30 July 2009

Continuing Demand for the Watermelon

Apart from having two lunchtime recitals to gear up for, the past several days have verged upon madness, in assisting in the preparation of a Lux Nova imprint of a major score. Sunday morning, I had stopped by to visit Bill Goodwin, who kindly lent me a handheld audio recording device (one which he found at a discount, and a model which was recommended to him by a professional recording engineer in the Boston area). Thus, there are documents of the lunchtime recitals this week.

It was not absolutely the best I have ever played, but I played reasonably well, and it has been an irrecollectably long time since last I played in public two days in a row. That probably has not happened since I was in school; and the public this week was a more public public than the school public, then.

Peter and I got to the West End Branch library there about an hour ahead of the performance yesterday, but it was a while before we could get into the space.

We assembled our instruments, and decided which fish we each would station our chair on. There was a sort of play rug, a school of fish all various colors, and each bearing some number; and around the perimeter of the oval, there were parti-colored bubbles with the letters of the alphabet. Neither of us had ever performed above the images of fish ever before. Peter had brought his stand; I was counting on there being a stand or two, and there was one stand. Barely served for the purpose of spreading out the pages of Blue Shamrock, with the aid of a single paper clip. It worked, and that is all that matters. A desultory ambulance noised by on Cambridge Street just outside our window (Mass General Hospital is just a couple of blocks away).

For a microphone stand, I selected one of the stylish green preschooler chairs; grabbed three books from the book drop, and clipped the microphone to the back cover of (I do not recall the title exactly) Interviews for Dummies. As Peter and I sat down to quickly blow through a couple of pages of Heedless Watermelon, he remarks, “That is a book-drop, isn’t it?” And I was thinking what he was thinking. “They won’t drop books in the book drop while the library is open,” I said. “You speak as if with certainty,” Peter retorted. “They won’t drop books in the book drop while the library is open, will they?” I corrected.

Between the unusually strong turnout the day before at King’s Chapel, and the fact that neither of us knew at all what to expect at this new venue, we should have played with poise even for an audience of one. First two people to show up were long-standing fans of Peter’s . . . of the eight or nine listeners who turned up, we knew most of them by name, and it was all cozy.

It was an informal event, and I simply talked through the program before launching into Blue Shamrock.

For the final piece on the program (the duet), Peter & I sat down; or, I sat down first, and while Peter was gathering his flute, he asked me about the inspiration for Heedless Watermelon. After my appropriately elusive reply, we got somehow on the subject of the book-drop, when what should happen but, someone drops a book through the book-drop. Our host at the library is apologetic (nearly mortified, even) but I assure her that the timing was perfect: the drop was made between numbers, and the composer has no complaint.

As if on cue, more items drop, but Peter and I are having a great time. All contents having settled, we set the Heedless Watermelon a-rolling; I thank the audience for their kind attention, and there the program ends. Peter steps over to the book-drop and says, “Oh, the irony! What was it that was dropped? A compact disc! The competition!”

Gentleman in the audience, as he stood up after the program, said, “I hope you’ll play Heedless Watermelon again soon!” (A command performance!)

29 July 2009

Melon Slice

Sneak mp3 listen to the (a bit rougher than might have been, but what the heck) premiere of Heedless Watermelon yesterday:

28 July 2009

The Weekend Fix-It List

p. 22, m. 317 :: "straight mute" collides with double-barline (this was my fault earlier from the conversion)

p. 23, m. 334 :: fonts don't match (I wound up creating separate objects for the two lines of text, last night, but they don't have to be, of course)

pp. 26, 27 :: there are a couple of locos that don't make sense, because I failed completely to correct the lack of ottava bassa lines in the tuba.

mm. 378-380: D is where it needs to sound; in the Finale score, I had notated it an octave higher w/ 8va bassa

mm. 384-390: G and F, ditto.

p. 35, m. 504 :: Not crucial, but in the source score I had signs above the measure indicating to the conductor the measure's subdivision (2 + 3)

p. 37, m. 541 :: Missing cresc. hairpins in the brass.

p. 38, m. 544 :: Ditto.

End of score :: I should like to add:

Boston, Massachusetts
10 July 2006

Will take another look later.

p. 1, system 1

A Sx, m. 7 :: slur crowds tie
T Sx, m. 3 :: f crowds beam (?)
Tn I & II, B Tn, m. 3 :: f crowds bottom line of staff (?)

p. 1, system 2

Cl I, m. 14 :: slur crowds second-ledger-line C
A Sx, m. 8 :: slur crowds tie

p. 3, system 3

Cl I, mm. 29 & 33 :: slur crowds G and first-ledger-line A (?)

p. 4, system 2

Bar Sx, m. 50 :: flip stem of flagged eighth-note B

p. 5, system 1

T Sx, mm. 60-61 :: eighth-note E should be tied to following half-note

p. 6, system 1

Cl I, m. 76 :: hairpin crowds slur betw. S Sx & A Sx, m. 76 :: slurs & hairpin crowded
A Sx, m. 77 :: slur crowds tie at end of m.
T Sx, m. 77 :: slur crowds first-ledger-line A
Bar Sx, mm. 73-75 :: slur collides w/ T Sx staff
Tn II, m. 77 :: slur crowds tie at end of m.

p. 6, system 2

A Sx, m. 78 :: slur crowds tie
A Sx, m. 82 :: quarter-note C# tied to quarter-note, should be half-note C#
A Sx, m. 83 :: slur crowds tie at end of m.
T Sx, m. 82 :: slur crowds first-ledger-line A
Bar Sx, m. 80 :: slur crowds third-ledger-line E
Tn I, m. 83 :: slur crowds tie at end of m.

p. 7, system 1

S Sax, m. 87 :: staccato mark should be below notehead
S Sax, m. 89 :: slur crowds tie at end of m. (?)
T Sx, m. 87 :: slur crowds first-ledger-line A
Bar Sx, mm. 88-89 :: slur collides w/ T Sx staff

p. 7, system 2

S Sax, m. 90 :: slur crowds tie at beginning of m.
S Sax, m. 94 :: slur crowds stem of A
A Sax, m. 90 :: slur crowds # sign (?)
A Sax, m. 92 :: slur crowds E (?)
T Sax, m. 90 :: slur crowds G (?)
T Sax, m. 91 :: slur crowds A (?)

p. 8, system 1

A Sx, m. 101 :: # crowds barline
Saxes, m. 101 :: nudge p closer to respective staff (?)

p. 8, system 2

Cl II, m. 105 :: slur crowds A &c.
A Sx, m. 106 :: # crowds barline

p. 9, system 1

Cl I, m. 117 :: mp & hairpin crowd tie (?)
A Sx, m. 113 :: # crowds barline
betw. Bar Sx & Tn I :: correct crowding

p. 9, system 2

Cl I, m. 119 :: reverse hairpin crowds Cl II (?)
betw. Bar Sx & Tn I :: correct crowding

p. 13, system 1

A Sx, m. 173 :: # crowds barline
Tn II, m. 175 :: hairpin crowds Tn II tie

p. 13, system 2

brass, m. 187 :: extend hairpin through m. 188

p. 14, system 2

Ta, mm. 201-202 :: hairpins collide w/ or crowd ties

p. 15, system 1

Betw. S Sx & A Sx, m. 205 :: slurs crowded
A Sx, mm. 209-210 :: slur a bit dodgy
Ta, mm. 209-210 :: hairpins crowd ties

p. 15, system 2

A Sx, m. 212 :: slur a bit dodgy

p. 16, system 1

Cl I, m. 223 :: slur crowds second-ledger-line A
Cl I, m. 225 :: slur crowds second-ledger-line A
Ta, mm. 220-221 :: hairpins collide w/ or crowd ties
brass, m. 223 :: manage placement of fzp

p. 16, system 2

Betw. S Sx & A Sx, mm. 228-229 :: hairpin & reverse, crowding
Ta, mm. 227-229 :: hairpins collide w/ or crowd ties

p. 16, system 3

Betw. B Cl & Bar Sx :: bit more space perhaps

p. 17, systems 1, 2, 3

Betw. B Cl & Bar Sx :: bit more space perhaps

p. 18, system 2

Cl I, mm. 279-280 :: nudge hairpin closer to Cl I staff
T Sx, m. 276 :: correct beam on beat 2 (just a mess)
T Sx, m. 277 :: add accent to first A-flat
T Sx, m. 280 :: slur collides with cautionary accidental
Tn I & B Tn, m. 281 :: mf & hairpin crowd tie

p. 19, system 1

S Sx, m. 282 :: move staccato marks to noteheads
S Sx, mm. 283, 285 :: move accents to noteheads
A Sx, mm. 284, 285, 287 :: figures on first beat of respective measures need stem direction reversed
T Sx, m. 285 :: figure on first beat of measure needs stem direction reversed
Bar Sx, m. 282 :: eighth-notes should be staccato
Bar Sx, m. 283 :: eighth-notes on first beat should be staccato

p. 19, system 2

A Sx, m. 292 :: figure on second beat of measure needs stem direction reversed
T Sx, m. 289 :: figure on first beat of measure needs stem direction reversed
T Sx, m. 292 :: tie at end of measure needs to be flipped
Bar Sx, m. 290 :: tie in middle of measure needs to be flipped

p. 20, system 1

S Sx, mm. 293-294 :: move staccato marks to noteheads
S Sx, mm. 295, 297 :: move accents to noteheads
T Sx, m. 296 :: figures need stem direction reversed

p. 20, system 2

S Sx, mm. 299-301 :: move staccato marks to noteheads
Bar Sx, m. 302 :: tie at end of measure needs to be flipped

p. 21, system 1

B Cl, m. 305 :: add accent to B-natural
S Sx, mm. 303, 305-307 :: move staccato marks to noteheads
S Sx, m. 305 :: move accent to notehead
A Sx, m. 306 :: figure on first beat of measure needs stem direction reversed

p. 21, system 2

B Cl, m. 314 :: f crowds stem (?)

p. 22, system 1

Saxes, mm. 317-318 :: hairpins crowded (?)
Betw. Tn I & Tn II, mm. 318-319 :: hairpin crowds tie

p. 22, system 2

Ta, m. 328 :: hairpin crowds tie

p. 24, system 1

B Cl, m. 348 :: duplicate instrument change marks (artifact from my work Friday night)

p. 24, system 2

S Sx, m. 356 :: beginning of slur crowds third-space C (?)
S Sx, m. 357 :: slur crowds tie
T Sx, m. 355 :: beginning of slur crowds third-space C (?)

p. 25, system 1

Cl I, m. 360 :: beginning of slur crowds noteheads (?)
S Sx, mm. 360-362 :: reverse stem direction on third-space C figures
A Sx, m. 362 :: reverse stem direction on beat 2 figure
T Sx, m. 359 :: reverse stem direction on beat 2 figure

p. 25, system 2

S Sx, m. 370 :: reverse stem direction on flagged eighth-note C
A Sx, m. 367 :: reverse stem direction on third-line B figure



Bass Cl does not change back to Cl II until m. 367


p. 26, system 1

Cl I, m. 375 :: beginning of slur crowds noteheads (?)
S Sx, mm. 374 :: reverse stem direction on beat 2 figure
T Sx, mm. 372 :: reverse stem direction on beat 1 figure

p. 26, system 2

Cl I, m. 380 :: slur crowds second-ledger-line C
Cl II, m. 378 :: slur crowds second-ledger-line C
A Sx, m. 378 :: reverse stem direction on third-line B figure

p. 27, system 1

Cl I, m. 391 :: slur crowds third-ledger-space D and second-ledger-line C
A Sx, m. 385 :: reverse stem direction on third-line B figure
Ta, mm. 403-407 (system 2) :: pitch sounds as notated, only change to employ ottava bassa

p. 27, system 2

Cl I, m. 392 :: slur crowds first-ledger-line A
S Sx, m. 393 :: reverse stem direction on flagged eighth-note C

p. 28, system 1

S Sx, m. 393 :: reverse stem direction on quarter-note C

p. 28, system 2

Cl I, m. 407 :: beam eighth-notes across rest on beat 2
Cl I, m. 408 :: beam eighth-notes across rest on beat 1
Cl I,I m. 407 :: beam eighth-notes across rest on beat 1

p. 29, system 1

T Sx, m. 417 :: reverse stem direction on half-note E
Bar Sx, m. 411 :: reverse stem direction on flagged eighth-note B

p. 29, system 2

T Sx, m. 419 :: reverse stem direction on B's
Bar Sx, m. 418 :: reverse stem direction on beat 2 eighth-note figure

p. 30, system 1

T Sx, m. 425 :: reverse stem direction on dotted-quarter B

p. 30, system 2

A Sx, m. 434 :: reverse stem direction on beat 2 eighth-note figure
T Sx, m. 432 :: tie at start of measure is dodgy

p. 31, system 1

Bar Sx, m. 446 :: sharp crowds barline
Bar Sx, m. 447 :: slur collides with tie

p. 31, system 2

Cl I, m. 449 :: hairpin crowds slur
S Sop, m. 449 :: fix hairpin & slur
A Sx, m. 449 :: hairpin collides w/ T Sx slur
T Sx, m. 448 :: sharp collides w/ slur
T Sx, m. 449 :: nudge hairpin closer to staff
T Sx, m. 453 :: slur crowds tie
Bar Sx, m. 448 :: tie collides w/ slur
Bar Sx, m. 453 :: slur crowds third-ledger-line E, tie

p. 32, system 1

Cl I, m. 449 :: sharp crowds barline
S Sax, m. 456 :: move staccato mark to notehead
T Sax, m. 454 :: slur crowds tie
T Sax, m. 455 :: slur crowds first-ledger-line A
Tn I, m. 456 :: slur crowds tie
Tn II, m. 458 :: slur crowds tie

p. 32, system 2

Cl I, m. 460 :: slur crowds tie
S Sx, m. 465 :: slur crowds tie
T Sax, m. 460 :: slur crowds first-ledger-line A
T Sax, m. 464 :: slur crowds first-ledger-line A
Bar Sax, m. 460 :: slur crowds #

p. 33, system 1

Cl I, mm. 471-472 :: reverse stem of B's
S Sax, m. 471 :: move staccato mark to notehead
Tn I, m. 466 :: p collides w/ Tn II tie

p. 33, system 2

Cl I, m. 473 :: reverse stem of B
Bar Sx, m. 477 :: # crowds barline
Brass, m. 477 :: some of the hairpins looks scrawny; slightly expand

p. 34, system 1

A Sx, m. 483 :: # crowds barline

p. 34, system 2

Cl I, m. 490 :: reverse stems of beat 1 figure
Cl I, m. 495 :: slur a bit dodgy
Betw. Cl II & S Sax :: a bit more space
T Sax, m. 491 :: hairpin crowds tie

p. 35, system 1

Cl II, m. 497 :: reverse stems of beat 2 figure

p. 35, system 3

Cl I, m. 512 :: tie a bit dodgy (?)

p. 36, system 1

Cl I, m. 515 :: slur collides w/ third-ledger-space D
A Sax, mm. 519-521 :: #'s crowd barlines (?)

p. 36, system 2

Cl I, mm. 522-524 :: reverse stem direction of B's
A Sx, mm. 522-524 :: reverse stem direction of B's

p. 37, system 2

A Sx, mm. 540 :: reverse stem direction of beat 1 figure

p. 38, system 1

Cl I, m. 549 :: # crowds barline (?)
A Sx, m. 547 :: # crowds barline

p. 38, system 2

Cl I, m. 555 :: # crowds barline
T Sx, m. 553 :: # crowds barline

p. 39, system 2

S Sax, m. 567 :: # crowds barline
A Sax, m. 568 :: # crowds barline
T Sax, m. 569 :: # crowds barline

p. 40, system 2

Ta, m. 584 :: hairpin crowds tie

p. 41, system 2

Cl I, mm. 603 :: reverse stem direction of B
Ta, m. 600 :: p collides with loco

p. 42, system 1

S Sx, mm. 606-607 :: check tie?

p. 42, system 2

S Sx, mm. 614-615 :: check tie?

p. 43

Generally dynamics and hairpins in cls are in danger of collision

27 July 2009

Program Notes, Supplementary for IIa & IIb

      Heedless Watermelon  ::  At time of writing these program notes, the piece has not quite been finished, which must be a kind of Henning milestone.  Still, I can assure you, Gentle Reader, that anything I write now will continue to hold true for the completed piece (when it is complete).  Mary Jane Rupert, Paul Cienniwa, Peter Bloom & I played a recital on 24 June;  and in the elated aftermath, I started composing, for my Muse bade me draw up a diverting duet for flute and clarinet.  My method of composition can be quickly summarized:  There is no method.  No, that is not (cannot be) quite true;  but doing something different I frequently find a reliable tack.  After the extended musical canvases of my opp. 92-95 (about an hour and three-quarters of music total), I have lately trended to brevity.  (I composed Marginalia for cello ensemble in the space of two days, while ‘powering down’ in Bethesda, Maryland.)  Musically, this piece is an intuitive blend of fructose, sunshine, sans-souci and electricity.  There’s even a canon on a modified Frank Zappa melody thrown in.  Toujours de l’audace.  Optional entertainment, forsooth.

      Tropes on Parasha’s Aria  ::  This is one brief episode in the course of an extended scene in a ballet I have been writing, after Dostoyevsky’s novella “White Nights.”  The narrator sits down to introduce himself properly, and in one paragraph, makes a variety of literary allusions (some of them exotic);  musically, I took this as an occasion for a series of brief characteristic dances, in something of a miniaturized homage to Act II of The Nutcracker.  One item the narrator mentions is Pushkin’s verse-comedy, The Little House in Kolomna, which itself was later the source of a one-act opera buffa composed by Igor Stravinsky.  The aria which Stravinsky wrote for Parasha at the beginning of Mavra has a special sentimental significance for me;  I heard Rostropovich play once in St Petersburg, and at the end of the program he played Parasha’s aria for an encore, introducing it simply as “an old Russian song (старая русская песня).”  In between iterations of the original melody, I have interleaved quasi-improvisatory ‘glosses’.

23 July 2009

Trio rehearsal

Met with harpist Mary Jane Rupert & flautist Peter H. Bloom to rehearse one of the easiest pieces in the world to rehearse, a trio adaptation of one of the characteristic dances in Night the Second of the ballet-in-progress, White Nights. A few years ago I had prepared a cl/vn/pf arrangement of this dance, Tropes on Parasha’s Aria, which I played together with Stephen Symchych & Mark Engelhardt.

As in the case of that prior adaptation, a fine time was had by all this evening; approval of the music (and the arrangement) was unanimous, and it was agreed that the trio must close the program. “Nothing else could follow this!,” remarked Peter.

Coming 29.vii.09

Bullish Upticks (IIb)

The Irrationally Exuberant Music of Karl Henning

Blue Shamrock, Opus 63 (2002) clarinet solo
The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword, Opus 94a (2008) alto flute solo – Première
Irreplaceable Doodles, Opus 89 (2007) clarinet solo
Heedless Watermelon, Opus 97 (2009) flute & clarinet – Première

Peter H. Bloom, flutes
Karl Henning, clarinet

Wednesday, 29 July 2009
West End Branch, Boston Public Library
151 Cambridge Street, Boston
Free & Open to the Public.

When the going gets tough, the tough get composing.

Coming 28.vii.09

Bullish Upticks (IIa)

The Irrationally Exuberant Music of Karl Henning

Heedless Watermelon, Opus 97 (2009) flute & clarinet – Première
stars & guitars, Opus 95 (2009) bass flute & harp – Première
Tropes on Parasha’s Aria (from White Nights, Opus 75) flute, clarinet & harp

Peter H. Bloom, flutes
Mary Jane Rupert, harp
Karl Henning, clarinet

Tuesday, 28 July 2009
King’s Chapel
Corner of School & Tremont Streets, Boston
Freewill donation.

When the going gets tough, the tough get composing.

21 July 2009

First steps towards a première

Just returned home from the initial rehearsal of Heedless Watermelon.

(Which almost sounds a bit funny, as the first performance will be a week from today.)

Went well, Peter thinks well of the piece. I wrote it with an eye to having fun playing it, myself, and on top of that, to see the flutist evidently having nearly as much fun as I am, just playing the music—no composer could ask for more satisfaction than that experience.

None of this could really have been a surprise, though, could it?—I’ve already had the piece publicized for two performances next week.

In fact, only earlier today, Heinrich sent e-mail asking (again) for program and bios for the King’s Chapel date. His reply: “I love watermelon!”

The composer is in harmony with himself

20 July 2009

Unused Organ Pipes in the Background

Courtesy of my friend Stéphanie, a photo from the rehearsal before the June recital:

[ click for larger image ]

Harpist Mary Jane is talking through page-turns in Lost Waters with Becky Bloom. Off to the left, discreetly discussing Zappa, the composer, and the brow of Paul Cienniwa, are visible. Unseen, but also discussing the Bard of Antelope Valley, is Peter H. Bloom.

19 July 2009


The inspiration has been acted upon. And the result sent to the appropriate parties.

A Few Figures & Facts

With the tub-thumping question, Why is the BSO so overpaid?, ringing in the air, soho the dog writes:

The answer? Because they’re not.

Separately, an inspiration has emerged out of the blue to adapt Heedless Watermelon for viola & cello.

17 July 2009

Fourths, Mr Jefferson, & the Irony of Opening Acts

At NewMusic box, Dan Visconti waxes wroth at theoretical harmonic confinement:
The striking quartal harmonies explored by 20th-century composers such as Bartók and Debussy were by no means new sounds by any reasonable definition. Among many other predecessors, we find that quartal chord formations abound in the works of J.S. Bach and so-called common practice tertian harmony; but in this situation we rarely choose to recognize them as such. By labeling a quartal formation as a suspension, we are literally stating that it should be another chord—we actually have the gall to deny that sound its integrity outside of a narrowly-defined relationship to an accepted triadic harmony.
Galling is perhaps a bit visceral; but the fellow has a good point.

Word comes in of the upcoming season for the UVa orchestra, now styled the Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra (the change must have been effected long since, but in the days when I was pursuing my Master’s, it went by an unwieldy name, something not far from The Charlottesville and Albemarle County University and Community Symphony Orchestra)

At any rate, I note with pleasure that Judith Shatin has a premiere on the board: Jefferson, In His Own Words.

And if in the opening concert of the season, there is perhaps a hint of irony in an Italian program (Ciao, Bella!) whose major work is a symphony by Mendelssohn, well . . . .

From the Department of Essentially Useless Knowledge comes an alert that, 42 years ago today, the Jimi Hendrix Experience (for the last occasion of the tour) opened for . . . The Monkees. On that page, the following quote from Peter Torke about Jimi Hendrix:
Nobody thought, ‘This is screaming, scaring-the-balls-off-your-daddy music compared with the Monkees,’ you know? It didn't cross anybody’s mind that it wasn’t gonna fly. And there’s poor Jimi, and the kids go, ‘We want the Monkees, we want the Monkees.’ . . . We went early to the show and listened to what this man could do because he really was a world-class musician.
A bit further down the page there is a set-list for a Salt Lake City date; it cannot have been every day even in 1967 that you could hear the Bach Two-Part Invention in F Major (BWV 779) followed up with “Last Train to Clarksville.”

Finer & More Creative Vegetables

[ thanks to Nicole ]

On Source Docs: Space-&-Hollywood Edition

A galactic oops!

      In an embarrassing acknowledgment, the space agency said Thursday that it must have erased the Apollo 11 moon footage years ago so that it could reuse the videotape.

      But now Hollywood is coming to the rescue.

Gotta love the opportunity to pen such a consequent!

16 July 2009

Limits and all

Although my glance was so very cursory that I only marked the title, On an Overgrown Path has a new post bearing the legend:

      The only limits are those set by the musicians

Keeping in mind that almost anything one says about the arts is not any immutable law, but has play within a field of contextI found myself immediately enamored of this sentiment.

Having said that, some of the applicability I find in the remark:

1. The composer explores his own limits. The composer gets nowhere, if he submits to what some portion of the audience insists are The Artistic Limits.

2. The performers serve as both practical and artistic limiters. The composer gets nowhere if he makes impossible demands. (He also gets no particular where fast, by making technical demands exceeding the players who place themselves at his disposal.) Ideally, the composer and the performer(s) form a kind of artistic collaborative; the performers dont necessarily have veto rights, but their artistic sympathy is important feedback for the composer.

3. The limits of 200 years ago are not the limits of 100 years ago; nor do the limits of 100 years ago hold any power over today. The limits change with time; and that is a function of the composer determining what the limits may be.

The following comment comes from a discussion forum (I do not see the source):

      I fundamentally reject purposeful incoherence as guiding principle in music/literature/art. You can’t create advanced forms that way.

      Purposeful incoherence creates a false (and intimidating) perception that there is a super-audience who will have a coherent experience. That is a lie. There is no coherence in purposeful incoherence. But there is the useful illusion of the super-audience.

      The inspired insanities, improvisational flights of bizarre activity, ecstatic incoherences are different than purposeful incoherences. Purposeful incoherence steals the glory from the inspired and purposeless insane.

Some wild stuff in there (gentleman in the back cries, Ill have some of what hes smoking!) so I am in no position to say whether I agree or not. Offhand, I dont recall any coercion to perceive that there is a super-audience who may have a coherent experience of music which I did not completely comprehend. But I may have been inattentive.

It may be that I have simply been sheltered from their society, but if there be composers who purpose incoherence, I have not had occasion to meet them. (I suppose one might assert the Wildean, There are good composers, and there are poor composers; that is all.) To complain of purposeful incoherence (at least with regard to the composers whose work I know, which work tends to resist immediate and ready assimilation) seems to me to impute bad motivation to the composers. Where I am inclined to believe (in the case of such composers who do their work right) that the coherence of the music may need to be caught up with.

Put another way (and to echo an earlier remark): I havent known any composers who write, with the intention that their music should not be understood. But I have known many listeners who were frustrated by music which did not yield readily to expectations, and who find the fault in the art, and in the artist.

I am sure I have nodded to Jaya before for the Sylvia Townsend Warner quote: She was not entertained, so she blamed the entertainment.

“The King Is Dead”

The King of Instruments, that is (and there will follow the exultant Long live the King!)

A wonderful photo album documenting the removal of a Moller organ from a parish in the Pacific Northwest.

15 July 2009

A Blur

May have found a violist game to tackle The Mousetrap and the Sonatina sopra « Veni, Emmanuel » . . . there is talk of a trumpeter or two to approach with the Ur-text of The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword . . . an e-mail comes in inquiring after the Evening Service in G, the quartet version of Pascha nostrum, and more.

Do I dream?

14 July 2009

Completely Different

Michael Palin (with the assistance, afterwards, of Graham Chapman) with a two-finger salute in observance of Bastille Day:

From the Archives :: 4 May 2005

Funny time wrapping Moonrise [for brass quintet] up last night.

Sometimes, I feel I have to write, even if I feel that I will wind up throwing out what I
ve written.  Sometimes, I have to do all that, to get to where I can write what is wanted.

Last night, I had the evening off, so I wanted to write, wanted to get the quintet done.  Energy was pretty low, however, and what the corporeal Henning really wanted was, just to draw a warm bath and call it an early night.  But of course, you get into the habit of calling nights early, and months will go by and you won't have written anything.

I don
t have great problems with forcing myself to write;  sometimes, I write well like that.  But last night I wrote eight measures, had a cup of tea, and while I sipped my tea, I knew that what I had written had to go, just crumple it up.

The eight measures though, followed some six measures which I had written on the train earlier yesterday.  Those six measures were good;  they were simple, but they were good.  So I finished my tea, ditched the offending eight measures (eight measures that just didn
t belong) . . . found my bearings at last, and finished the piece.

Today I
ll weigh and consider, but the piece has reached fair completion, and any adjustment will be minor.

Eight measures that just didn't belong . . . this is part of why I wanted to get the piece done.  When a piece has pretty much assumed shape, and youre close to finishing it, but circumstances get in the way of finishing it . . . you lose your sense of the piece, and it gets easy to write things that just dont belong.

But .
. . thats why it was good to sit myself down, write the stuff that didnt belong ... because then, Id regained my bearings on the piece.

13 July 2009

The Poetry of the Harbor

(Photo taken by The Artist in My Life.)

[ click to enlarge ]

Quite a mélange to be sure

With judicious planning (and working the phones) I have cleared this coming Sunday afternoon.  An invitation came to play at a concert in a private residence;  the gentleman specifically suggested Blue Shamrock, but I think I shall take this occasion to work Irreplaceable Doodles back up (and both these pieces are on for the 29 July program at the West End Branch of the BPL).  The Doodles will be no less impressive, and the piece has a bit more of a footprint.

It feels good to be in the path of more playing again.

A nice letter came from Maine this weekend, and the recording of the 24 June recital has sounded abroad on the still rural waters of the Pine Tree State.  Naturally, the composer is delighted that the music has been part of a summer holiday!

Peter Bloom is traveling, yet he kindly sent word from the road saying that he has downloaded Heedless Watermelon and the Tropes.  He says they look good, and sends congratulations.

For the 17 September concert, I am hoping to enlist Mary Jane Rupert again, for another swing at the Lost Waters.  But as a contingency, an hour's program with just flute and clarinet is feasible.

Greg Cooke, whose Bend of Time I premièred at King's Chapel a couple of years ago, is (even now, I hope) acting upon my suggestion to write a duet for flute and clarinet, for Peter & me to consider for inclusion on 17 September.

On walking home from the train yesterday afternoon (and a lovely day for it!), I 'heard' yet another and different 'solution' to the thought of adapting Lutosławski's Lullaby for cello ensemble.  This one, I think is the goods.

And, I am mulling a short piece for oboe and harp, on a suggestion from a virtual neighbor.

11 July 2009

Subject & Operation

It’s not exactly the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata emerging through the intensity of the Shostakovich Opus 147. We may take that as read.

From the outset, the new flute-&-clarinet duet was intended for an energetic bagatelle. And, in the case of the fancifully climactic contrapuntal finale, there is enough modification to the source-material, that (probably) no one would mark it for a ‘quotation’ without foreknowledge.

The original is in triple meter, and presented as a melody stated over a static bass and a single chord (changing at a few key points in the extended tune) in the harpsichord keeping the beat.

I have altered it to quadruple meter; I’ve played rather fast with local rhythmic values; and made it a strict canon with the flute answering at a compound perfect fifth higher (the score is transposed, and the clarinet is in A).

In significant part, to my surprise—I am very pleased with the result. And in fact, I am not sure that I had ever composed a strict canon before this. (And I reckon that since I have here made use of an outside source, we should perhaps consider this canon constructed rather than composed.) One almost incidental detail which I enjoy: the opening phrase is marked with a repeat; and I have ‘composed out’ the repeat in such a way that when the beginning returns, it is mid-measure rather on beat 1. Just one geeky composerly touch.

[ click to enlarge image ]

What’s in a name?

In a move counterindicated by the title of the Opus 89, I am thinking (for IIa) of substituting the Watermelon for the Doodles. More premiere-bang for the new score.

10 July 2009

Not Fireworks But Keeping the Stove Fueled

On the bus these past two mornings, I scrawled more musical detail for the flute/clarinet duet, Heedless Watermelon. Tomorrow I’ll fold those notations into the Sibelius file, and then I can send the pdf to Peter Bloom for his perusal — he’s on the road visiting family, but is eager to read sooner rather than later anything which he will wind up reading on a music stand.

Our duo lunchtime recital at the West End Branch of the Boston Public Library is now on the official website calendar. So, in raw, practical terms, I suppose I am expecting that we can put the Watermelon together in two rehearsals. Certainly, both players are equal to the task.

Just heard today that the video of the June recital did not come out. (No Henning on youtube just yet.)

Those patient (and, I hope, interested) enough to follow this blog recall that Charles Peltz conducted the successful premiere of Out in the Sun in the NEC’s Jordan Hall. Thanks to maestro Charles’ vigorous outreach with that score, the Director of Bands at the University of Michigan has written to enquire after renting parts for a performance later this year.

08 July 2009

The Waltzing Watermelon

In response to the excerpt here, Cato writes:

The almost waltzing after bar 85 sounds like fun!

Do watermelons waltz?

Well, why not!
It will be fun, I think (and I hope Peter finds it so, too).

I was thinking of closing the piece with an echo of the flute Morse Code at the end of that snippet, but on Maria’s better advice I trimmed up an otherwise ending.

07 July 2009

Bullish Upticks (IIb)

Bullish Upticks (IIb)

The Irrationally Exuberant Music of Karl Henning

Blue Shamrock, Opus 63 (2002) clarinet solo
The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword, Opus 94a (2008) alto flute solo – Premiere
Irreplaceable Doodles, Opus 89 (2007) clarinet solo
Heedless Watermelon, Opus 97 (2009) flute & clarinet – Premiere

Peter H. Bloom, flutes
Karl Henning, clarinet

Wednesday, 29 July 2009
West End Branch, Boston Public Library
151 Cambridge Street, Boston
Free & Open to the Public.

When the going gets tough, the tough get composing.

Bullish Upticks (IIa)

Bullish Upticks (IIa)

The Irrationally Exuberant Music of Karl Henning

Irreplaceable Doodles, Opus 89 (2007) clarinet solo
stars & guitars, Opus 95 (2009) bass flute & harp – Premiere
Tropes on Parasha’s Aria from White Nights, Opus 75 (2008) flute, clarinet & harp

Peter H. Bloom, flutes
Mary Jane Rupert, harp
Karl Henning, clarinet

Tuesday, 28 July 2009
King’s Chapel
Corner of School & Tremont Streets, Boston
Freewill donation.

When the going gets tough, the tough get composing.

06 July 2009

Still No Heed

Writing the comparative ‘miniature’ which is the new duet for flute & clarinet, Heedless Watermelon, is a diverting change after working on a larger scale. With stars & guitars, I took pains to marshal thoughts, to sketch an outline; and when musical ideas came, I had ‘slots’ for them. All this work, too, around the bustle of all the mundane routine . . . if musical thoughts might be driven out of mind for a day or two, the task was ongoing, and I had space in which to catch them up.

With the Watermelon, since the piece can only be five minutes, I have this curious feeling that invention is oversupplying the task. Ideas for two passages came to me, and they’ve lodged quietly in the back of my mind . . . but they were absent (nor did I strictly miss them) when I set to continuing the piece in Sibelius. Afterwards, I felt this pang of, what if I cannot fit these ideas, now, into the piece, which must draw to an end soon? It isn’t at all serious, happily; all the musical ideas will find room at the table, and with a little tightening here and there, the whole piece will be short & sharp.

One of the ideas I’ve had — well, I should like to start at the beginning, only the idea has a number of beginnings, and I cannot sort out just which was precedent. The afternoon before the Woburn recital, Peter Bloom, Paul Cienniwa & I were chatting (before rehearsal proper, I think . . . probably Mary Jane was tuning the harp). Peter mentioned a Zappa song, “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing,” and Paul’s curiosity was piqued, so he breaks out his iPhone and finds a video of it on youtube . . . the three of us are standing in this beautiful 19th-c. church interior, and here the flutist and clarinetist are reciting the lyrics (and Paul says, We need to do this at First Church). Anyway, there’s that. Also, I have been listening a lot to Uncle Meat.

Well, one of the ideas I have had for the duet, was to construct a canon on a rhythmic modification of the opening track, “Uncle Meat (Main Title Theme).” It is an idea I find much too apt (both for the piece, and for the occasion) to abandon, so this morning on the bus into Boston, I started work on it. (The intent is musical, and not jokey; just to set the matter clear.)

[ click for larger image ]

05 July 2009


On the joyous occasion today of the first anniversary of a brave couple who commissioned the music—a From the Archives Special:

The entire compliment of instruments for the [Opus 93] July Wedding Music is: organ, clarinet quintet (i.e., clarinet and string quartet) and brass quintet. Brett very helpfully furnished details of the course of the service/ceremony, especially where music was wanted, rough duration of music required, and even a few remarks on character or instrumentation. At first the organist was apparently a bit nervous, and quite understandably. Responsibility for a wedding’s music normally rests squarely on the organist’s shoulder; then too, so much of the music prepared for most weddings comes from the same folder of a relatively small sampling of music . . . any organist worth his salt masters all this repertory in a couple of years’ time . . . and the idea of having to prepare, from scratch, a substantial amount of music newly written for the occasion (and the composer an unknown to the organist), and that smoldering pile over there in the corner is all that remains of the organist’s Comfort Zone. But the restoration of the organist’s equanimity was, for me, the work of but a moment . . . .

Apart from, say, an organist’s paradigm-shift from “I’ve already got most of whatever music may be required in my fingers already” to “I’ve got to learn new music, and I don’t have the music yet, nor do I even know yet just how much music I have to learn,” such a project is a classic instance of the practical need to harmonize the composer’s artistic freedom, with the perfectly natural expectations of music which is suited to the occasion. What we don’t want (neither the composer, nor the bride or groom) is anything on the order of the Pope demanding that Michelangelo explain his decision to include three Christs, a kangaroo and a mariachi band on the canvas of The Last Supper.

Thus, (and even though I didn’t compose the numbers in order, see below) I thought of the music’s unfolding in roughly these terms: the music’s character starting out in something of a stylistically ‘free’ vein, reflecting the gradual gathering of the guests from ‘the world without’; and gradually adopting a more solemn (though not sombre) tone befitting the beautiful and elevated purpose of the Sacrament of Matrimony; and at the last a cheerful (though still ‘formal’) Recessional to send everyone forth into the world in joy over the happy occasion.

Although I did not write the music in ‘service order’ (apart from getting an early start on the Prelude), it turned out (without having drawn up any ‘instrumentation scheme’ beforehand) that I composed for different combinations of the instruments (loosely speaking, on the model of, say, Pierrot lunaire and the Quatuor pour la fin du temps) number by number, so there is over the course of the service a built-in timbral variety.

№ 1 :: Prelude (clarinet in A, string quartet, brass quintet, organ)
Written as a kind of gradual crescendo, introducing the instrumental compliment choir by choir, so to speak. It begins with organ solo, then the brass join. In a generally minimalist vein, it begins with simple ostinato, the two hands in a kind of canon whose rhythmic patterns are a counterpoint to the metrical framework of 3/2. There’ll be a key change, and a modification of the canonic imitation, so that there is registral and character variety as the piece slowly unfolds. First the string quartet, and later the clarinet, are introduced very simply, a chord (or in the case of the clarinet, a sustained tone) which adds a layer to a brief moment of the organ-VS.-brass game. Then, per a suggestion from Brett, there is a passage of energetic organ doodling which then yields to a jaunty clarinet quintet. This yields in turn to a long-breathed brass chorale, a series of transpositions all of the same pentad (a ‘chord progression’ which is in fact borrowed from one of the earlier brass-&-organ passages). At length there is a (transposed and re-scored) return to earlier material which, I think, manages to feel like a new arrival. The number ends quietly and unassumingly.

№ 2 :: Seating of the Parents (clarinet in A, string quartet, organ)
Rather than thinking in terms of ceremonially finding the parents their seats, I wrote this as at once a sort of ‘extension’ of the Prelude (tempo and meter are the same; and the musical materials come in part straight from the Prelude), and yet as a stylistic variation, a playful scherzo perhaps reminiscent of Prokofiev’s toccata mode . . . in which, as well as in its instrumentation, it forms a ready contrast to –

№ 3 :: Introitus (brass quintet)
[Brett: The audience should know something is beginning] Thus, some big, austere brass, which will sound all the more striking as they’ve sat silent for the past two minutes. Since there are more-nearly-traditional fanfarish elements in Nos. 4 & 5, I went Stark Modern with this. Actually, one of those sketches I drew up for the Prelude, but which didn’t make it in, was a patch of bustling Hindemithian two-part counterpoint; I drew this out rhythmically, and (since registrally, it was more a string-or-clarinet thing, originally) split each line between a pair of instruments. Musically (not thematically) I was thinking on the lines of some trumpet sennets in Shostakovich’s music for the Kozintsev King Lear. At all events, I think it reasonably effective as an attention-getter.

№ 4 :: Processional: The Bridal Party (string quartet, brass quintet, organ)
A brief fanfare figure, then directly into straightforward (thought, I believe, not banal) procession music. Eight years ago, I had fun drawing up an original harmonization for the hymn-tune Danby; this mini-project briefly became almost an idée-fixe of mine, different instrumentations, expanding the solo voice part to a four-part choir arrangement, &c. Anyway, in poking through old Finale files, I found a different accompaniment I drew up, some forgotten time ago, without making finalized use of it in anything, then; and, in fact, it was perfectly suited to this new purpose, with the tune adapted to duple meter.

№ 5 :: Processional: Entrance of the Bride (clarinet in B-flat, string quartet, brass quintet, organ)
This is set off from the Bridal Party Processional by a brief, wispy clarinet solo introduction which echoes one of the melodic notions in № 2 (which, actually, is something of a touching idea, perhaps). Fanfarish bits here are more elaborate than in № 4; I composed the processional melody proper, a double-period with phrases of six, five, five and five measures, respectively. As with № 4, I vary the scoring as the tune returns.

№ 6a :: Psalm
№ 6b :: Alleluia

(Both in unison and unaccompanied.)
Apart from the Prelude, which was a work-in-progress for rather a while, this is the first music composed for the wedding. I’d actually had the basic idea for the Alleluia at about the time when Brett first ‘taped out’ the service for me; not all that surprising, perhaps, since I have had occasion to set the text Alleluia several times in the past, and I like to do something new with it each time. For the Psalm, I composed a Psalm-tone (probably on the bus ride in to Boston one morning), and then merged text and music. It is a flexible method of traditional sacred text-setting which I find very apt; it never stales for me, never deteriorates into mere ‘formula’.

№ 7 :: Unity Candle (clarinet in B-flat, string quartet, brass quintet)
Probably for no more cosmic reason than that it followed the Psalm and Alleluia on the page of the outline of the Service from which I was working, this was the second number completed. I wonder if I omitted the organ from the scoring simply because I was thinking ‘no organ’ from the unaccompanied service-music of № 6; as it turned out, though, I think that reserving the organ’s return for the Recessional works very nicely. Here, I just turned my hand to trying to write a sweetly gracious melody and bass-line; and when I had these shaped to my liking, adding an inner voice or two, one of them at times gently florid. The writing is thus quite simple, with lots of doublings; and the contrasting middle section began as a clarinet-&-trumpets trio, for the simple reason that timbrally I had decided to leave them out from the A section.

[ When I was playing back the music (via MIDI, of course) to my wife and mom-in-law, they liked everything, to my great pleasure; it was the Entrance of the Bride and the Unity Candle which they especially liked, though. What above all was gratifying, was to hear my wife say, “Too bad we couldn’t have you write music for our wedding” . . . because part of my preparing to write the several numbers of this piece, was reflecting on the hypothetical question, If this were my wedding, what music would I write, to touch my bride at this uniquely solemn moment? ]

№ 8 :: Recessional (clarinet in B-flat, string quartet, brass quintet, organ)
Here I wanted cheerful and lively music, with sprightly antiphonal call-&-answer of phrases, and with some fluidity of phrase-length as part of the rhythmic liveliness of the piece.

Actually, there does remain one bit of service-music yet to write, a strophic hymn-setting. The groom is necessarily busy with many tasks preparing for the Big Day, but sometime soon he is to advise me of the text.

[28 May 2008]

Notwithstanding all the other arrangements and concerns with which the groom was perforce occupied, he arranged for a friend to record the music: [ link ]

03 July 2009

Not THAT Mantle

Nor the Bebop you were expecting.

The Boys of Sonic Summer

Too good not to spread around;
from Our Man in the Lone Star State:

The Composer All-Star Baseball Team - scouting report

[2B] Edvard Grieg — his miniatures almost all go for singles, but they make him a consistent threat to reach base
[CF] Antonin Dvořák — a smallball player extraordinaire, his chamber game is a major boost
[3B] Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — a true hit machine
[LF] Ludwig van Beethoven — the ideal cleanup hitter, because he sweeps the board
[1B] Gustav Mahler — his at-bats are usually either monster home runs or strikeouts
[RF] Maurice Ravel — he can orchestrate a rally like no other guy on the team
[SS] Johannes Brahms — dashing young slugger who has mellowed with age
[C] Sergei Prokofiev — a clubhouse favorite, his nickname is “The Expecting Peregrine”1.

Pitching Rotation:
[SP] Franz Schubert — don’t let the boyish looks and glasses fool you. His mind is a steel trap and his fastball hits 960, er, 96
[SP] Dmitri Shostakovich — he can pitch in any genre, and gets even better under pressure
[SP] Richard Wagner — the workhouse has what it takes to pitch four hours every night for a week
[SP] Franz Liszt — all power and no control, Liszt can throw 101 but who knows where it’ll go
[SP] Anton Bruckner — he can hardly throw over 70 mph, but will still outlast any foe

Relief Corps:
[RP] John Dowland — the lute-handed specialist or LOOGY
[RP] Johann Strauss jr — in case the situation is getting too serious
[RP] Steve Reich — he has just one pitch that he throws in a thousand different ways
[RP] Igor Stravinsky — dubbed the “Rite of October” for outstanding postseason play
[CLOSER] Georg Philip Telemann — he could keep throwing and throwing and throwing forever

[CATCHER] Max Reger — skilled at working with the more dour Germanics in the pitching staff
[FIRST BASE/OUTFIELD] G. F. Handel — he’d still be starting if it weren’t for his weight problem
[MIDDLE INFIELD] George Gershwin — platoons with Brahms, batting against elitist teams, whom he baffles
[OUTFIELD] Antonio Vivaldi — the Red-Headed Menace produces big hits in a pinch
[OUTFIELD] Claude Debussy — easily distracted by clouds or playing by the sea
[UTILITY] Edward Elgar — used as a defensive replacement in losing battles2.

Coach/Manager: Johann Sebastian Bach
Retired Player: Jean Sibelius. Quit before the eighth game of the season.
Sent to Minor Leagues: Hector Berlioz. Off-the-field issues - missed games while pining for some girl or another.
Suspended for Using Artificial Performance-Enhancing Substances: Mykola Ovsianiko-Kulikovsky

1. N.B. Peregrinus Expectati is, in fact, actually gibberish

2. N.B. This is a joke about Victorian England, NOT about Elgar’s compositional talent