11 August 2019

In a Jazz-esque Way

As I have noted ere now, Gentle Reader, when Peter Bloom returned to Boston from Ensemble Aubade's tour of the southeast, with exceedingly gratifying reports of the warm reception and overall success enjoyed by Oxygen Footprint, I found myself highly motivated to compose a companion piece.

The story of that piece's composition is in two overlapping parts.

Firstly, I had a musical idea I was turning over in my mind, for another, entirely different trio, of two flutes playing repeated notes at the interval of a third.

While I allowed that other trio to wander off in its own, and a new direction, I took that idea of the thirds, and decided that it would be the germ of a viola ostinato. Possibly because it was winter yet, and despite the fact that I do not ski, myself, the mental image I formed of this musical figure, was the track of a pair of skis.  And since my viola music had a kind of precision, and it seemed to be ticking the time (but mostly because the sound of the phrase appealed to me) I decided that the name of the piece would be Swiss Skis.

On these lines (as it were) I thought of the material for the flute as the skier him or herself, gliding easily along the pristine snow; and that the harp/piano is the at times irregular landscape which our imaginary skier negotiates with an airy grace.

Secondly, as to the relationship of the three parts, the musical texture:

At the time that I set to serious work on the piece, I was listening, in (as they say) heavy rotation, to a famous jazz track, and I thought I would freely adapt the texture to my own material.

Thus, the persistent viola ostinato is the rhythmic engine, and while the harp/piano is, broadly speaking, "the bass," I felt that if I wrote the part as rhythmically "straightforward" as the exemplar, I should only give the performer occasion to hurl curses upon my name; and the flute is the soloist lithely bopping and crooning in response to the musical foundation.

Whether the result is actual jazz, or (like, say Stravinsky's Ragtime) chamber music reflecting an affectionate regard for jazz, is perhaps a question whose answer might entail the splitting of some hairs in the discovery.



07 August 2019

Opus 150 Outro

On Thursday, 1 August I finished the setting of the text. I continued with some minor tweaks upon the instrumental lines as I was preparing the vocal score, which I sent to all the ensemble on Saturday the 4th, with the note to the singers that:
One challenge not reflected in the score (though not insurmountable, I trust) is that the fixed media, which occupies something of its own sonic plane in the piece, may at times present something of a distraction (which in context, echoes the turmoil in Macbeth's soul, I think.) I believe that full rehearsals will be the key to getting you accustomed.  You will draw steadier and more reliable pitch info from the live quartet.

Later on Saturday, I sent parts out to the instrumentalists.

The play, of course, is the tragedy of a man who sets aside his honor, and indeed sheds his conscience, in order to further his ambition, strewing death all about him in the process.

It cannot be denied that Shakespeare speaks to every age.



28 July 2019

Still it cried Sleep no more to all the house

I've been making incremental progress on the addition/completion of the instruments' lines, and am now at m.111, which is better than half-way through. If I have those lines done for 3 August, I shall be pleased.

We are collectively questing anew for a second concert date.

And, my latest CD review is up at earrelevant.net.


25 July 2019

Still taxiing on the tarmac

Gentle Reader, as I noted this past Tuesday, I reached the end of the text. In the time since, I have chipped away at three predictable tasks:  Refining local text-rhythm here and there, and adding some more material for the instruments.

A bit more fundamentally, having taken the first steps to harmonize the vocal score and the fixed media, I have tinkered a bit with the latter.  While I have done with that tinkering for the present, it may need some further (hopefully not radical)adjustment as the scoring nears completion.

I have now reached a point where hard copy for proofing and additional scribbling will be just the thing, and which should be available to me Monday.

Progress on the Op.150 being thus temporarily suspended for a few days, Let me occupy my composition desk the while with the Op.75. Night the Fourth will be cloven in twain:

Scene 12a: No Word From the Lodger—Nastenka is desolate.
Scene 12b: The Dreamer Declares His Love—He and Nastenka Are Giddy—Comes the Lodger.

On one hand, it seems natural that I should, for Scene 12a recapitulate the material from Scene 3a, Nastenka at the Bridge. On 'tother, I already recapitulated it in Scene 10.  So let me consider.



23 July 2019

A little water clears us of this deed

Reached a notable milestone for the Opus 150 yesterday, as all of the text is now cast onto the voice lines. As the score stands now (incomplete trunk that it is), the voices carry us to the nine-minute mark.  This is perfect . . . the fixed media times at 11:21, so there is room to open up some seams for instrumental commentary.

This afternoon, I shall content myself with identifying those seams, and perhaps even start to populate the commentary.

So, progress is guid.


17 July 2019

I laid their daggers ready

Viz. A Heart So White . . . the first consideration is that the fixed media be of a duration suitable to the declamation of the scene, so we might say that I have already been working backwards, in having created the fixed media first. At some point (last year, I think) I timed myself in a reading of the scene (for fun, I should time the scene in the Orson Welles film) and in all this interval since, I have had the idea that 10-11 minutes is about right for the fixed media . . . and there is space both to allow the text its space and breath, and to allow the occasional "instrumental interlude"


Since the nature of the fixed media is such that the voices will not receive much pitch info pertinent to their lines therefrom, it seems to me that the live instruments will shoulder the supporting role of serving as pitch-reference, and I return to the necessity of creating the voice lines.
Prior to today's work, I have two PDFs, dated 15 Jan 2018 and 26 Mar 2019.


So, what I shall do is, just write— get some form of vocal setting onto the desk, and clean up later. I want to have the piece done so that I can get the music to all the participants by mid-August, so that they have a good sense of what kind of rehearsal regime we need in September.

I did make fair progress today, and maybe I'll chip away at
it some more after a bite of supper.


16 July 2019

Angling Towards Work on the Op 150

Bearing in mind the distinction between hardly any work and no work, I did hardly any actual work on A Heart So White today.

Most of my work today was in the way of housekeeping/file management: I packed away the Opus 163 folder; I confirmed that I had final wav files of the two several versions of the fixed media for Mistaken for the Sacred; and then packed away the Opus 141 folder; brought the Opus 150 folder out to the work desk;  created final wav and mp3 files of The Unquiet Castle, essentially as preparation for clearing away (later) the Audacity project and related files (only when the piece will have been finished.)

And, away from the computer, I found my hard copy of the text, and even MS. paper, for pencil scribbling.

All being now in a state of calm readiness, work shall be waded into, tomorrow.
Watch This Space.

15 July 2019

Op. 163a and beyond

This morning, I prepared the piano version (that is: fl/va/pf) of Bicycling Into the Sun (Feel the Burn).

Tomorrow (if I wait until tomorrow), shall I set to serious work on A Heart So White. The fixed media has been ready some little while, now.

14 July 2019

Trio Done

Gentle Reader, although I myself suggested here, that the sand dance which I wrote for that call long since, is a "bagatelle," that noun does the music an injustice. In fact, it has a wonderful intensity and gravity, so that (we might say) the music has waited for its proper environment, so that its new role as the Arrival Point of  Bicycling Into the Sun (Feel the Burn) is something of an artistic consummation.
Only yesterday, I posted that the trio should be done in a week, so, yes, I am a little surprised (and greatly pleased) that I muscled through, and wrapped it up today.

To recapitulate, I have written three pieces for Ensemble Aubade (fl/va/hp):

Oxygen Footprint, Op.138
Swiss Skis, Op.161
Bicycling Into the Sun, Op.163

I shall soon attend to the alternate version of the Op.163 (with piano)


13 July 2019

The Day's Work

I have brought Bicycling Into the Sun (Feel the Burn) to almost the two-minute mark, so I think the piece should be finished in a week, just by chipping away at it day by day.

And I have added the few slight percussion gestures to Scene 11 of White Nights, and I am now content that the Scene is done.

Now that I know exactly where I am with White Nights, my immediate plan is:

1. Finish Bicycling Into the Sun (Feel the Burn).
2. Finish A Heart So White, so that I can get the music to all the participants by the beginning of August.
And then:

3. Wrap up White Nights.




12 July 2019

To Take Stock Before the Home Stretch

Gentle Reader, as noted here, I have come to think of this recovery period in light of an opportunity to concentrate on finishing White Nights.

So, just where am I?

I reconstruct the grand outline thus:

White Nights Outline Rebuilt 12 July 2019

Overture Op75/1 10'30 10'30

Night the First, Scene 1 Op75/2 12'45 23'15
Night the First, Scene 2 Op75/3 06'00 29'15
Night the First, Scene 3a Op75/4 06'00 35'15
Night the First, Scene 3b Op75/5 08'00 43'15

Intermezzo I Op75/6 06'00 49'15

Night the Second, Scene 4 Op75/7 02'30 51'45
Night the Second, Scene 5 Op75/8 13'00 1h4'45
Night the Second, Scene 6 Op75/9 1'30 1h6'15
Night the Second, Scene 7 Op75/10 10'00 1h16'15
Night the Second, Scene 8 Op75/11 09'00 1h25'15
Night the Second, Scene 9 Op75/12 07'30 1h32'45
Night the Second, Scene 10 Op75/13 03'00 1h35'45

Intermezzo II Op75/14 06'15 1h42'00

Night the Third, Scene 11 Op75/15 06'15 1h48'15

Intermezzo III Op75/16 06'00 1h54'15

Night the Fourth, Scene 12a Op75/17 03'00 1h57'15
Night the Fourth, Scene 12b Op75/18 04'00 2h01'15

Intermezzo IV Op75/19 02'15 2h03'30

Morning, Scene 13 Op75/20 06'00 2h09'30


As noted here, Intermezzo III is complete.

Here, I talk about work on Scene 11, but I do not seem to note completing the Scene here on the blog: or did I, and I just haven't found that post.  I have just opened the Sibelius file for Scene 11, and I think it may indeed be done, perhaps I was waiting to export a sound file before making formal note on the blog. I shall take another day or so to reflect.

What have I changed, tonight from the outline as I had updated it in July of last year?
I have a specific idea for Intermezzo IV, and I trimmed its duration accordingly.
Also, I have decided that Scene 13 should be somewhat shorter than originally budgeted.  In general, I am feeling that much of the earlier part of the ballet has been sufficiently long-breathed, and that I want the final sequence not to dawdle.


11 July 2019

In the (figurative) bicycle saddle today

I have made a good start on Bicycling Into the Sun (Feel the Burn) am now at the 75-second mark (so, one-fourth done), the piece has assumed its own character,  and I am at a point where I consider just what turn I want to take for the next section.

One thought I have had turns upon two bagatelles I drew up for specific calls three years ago. I thought of the one-minute piece, Out From the Unattended Baggage, and I considered how I might, true to its title, draw it forth from oblivion.

I wondered, in fact, if it might be subsumed into Bicycling... but on reviewing the piece, its pitch-world is entirely alien to my present trio: it is a graft which would not take.

But both the material and the notion are worthy, so I have another destination in mind for Out From the U. B., about which, more later.

The pitch-world and vibe of the other of the two bagatelles, the Sand Dance for flute and harp, make it ideal for such a transplant, and so we have found the perfect home for a short patch of music of which I was always fond.


My only bicycling for the time being

Peter H. Bloom and I were on the Red Line on our way to King's Chapel in the spring of 2016,  when we talked about my writing a piece for Ensemble Aubade, and the piece which sprang forth from the mulch of this conversation was Oxygen Footprint. When we talked about what duration the piece should be, Peter gently expanded the invitation, with the suggestion that eventually this piece should be one of a set.

As reported here, I completed the second piece of the set, Swiss Skis, this past March. While I do not believe that the Ensemble have yet had opportunity to work the piece in as yet, Peter's immediate enthusiasm on its behalf was encouragement for me to begin considering the third piece of the set. A week or so ago, I made a start on the piece, called Bicycling Into the Sun (Feel the Burn). Close readers of the blog may note that I have repurposed this title which I originally coined for one of the Opus 114 duets. This present piece for Ensemble Aubade will run about five minutes.



10 July 2019

Repeat Performance

For some little time we have meant, as the k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble, to play the program we have labored to prepare more than once, to get more play time out of the endeavor, and to get the music into more ears. And so we did, on 30 June, reprise our 14 May King's Chapel program, with the addition of the world première of Timothy Bowlby's Laurels for solo flautist, to a warmly appreciative audience at Holy Trinity UMC in Danvers, Mass.  We shall be sure to return.


03 July 2019

Oh, It Wasn't Lost, After All ...

Once I was ready to apply myself to Mistaken for the Sacred as I originally meant it (that is, percussion solo and fixed media) I felt that I wanted a new mix of the fixed media.

We had used the original fixed media for the alternate version of the piece, Op.141a, with four winds rather than percussion, and the original f. m. is fine. But I reasoned that a percussion soloist is capable of a great deal more noise than is a quartet of winds, so I felt that it was reasonable that each version of the piece should enjoy its own version of the fixed media, and I wanted to give the percussionist some more-unruly noises to "bounce off of."


So, I created a modified fixed media sound file, and then prepared the score-cum-guidance-for-improv for the percussionist; then, my laptop's OS crashed. I thought that this new sound file was lost, an that I needed to rebuild it. But,I had sent a file-share link for the new fixed media, and I did manage to recover it.

I did, nevertheless further modify the fixed media, so the final result means that the work was nothing superfluous.


29 June 2019

Dress Rehearsal

As, essentially, a revisitation of the program we performed at King's Chapel in May, this morning's dress rehearsal proved fairly light duty, and highly gratifying, and the church is a wonderful space to play music in.  Looking forward both to the performance, and to the conversation afterward.

Peter and I also talked about Bicycling Into the Sun (Feel the Burn), and settled that it should be five minutes in duration.  I shall work on that, while I am hunting up my White Nights folder.



28 June 2019

Easter Bells

Per this post, one of my first new pieces this spring I composed for my handbell choir to ring on Easter morning:

27 June 2019

pre-summer catch-up

The May Triad concerts were excellent, our strongest yet, I believe;  In my present recovery, I was but a spectator, and I rejoiced to hear such beautiful performances of both It Might Happen Today, and the Alleluia in Ab . My expectation is that I shall be ready to participate fully in the fall concerts.

Our King's Chapel concert went very nicely; and it was especially gratifying to have two new pieces by my friend and colleague Pam Marshall.



We shall repeat this program at the church where I serve as Music Director, this Sunday.

Per my last blog post, I did indeed prepare a score in the form of a guide for the percussion soloist in Mistaken for the Sacred, and Olivia Kieffer has approved. She has just begun a new graduate program at U. Miami, and plans to perform the piece when she will have settled.

My 100-note toy piano piece, Penny Candy (the first piece I composed after discharge from hospital, has been accepted.

To complete a set of threev pieces for Ensemble Aubade, I have begun work on Bicycling Into the Sun (Feel the Burn), will confirm with Peter on Saturday what duration is desired.

Well, Gentle Reader, I am now about caught up. As I continue my recovery, my plan is to make use of the summer to resume work on White Nights;  if I can finish the ballet for my birthday, my happiness will be considerable, indeed.

11 May 2019

On Mistaken for the Sacred

The Triad concerts are tonight and tomorrow night.

And the k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble concert is Tuesday at lunchtime.

I am thinking about Mistaken for the Sacred, which I originally intended as a wooden percussion solo for Olivia Kieffer accompanied by fixed media, and for which I wound up composing wind parts, in which form we have performed the piece twice.

After the reasonable success of this alternate version, I meant to compose out a solo for Liv, but other tasks distracted me.

Somehow it is today that I am considering this article of unfinished business. I began to wonder if the "solution" is to allow the percussionist free improvisatory rein; and I put this question to Liv (or is this a cop-out on my part?, I queried)

And altough she is capable of just improvising (and cooperative so to do, if that be my wish), her suggestion was that even some kind of structgure/guidance would be a valuable springboard, so shall I soon act upon this capital suggestion.


10 April 2019

Program Note



Alleluia in A-flat, Op.33


Although it may seem odd for a choral piece written in our day. This program note will actually begin with Tchaikovsky. In a box of LP's given me by my great-aunt when I was a mere slip of a boy, was one platter with a few classical music selections, one of which was the 1812 Overture. I came immediately to love it then, and even though we can count on the Boston Pops to play the piece every fourth of July whether we need to hear it or not (so to say) I love it still.


For our purposes this evening, suffice it to add that the opening solemn cello choir of the Overture has been in my ear most of my life.


One day when I was in St Petersburg in my early 30s I was walking from the office of what was then the St. Petersburg Press to the Metro station. Every time I walked to or from the office, I passed by a church,which had only recently resumed its proper function as a church, after being closed (or used as a warehouse) for most of the Soviet era. On this day, I was arrested in my walk because out from a cupola atop the church there came the enchanting sound of a choir singing an anthem, which I immediately recognized as the opening of the 1812 Overture. I checked the church calendar and I've learned that this piece which I had known from my youth is an anthem for the Feast of the Epiphany.

During my residency in St Petersburg, my ear would be agreeably steeped in the rich sound of the Russian Orthodox liturgical musical tradition.

Even though the ethereal sound of the voices was somewhat exotic, it reminded me deeply what a rich experience it had been singing in my high school chorus and in a church choir.
My Alleluia here tonight, which is dedicated to the wonderful artist Irina Pisarenko. Is thus of a musical character congruent with the Russian choral music I had come to love so well. The musical organization, though, is a modest adaptation of the sonatina design which Mozart favored for a number of his Andante movements.

The final, and rather amusing, note for this piece is that the response of the first Boston church music director to whom I showed the Alleluia was literally “I see no reason to perform this piece.”

It was the first piece of mine to be published, by Lux Nova Press, and within a couple of years it had been sung on three continents.