13 March 2022

The Makings of a Nice Weekend

 I went to concerts Friday and Saturday night, and in addition to hearing lovely music, I got to catch up with six musicians with whom I have collaborated in the past. Saturday morning I thought (out of the blue) of a piece I wrote some 12 years ago: Angular Whimsies (Heavy Paint Manipulation) for bass clarinet and percussion (vibes & bongos, 1 player) [did Caleb and Ariana ever actually play it?—only the Universe knows for sure] as well as a quirky bagatelle, Airy Distillates for flute solo which I wrote for a flutist who has definitely never played it. Triad dress rehearsal tomorrow, for our concerts this coming Saturday & Sunday. And it is really time to have music ready to rehearse for our 19 April concert at King's Chapel.



A Rough Time

 Although, Reality Check: I'm not in Ukraine. I appreciate that fact.

The backdrop: I met the director of a local ensemble some 46 mos. ago. I thought it was a good conversation. He never responds to my attempts to communicate. While I am open to contrary arguments, I just do not think I am quite that much of an asshole. Of course, one makes allowances for both the pandemic, and the fact that he has since become a father. But this freeze-out dates from earlier still.

So, today the ensemble performed a concert, I figure, I'll go to the concert and simply pick up a live dialogue. Honestly, I would have trod very lightly (I just want to talk with the bloke.) I reserve a ride to deliver me to the address I was given of the performance venue. We arrive at the address, but there does not appear to be anything like an auditorium nearby.  It's perhaps 28° and breezy, but I let the driver drop me off, as I suppose that it must be nearby. Well it was not. I walk up and down the Parkway, but nothing lie a concert venue do I find.  I wound up taking shelter in a department store anchoring a shopping mall. I thought I had the phone number of a friend who is a member of the ensemble, but I was mistaken. Not that this would have been any help, since he would have been about to go on stage, and would not have been in any position to offer aid. At any rate, giving the afternoon up for a total irredeemable loss, I called an Uber vehicle, and am now at home.

07 February 2022

Réfléchisson du jour

Not for all the cauliflower in the caliphate.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

We are full of rhythms . . . our pulse, our gestures, our digestive tracts, the lunar and seasonal cycles.

— Yehudi Menuhin

So, in October, I did not feel like writing, and (as it was such a novelty for me) I felt that I needed to say so. Now I can state that I feel like writing again, and also, I feel that I have learnt/absorbed a new lesson from my stroke.

I suppose that I have decided that I want to keep writing, and that I should do so, uncaring whether or not the damned universe notices. But I have decided (per Yehudi Menuhin’s observation above) to let my composition rhythm be itself (possibly irregular) and not to push myself. When I have motivation (internal or external) I shall welcome and honor it.

At the time when my life was changed by my stroke I pushed myself to be a good and conscionable office monkey. I hoped that I might at last earn enough to be able to afford (for instance) to buy a house in which we might live, here where my work was. That hope was ill-founded and quite possibly foolish. Knowing this, I can let it go. The universe lavishes riches and opportunities upon others, but not on me. This is not bitterness, and it feels great to acknowledge this small truth in my life, and move on as I can.



26 January 2022

Inching Forward

When I happened to overhear the phrase “generic popsicles,” earlier today, it wasn’t so much what the young lady said, as the way she said it.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

A created thing is never invented and it is never true: it is always and ever itself.

— Federico Fellini

the Symphony № 3 is inching along, which I like just fine. Back in October, when I left the score to rest on the shelf, I had an idea for m. 165ff. but I could not then discover the execution I wanted (meseems my thought was clouded in part by uncertainty that mm. 145-164 were quite what I wanted there. My doubts on that head were (I think now) simply unnecessary. Anyway, today I found just what I wanted for that conceptual passage, and now the piece runs 9 minutes.

Unless the evolving situation with the pandemic forces a change in Triad’s plans to sing concerts on 19 and 20 March, When will in fact be performed then.

Much as I love Miklós Rózsa’s score for Double Indemnity, of course, part of me wants to say that my favorite moment is when the Schubert Unfinished becomes the soundtrack of Fred MacMurray realizing that he has been a tool all along.

A good friend just posted that he solved today Wordle in two tries; he adds: That’ll never happen again. I realized today that it’s the perfect game for Americans...getting the right answer makes you feel proud of your accomplishment, but how well you succeed is largely determined by how lucky you are at the beginning.

I replied: The few times I’ve tried, luck was not with me, so I’ve decided that whenever a friend posts Wordle success, I’m going to celebrate by composing five measures of new music.

Sketches of Igor Fyodorovich’s for Petrushka:



25 January 2022

On Tiptoe

Proactive napping: Lethargy Therapy.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is not really an occasion for fanfare, so leave us proceed simply. As I reported earlier, I found myself in a place unusual for me, in feeling no motivation to compose. So, I did no composing proper for some 15 weeks. It was simply not feeling like writing, I was not anxious about the condition, nor did I feel it would be at all permanent. The last work I did on the Symphony № 3 was on 4 October, when the piece ran to almost seven minutes. My evening’s relaxation last night led to enjoying a commentary upon All About Eve, mostly by the son of writer-director Jos. L. Mankiewicz. The thought of resuming low-key work on the Opus 175 had been in mind for (say) a couple of weeks) so it was unusual in the first place, that I actually set to some work, and doubly unusual in my deciding to set to work as late in the day as 11:30 PM. I did a little tinkering, and then put up the shop and hit the hay. I’ve done some more work today, and the piece runs eight minutes at this point. Making no promises, but perhaps I’ll work on it some more tomorrow.



15 December 2021

Not Just Yet

Methyl Ermine and a hairpin piranha.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

— Abraham Lincoln

Pursuant to the prior post, I have not yet done any composing, as such. My musical work has been limited to organizing and preparing for the Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols (I should have liked to use an ampersand there, but historically the blog software has not played well with the ampersand) and participating in the decision when to schedule the next Triad concert. Surely it is nothing new in my experience, that I fail to discern any future for myself as a composer. Just why this is at present a damper upon any further creative work, I have not understood. I am grateful and pleased that Ensemble Aubade performed Oxygen Footprint on their November tour.
The new Triad concert dates are 19 and 20 March. It is not going to be possible to include When on this program. I understand and agree with the reasons for the choice of dates, but that does not seem to mitigate my disappointment. I do not feel inclined to write anything new as a substitute. I have started to putter with refitting Yesterday’s Snow as an SAB choral piece. If I finish this possibly absurd undertaking, I shall report.



23 October 2021

Tectonic Shift?

But, is now the time for rhetorical questions?
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Ah, well! We live and learn, or, anyway, we live.

— Will Cuppy


I’ve been mulling of late, partly in response to a virtual acquaintance’s recent

enthusiasm for composer N. Composer N. is perhaps a year older than I. She’s an internationally

celebrated composer. In fact, I met her at Symphony Hall after a

Boston performance of a piece of hers. The Boston Symphony may

never play any of my music. There is no benefit to the idle

speculation that it is possible they may play my music after my death.

When Composer N. is commissioned to write a piece, the sum of money

is considerable.

If I and Composer N. sat down in conversation, and I told her the sum I was

paid for my recent commission, she might perhaps laugh, if she were not

such a nice person, as all reports suggest. None of this is composer N.’s fault,

and it’s not a zero-sum game. While I do not believe I hold any of it against

Composer N.,

I did not enjoy nor think much of the piece that night at Symphony. I do

consider in hindsight that I may simply have been resentful, but neither do I

feel that I owe anything to composer N.

It also doesn’t help, that the artistic director of a choir dedicated

to performing new music, turned a piece of mine down (a piece

of which many colleagues

think highly) with the ‘explanation’ that my music is not like that of

Composer N. upon whom they lavish their musical love. But enough of

Composer N. whom I wish no ill whatever, and who I hope will continue

to enjoy success and prosperity.


Today, I debate which better describes my state: low motivation or nil

motivation. My thoughts of late have not (despite the theme of the first

paragraph) dwelt upon either resentment of successful living composers, nor

self-pity. I am wondering what my goal should be, or even if having a goal is

of any use to me. For instance, up to now (let’s say) I have had

the ambition that the Boston Symphony Orchestra should play music

of mine. But it is plain to me that this is a foolish ambition, as there is

nothing I can do to make such a thing happen. Today, I wonder if

having that as an ambition (or even as a hope) is not merely pointless

but self-deceiving.


So, what?

An old friend of mine composes only when commissioned to do so, and

has enjoyed some performance opportunities of which I can only dream.

I certainly do not resent him, nor feel envious of him. In a general way,

I might wish that I were in a similar position, but if I composed only

on commission, I should not have written White Nights,nor either of my two symphonies. It is pointless for me to wish that

I had been commissioned to write these, I am practically a musical

nobody and I have certainly been

treated so by musical somebodies. I am not going to be the next

John Williams. Setting aside the speculative q. of whether I could

successfully score a film, the universe has not afforded me any such

opportunity. Nor am I going to be the next John Adams, Philip

Glass or Joan Tower. I observe merely factually, with neither

envy nor resentment, that the universe has not afforded me

even such opportunity.


Then there is the clarinet, from which I have been perforce separated

by my stroke. I pursue my therapy and do my homework. My

determination remains staunch. Yet with the impaired sensation

in my fingers, it is simply impossible to know, today, when I shall

be able to play again. But I ain’t stoppin’.

Perhaps this week I am asking myself, why should I still compose? For most of my composing life, notwithstanding my negligible

level of success, I never needed to ask myself such a question. When

I was in rehab after my stroke, I did not

ask myself any such question, it was simply that I wanted to compose.

For only one thing, I

was determined to complete White Nights. If I don’t write my music,

no one will, I recall saying even as I lay in hospital.

As I write today, the latest of the Op. 169 organ pieces I composed was 31 May, and I don’t know whether I’ll finish

the set as conceived. The last I worked on the string symphony was 4 Oct.

I make no claim or promise as to

the future. I can only say, I don’t feel like writing today.