent. Exquisite. An especially angelic Sanctus.

Don't know who wrote the score, but I watched "A Private Little War" from season 2 of Star Trek.  (An episode I waggishly dub, "The Lady Macbeth of Planet Neural.")  And "The Immunity Syndrome" (not really a good title for the story, a nagging voice inside me objects). Granted, I don't know how much of this is thanks to reengineering (and still praiseworthy, if so) but the sound design is fantastic, really drives the story of "The I. S."  There were (the mischief-maker in me noted) "Peter Gunn triplets" in the dramatic second act of "A Private Little War."  Zeitgeist.

02 July 2018

What became the sand dance

[ 2 July 2016 ]

The one-minute piece for flute and harp (for the Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame call) ... I may title Another Erratic Adulterer.  I think I may enjoy that musical caprice before settling in to earnest work on the trio (Oxygen Footprint).

. . . and, a little later that same day:

The duo who are commissioning the pieces specifically want dance (or, dance-inflected) pieces, so that title will not do, I don’t think.  So we have instead sand dance.

This was one call where I heard absolutely nothing from the group, nor from the program, after my actual submission.  (Just an observation.)

Rather a philosophical question:  Is it better to hear nothing, or to receive the explicit No, thank you. . . ?  It can break either way.

The sand dance, as I consider it now – unlike Out From the Unattanded Baggage, likewise a 60-second piece composed for a Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame call, but one which is quite complete as it stands – will actually expand into a somewhat more substantial piece quite easily.

But I don’t know if this is quite the time to see to that.

01 July 2018

Henningmusick in Florida

Mei Mei Luo and Paul Cienniwa will perform a piece which I wrote for Paul some five years ago, Plotting (y is the new x) at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach, FL at 3pm, Sunday August the 19th.  (I am to speak as part of the pre-concert lecture, at 2:30.)