19 June 2018

The musical day, 17 June 2018


11:00 Handbell Choir rehearsal.  First time reading the parts I marked up for the Behnke.  Of the four ringers, two are "subs."  We also had our flutist, to whom I had gotten a part only the day before.  With such a rehearsal, you know that things will not start out perfect, nor do you demand that we reach perfection by the rehearsal's end.  This anthem is on for Sunday the 24th, so it's Do or Die.  We're Doing.

12:15 JSB, Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125 on the drive back to Woburn.

ca. 14:15 A nap.

17:40 Holmboe, String Quartet № 13 on the drive to Somerville.

18:10 Enter Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church.

18:30 Carol launches the pre-concert warm-up/touch-up with Seven-Line Supplication.  We have basically 5 mins per number.  For Hariyu, I target two passages, and then yield, figuring that some other item on the program will want an extra minute, at a juncture when time is a precious commodity.  For Green Is the Color of Its Flame, time insufficient to run the lot.  There's a request to run "my" Allargando.  Everything on the program feels good.

ca. 19:30 Triad withdraw to the (notably cooler) basement.  I close my eyes, relax.  Do not actually sleep, of course.

19:55 We line up.

20:05 Concert.  For Hariyu, I add a new bit of "choreography," in stepping aside the stand and crouching for the piano, 6/8 passage; performance sharp, energetic.  The Agnus Dei goes especially mellifluously;  highly satisfactory.  For Green Is the Color of its Flame, my challenge is, especially, to respect the pianist's activity (i.e., that I not rush);  performance warm, solid, optimistic in that peculiarly Thoreau way.  The entire concert went very, very well.

21:15 Après-concert.  The host of the venue warmly congratulated [Triad as represented by] me on "an excellent concert";  he's worked with us/me several times over the years, so we did indeed manage to make an especially strong impression.  A couple of members spoke me encouraging remarks viz. my conducting, for which I am grateful;  I can certainly stand to do better, as with any performance.  One singer paid me the great compliment of saying that in this performance, the final cadence on pacem was especially affecting.  Another asked me how I felt about the tempo, if it was "what [I] had in mind" for the Agnus Dei;  I explained that I wrote the piece with the idea that, depending on the size of the choir, and on the performance space, the tempo would be malleable – that I did not have a single, "correct" tempo which was the necessary ideal.  I assured her that the composer was entirely satisfied with the evening's performance.

21:45 Holmboe, String Quartet № 13 on the drive home.

18 June 2018

From the Archive :: June 2008

18 June 2008

In rehearsing The Mousetrap, Pete and I have found that it runs a bit longer than I’d expected earlier on. And it’s a lunchtime recital, and quite a few fellow workers here at the office will turn out . . . so we can’t have the concert running long.  Regrettably, then, I’ll strike Blue Shamrock from today’s program, and figure on including it in a program later in the year.

20 June 2008

Now it can be told: I had a blast on Wednesday.  Pete is such a damned good player!  The performance of The Mousetrap, notwithstanding its distance from Strict Perfection, amply justified my speculation in writing such a behemoth of a chamber

I hadn’t thought about it in a while;  yet when I was asked the inevitable question, yesterday, about what tie-in the title has with the piece, my former thoughts had settled into something approaching coherence.

The title comes from Hamlet.  The play-within-the-play is The Murder of Gonzago, and yet when Claudius asks, Hamlet tells him the name is The Mousetrap.  Generally, in the background of the composition, were thoughts of how Shakespeare on one level, drew frankly from existing dramatic sources, but created something of excellence which is all his own;  and on another level, has a distinct dramatic event which is an organic piece of the whole.  Part of my thinking in the piece was, a new (for myself) approach to including ‘found objects’, and also variation in representing the object.

Now, I started writing a piece for Pete and me to play together almost exactly a year ago.  Originally it was going to be a relatively brief piece . . . and sparse and atmospheric.  But there wasn’t the time to wrap up composition and get even an easy piece rehearsed in time for the recital, so I set the MS. down.

By the time I took it back up, I had decided on a somewhat grander plan.  Part of this may simply have been, that in my mind, it was a slow-sustained piece for a long time now, and compositionally I wanted to write a burst of activity to contrast.  Even in the early stages of the composition, I had included an ‘organic quotation’, though something pretty obscure and with sentimental value here at home, to make Maria and Irina smile . . . an allusion (though not, in The Mousetrap, in waltz-time) to a waltz used in the Gary Cooper / Audrey Hepburn movie Love in the Afternoon, called “Fascination.”  Soon I was not only broadening the compositional scope, but making a game of composing an environment whose ‘orbit’ might capture various bits from the literature.  Part of what was going on, too, was likely the fact that in writing for viola, I had in mind Shostakovich’s references elsewhere in both the Viola Sonata and the Fifteenth Symphony.  And my own fascination (!) with enlarging the piece was partly a matter of building on the Studies in Impermanence . . . thinking that, having managed a block of 20 minutes with a solo wind instrument, it must after all be an even easier accomplishment with two instruments.

Imperfections of execution notwithstanding, response to the piece was warm, from listeners with a variety of musical background.  A friend of mine has served as a recording engineer intern at Symphony Hall this past season (and she is going to go back to school for more studies this fall).  She very graciously fetched in her gear and recorded the recital; she sounds confident in the quality of the resulting production.  Before I actually get my own hands on the recording, she is going to clean up such things as, the rumble of the Red Line trains regularly passing underneath the Cathedral . . . .

17 June 2018

The Mousetrap of Yore

Ten years ago today, violist Peter Lekx & I were rehearsing The Mousetrap for a 18 June 2008 performance.

My notes from 17 June 2008 include the notation:
Just for the record, Pete is still calling me “evil.”
Few enough have earned the right to sling that adjective at me . . . .

16 June 2018

Back where it began

Here am I, at the Ear Buds place again.  The dream of a young man in the woods, listening.

Working Wherever

And today, at The Composer’s Movable Workplace:

For the second consecutive time (so, yes, it has the appearance of being made a habit) I brought my laptop with me, to work on a task for the HTUMC Music Program while I waited for an oil change.

As befitteth a composer, the timing was perfect:  I had reached the final double-bar of the flute part which I was attaching to Dr John A Behnke’s Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds just as the announcement came over the intercom inviting me back to the Service Area.

Tomorrow morning, we rehearse the handbells;  and we put it all together Sunday the 24th.

15 June 2018

A kind of floating

Your vision will become clear when you look into your heart.
– Jung

This is more or less how I feel, when I listen to Ear Buds.  When singing, or simply listening to, Nuhro.

There is music which I write, the process of creating which is not (on the surface) governed by how I want to compose it.  But there is a sound in my inner ear, which I know to be a good sound, and a sound apt for expansion into a full piece.  And my “work”?  To be obedient to the sound.

It should be added (that is, it appears to me to be true) that the reason that I am able, today, to ‘surrender’ my musical mind to obedience to a sound, and that the result can be a musical composition with which my ear, my mind, and my heart are altogether satisfied – the reason is, I have years of experience writing, and many of the pieces I have written over the years have been governed (well governed, no tyranny here) by the mind.  The process – not one process, but a repertory of processes, approaches – is internalized.

I can be obedient to the sound, because I know I can trust my ingrained musical habits.  Discipline;  the fruits of discipline.

14 June 2018


Unable to find a suitable brass player for the 24th; so be it.  I do need to prepare a flute part, now.  Or, well, tomorrow.

Struck up an acquaintance with a pianist in Philly.  And recalled that only two of my pieces for piano solo have ever been performed for an audience.

Triad concert this Sunday evening (the 17th).

Michael Joseph is playing an organ recital in Nashua on the 24th, which I can make.

And I pronounce the Dances Defiant done, both the Boston Harbor Heave-Ho (Tea Party Dance) and Revere’s Midnight Reel (War Dance).  They will make a good addition to programming here in Boston, in any event.