31 August 2009

Trumpet On Line

Trumpeter Chris O’Hara’s new website.


(Mash the link. You know you want to.)

Memo and Envelope (Verso)

Dear friends,

I wanted to write to confirm that we are all on for a concert on Thursday evening, September the 17th, at the West End Branch of the Boston Public Library (151 Cambridge Street)? (We are, BTW, listed on the library’s calendar for September.)

The library has reserved the room for us from 6 (so, Peter, we shouldn’t have to hang out waiting, as we did late July); we’ll start a-playing at 6:30.

We talked a bit (long ago) about the program; reflecting that conversation, the program I propose is this:

  • Heedless Watermelon (fl/cl) (7')
  • Irreplaceable Doodles (cl solo) (6')
  • The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword (alto fl solo) (12')
  • Lost Waters (hp solo) (12')
  • Studies in Impermanence (cl solo) (20')
  • Tropes upon Parasha’s Aria (fl/cl/hp) (2')
There is, alas, no remuneration for the concert; the space is provided to us at no cost, and the concert is to be free & open to the public.

Conscious of not wishing to impose on your time any more than necessary: need we get together ahead of the concert to play through the Tropes, or should we count simply on running it once or twice at 6 on the 17th?

Peter, you and I should probably rehearse the Watermelon again before the date. Please advise me of your preferences/availability.

Thank you both again for your many kindnesses; I hope you have had a restful, enjoyable summer!


Waterfowl in Art?

  1. When is a Duke not a Duke? When he's a duck.
  2. Viaduct?
  3. Someone at an Italian publisher owes Piero della Francesca an apology.
  4. Allusion to Zappa’s “Naval Aviation in Art?”
  5. I love typos like this. Call it a failing.

30 August 2009

Remain in Light, Revisited

The four unfinished outtake bonus tracks on the “DualDisc” reissue (“Fela’s Riff,” “Unison,” “Double Groove” & “Right Start”) are very interesting, ‘raw’ components which relate clearly to various songs on the finished album.

This is about what I was hoping for with these, so I am not ‘disappointed’ that there are not ‘four more’ tracks for an extended Remain in Light.

I’ve had this one around a bit, have listened to the original album (which I originally owned on vinyl back when it was a new release) a number of times. Yes, I took my time getting around to the ‘extras’.

29 August 2009

Consider the Source Dept

In my eyes, John Lennon was the most important mediator
between popular and serious music of this century.
Karlheinz Stockhausen

That’s one viewpoint, of course. I’d be still more interested in the opinion of someone who doesn’t claim to be have been born in a different solar system, though.

27 August 2009

When Goethe Saw Mozart

Wed., Feb. 3.
Dined with Goethe. We talked of Mozart. “I saw him,” said Goethe, “at seven years old, when he gave a concert while travelling our way. I myself was about fourteen years old, and remember perfectly the little man, with his frisure and sword.” I stared, for it seemed to me almost wonderful that Goethe was old enough to have seen Mozart when a child.

— Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe (vol. ii, I’m guessing)

One Single, Poisonously Disingenuous Sentence Dept

“It was former teacher Larry Mead’s love of classical music that led to an addiction to child pornography…” (The Monterey County Herald via RedOrbit)

Crikey, where to begin with this . . . .

26 August 2009

Errata (not mine)

Probably there were bad typos even in the LP days (even though record companies actually had editors on staff, and all).

A couple of mystifying typos I only noticed today, on CD reissues:

Trout Mask Replica (as if anyone but me cares): On the track list near the beginning of the booklet (but not on the tracklist on the back sheet of the case), the colon is peculiarly misplaced in “Hair: Pie Bake 1” (sic) Doesn’t make sense like that (though one could argue that sense is not the driver, wherever the punctuation is placed). No such problem with “Hair Pie: Bake 2.”

Chicago VII: The song is “Woman Don’t Want to Love Me”; Peter Cetera sings “Woman Don’t Want to Love Me”; the second line is She says it makes her cry, both of the pronouns singular; subsequent lines provide further affirmation. Yet, everywhere on the Rhino reissue, it is printed “Women Don’t Want to Love Me”; and now that bizarre erratum has multiplied on the Internet.

Ah, the Internet: breeding ground for bizarre errata.

Further Refresh

Chalk it up to true fling-it-on-out-there bloggery . . . I hit Publish Post too quickly, and my list of new items on the Sansa Fuze player was incomplete:

Tallis, Spem in alium &c., Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly
Ginastera, Four dances from Estancia, Opus 8a, Orquesta Ciudad Granada/Josep Pons
Ginastera, Harp Concerto, Opus 25, Magdalena Barrera / Orq. C. Granada/J. P.
Ginastera, Obertura para el « Fausto » criollo, Opus 9, Orq. C. Granada/J. P.
Ginastera, Variaciones concertantes, Opus 23, Orq. C. Granada/J. P.

The player itself has 4gb of internal memory, and I’ve docked in a 4gb card for good measure. Although I have begun to load music onto the card, it seems I have not yet even loaded music enough to fill the internal capacity.

On first fetching in the device, I had the idea of listening to music while riding the bus/T/train. That would probably work better if I invest in noise-cancelling headphones . . . there’s enough ambient noise (especially on the bus), that attempts to listen to Debussy piano music in such circs is futile. I had not thought to load non-classical onto the Fuze, before the realization that such steady volume levels suit the commuting environment better.

In general, I remain loath to dedicate too much capacity to the non-classical. Looks to be plenty of space, though (maybe even more, if I do the re-load routine with, say, the Shostakovich Opus 87).

Plans for further sonic lading include:

Shostakovich quartets (Emersons)
Shostakovich symphonies, less nos. 11 & 12 — to which I don’t mind listening from time to time, but, don’t need them on a portable device (Shostakovich, fils)
Vaughan Williams symphonies, less A Sea Symphony & A London Symphony — where I do really like A Sea Symphony a great deal, that, too, is an elective work . . . and I prefer listening to it with unbound ears (Haitink/London Phil)
Hindemith, Kammermusiken (either the Chailly or the Abbado)
Nielsen concerti (maybe Springtime in Funen, too)

Maybe some Piazzolla

Fripp, Exposure

Actually considering Trout Mask Replica, as well.

25 August 2009


Loaded some ‘new’ music onto my Sansa Fuze player tonight.

Before listing the ‘new’ stuff, though . . . I have needed (practically from the beginning, so getting on for 14 months, now) to ‘fix’ some sound files which have somehow ended in a short glitch of a ‘spike’. So the following have always been on the Fuze, but now their tracks end with becoming silence:

Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli, Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly
Palestrina, Missa Aeterna Christi munera, O. C., J. S.
Palestrina, Stabat Mater, O. C., J. S.
Allegri, Miserere, O. C., J. S.
de Victoria, Missa O magnum misterium, O. C., J. S.
de Victoria, Missa O quam gloriosum, O. C., J. S.
Ravel, Sonata for violin & cello, Members of the Nash Ensemble
Ravel, Piano Trio, Members of the Nash Ensemble
Debussy, Sonata for violin & piano, Members of the Nash Ensemble
Debussy, Sonata for flute, viola & harp, Members of the Nash Ensemble
Debussy, Syrinx for flute solo, Member of the Nash Ensemble
Debussy, Sonata for cello & piano, Members of the Nash Ensemble

In addition, I loaded up music genuinely new to the player:

Debussy, Six epigraphes antiques, Michel Béroff & Jean-Philippe Collard
Debussy, Lindaraja, Béroff & Collard
Debussy, En blanc et noir, Béroff & Collard
Ravel, Entre-cloches, Béroff & Collard
Ravel, Ma mère l'oye, Béroff & Collard
Ravel, La valse, Béroff & Collard
Ravel, Frontispice, for five hands, Béroff & Collard & Katia Labèque
Ravel, Rapsodie espagnole, Béroff & Collard
Dukas, L'apprenti sorcier, Béroff & Collard
Hindemith, Konzertmusik Opus 50 for strings & brass, NY Phil/Bernstein
Hindemith, Symphony in E-flat, NY Phil/Bernstein
Hindemith, Konzertmusik Opus 49 for piano, brass & two harps, Siegfried Mauser, Members of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Werner Andreas Albert
Prokofiev, Toccata, Opus 11, Eteri Andjaparidze
Prokofiev, Ten Pieces, Opus 12, E. A.
Prokofiev, Sarcasms, Opus 17, E. A.
Prokofiev, Visions fugitives, Opus 22, E. A.
Prokofiev, Four Pieces, Opus 4, E. A.

21 August 2009

On Blogging, Generally

The coming-out stories of anonymous bloggers.

Goulash in August

Found by a neighbor, Somewhere Out in the Internet:

Smooth Jazz recipe:
1. Pour jazz into a bowl.
2. Extract jazz rhythm; replace with pop rhythm.
3. Add extra backbeat.
4. Whip until smooth.
5. In a small pot, boil solos until they’re soft and have turned the color of Don Johnson’s T-shirts in Miami Vice. Strain and remove.
6. On a cutting board, cut boiled solos to approximately ¼ normal length.
7. Blend into whipped mixture to a smooth, even consistency.
8. Scoop into small desert dishes and chill in the refrigerator for roughly 20 minutes.
9. Start the Jacuzzi and change into your Speedo. Enjoy!

It’s me that’s been a-doggin’ your shadow.
It’s me that’s been a-shadowin’ your dog.

— 10cc, “Iceberg” (How Dare You!)

Time to stop this dreaming,must rejoin the real world
As revealed by orange lights and a smoky atmosphere.

— Phil Collins (with Genesis), “Heathaze” (Duke)

[It] caused a friend to say that I must have been having tea with Debussy.
— Ralph Vaughan Williams, of his own string quartet,
written on returning to England from Paris in 1908

18 August 2009

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

As a result of a Boston-area choir director asking after the piece
[ link ], Bless the Lord, O My Soul (the four-part version, Opus 32a) is now available at Lux Nova Press [ link ].

Lux Nova Press having contracted the piece (de facto), all varieties of the piece are encompassed in the contract, so in principle, an SAB octavo should be in the pipeline ere long. The anthem is originally for three-part choir (I composed it for the choir of the First Congregational Church in Woburn, at a time when the body of the choir wavered between sopranos, altos & men and sopranos, altos & Karl). This three-part choral score must be among the first scores I essayed in Finale (lots of typographical crudities, some of which will be on sheepish display, presently); the piece may also have been the very first piece of mine sung by the choir of the Cathedral Church of St Paul (Episcopal) here in Boston, while it was yet under the glorious leadership of Mark Engelhardt. Mark always had a competent and musical four-part choir; and at this distance in time, I don’t recall at all how it is he agreed to take on this piece as a three-parter.

It was the first piece of mine ever to be performed in Boston, of course I wanted to go hear the performance! But (IIRC) the service was in February, and that morning there was heavy-ish snowfall. After the event, I had the thought of adding in a tenor part, making it a four-part setting, and therefore better suited still to the St Paul’s choir. I think, though, that it was not until Mark left the Cathedral for another position (Grace Church in Salem) that the four-part version was sung at St Paul’s. Which is to say, it is one of the first of my own pieces which I put to use, when I accepted the appointment of Interim Choir Director.

It was refreshing and interesting to return to close examination of the piece in preparing the Lux Nova SATB edition; and looking over the nine-year-old Finale file of the SAB original, I was perforce reminded of some few minor alterations I must have made en route to the SATB.

But — enough of the boring words! Bring on the interesting pictures!

[ click for larger image ]

A great portion of the adjustments to the score, must have been a result of having sung for some years with the Cathedral choir, myself: where I wanted breaths at the ends of phrases, I notated in rests. (The above illustration is actually a rare instance of my having done that in the original draughts.) My source-scores in Finale are, without any properly mitigating excuse, in open score; so that the original three-part score runs to 10 pages . . . waste, waste, waste. The wasted space is partly a result of using three staves where two would be ample; partly, the rehearsal keyboard reduction (which a closed score would render redundant).

My inexperience with Finale (and its clunkiness) in those days appears in, among other things: the word extender after bless which crowds His in m.6; and the crescendo hairpins which are colliding with slurs. Oh, the shame, the shame . . . .

Moving on to more musical adjustments (not that the typography is unimportant):

[ click for larger image ]

Looks better, and takes up much less space. Enough said.

(Bear in mind that we are comparing three- and four-voice settings of the same piece, so, as differences run, the additional voice in the tenor is a given.)

At an early point, a couple of phrase-endings which ran just a bit long, got trimmed; so here, two measures of 2/4 became one measure of 3/4.

[ click for larger image ]

There’s another cadence I had drawn out too long. I suppose I had meant a kind of madrigalism by drawing out the values for the word forever; but, no, it was de trop.

[ click for larger image ]

The cadence is improved not only by halving the rhythmic values, but the change in bass note on the second syllable of forever from B to A strengthens the harmonic motion. For the passage after the double-bar, no good solution presented itself for adding a tenor line; I decided to leave that stretch of the piece as a three-voice texture, which made for two happy discoveries: the tenor ‘overhang’ from the end of the previous phrase; and then, since the passage beginning For as the heavens are high above the earth is at fortissimo, adding the tenor at that point, after a three-voice texture, was musically fortuitous.

(Included at the top of that example is, quite by chance, I assure you, Gentle Reader, one of my favorite moments in the setting: the close voicing of He will not always chide, which stays close — and therefore gets a shade richer — with the addition of the tenor.)

[ click for larger image ]

The two things to note here, are that I do not indicate any change in tempo, and the cadence is quite simple.

[ click for larger image ]

The addition of the tenor made for this adjustment, which is one of my favorite bits in the piece: the ascending scale into the Phrygian cadence (which Paul Cienniwa calls my “Hovhaness moment” — at the time, in fact, I hardly knew any of Hovhaness’ music, but my ears had been steeped in Russian Liturgical music, and many of the modal inflections are shared with the Armenian Liturgical music which was such a strong part of Hovhaness’ background). The tenor begins with a quarter-note appoggiatura E (dissonant against the F in the soprano, and resolving down to D); and in the course of the tenor ascent, they switch their dissonant roles . . . on the very downbeat of m.97, it is the tenor line with the F, and the appoggiatura E is in the soprano.

This Lux Nova edition generated an occasion to make a minor ‘repair’, too. For years, in the four-part version, the entire scale was in the added tenor part; I left the alto as it was in the SAB original, moving in the cadence from A to G#. Where that was no problem in the alto in the three-part texture, that low G# is in a hushed stretch of the alto range . . . yet the important G# note is theirs, which they are struggling to have sound against the tenors, who were a minor third higher, singing quite a strong B. Here at last, that imbalance is addressed, the voices are switched so that they are in natural relation one to another, and the chord sounds better, with less labor.

I believe that even before I worked with the St Paul’s choir in this piece, I had decided that the last phrase must be at a slightly more deliberate pace. I may well have got that idea when we first sang it at First Church in Woburn, though with so few voices, asking them to slow that phrase down a tad must have been quite trying.

Fandango & Film

My friend Jacques from Maine brought this video to my glad attention:

And, youtube being so helpful with viewing selections after, some not-at-all-cautious Alegrías:

(No flick fandango phoney, she.)

Another friend, and a fellow composer, Drew Krossowski, having completed his studies at Berklee here in Boston, went out LA-way to work on music for films. I expect great things, and a small initial token of these is, he already has a stub on imdb.com.
[ link ]

17 August 2009

Page Clean-Up

Wow. I was hoping for good things from these unprepossessingly untidy scrawls. I find that the results exceeded expectations.

The iron is hot for the piece’s further pursuit.

That’s all for now; good-night.

16 August 2009

Two Sides of Sundry Coins

Discover a blog which is new to you; you get a good think out of one post; not surprisingly, you find more posts to like.

Thus, as I have this very morning chanced upon http://angryorganist.blogspot.com/ (headed This Blog Will Change the World) — and it happens that the post I did chance upon was of last-month vintage — true to expectations, I have found more of interest. [ link ]

The angryorganist blogger links to Daniel Wolf on http://renewablemusic.blogspot.com/, where Mr Wolf comments:

It is difficult, very difficult, when the music one makes and loves does not make others happy.
He goes on with other, conditioning remarks, certainly worth consideration. I cannot help (in Mark Twain’s phrase) girding up my loins to doubt a seeming implication of this opening sentence. It just strikes me as an unnecessarily impossible reduction; it clearly relates to situations most any composer has experienced, for instance. But even just taking it for the comment of a listener-enthusiast (altering for the purpose of discussion the music one makes and loves to the music one loves): the fact that the music is out there, available, means that there are others endorsing the music to some degree.

Having said that the statement seems an unnecessarily impossible reduction, of course, I haven’t walked in Mr Wolf’s moccasins, and perhaps this is simply faithful reportage on his account. Difficult, very difficult, that would be, indeed; I have been spared any such full difficulty (so far), mercifully. Many of my pieces have puzzled some listeners or some several listeners (sometimes even my closest and most sympathetic hearers); but in almost all cases there were other listeners (some of them fellow performers, fellow composers) who approved. [There should probably follow a consideration of the question of approval, but no time at present.]

Osbert Parsley, our angryorganist (sounds like a pseudonym to me, but — you never know), then appends a story of his own experience (far from rare) as a parish organist unable to please either end of the range.

Mr Parsley opens, though, with a summary of Mr Wolf’s post:

[T]he life of the creative artist: some people will never like your work, no matter what you do. Move on.
This is wisdom.

Bright Pointers & Independence Day

Money, honey,
Be on neon.

— Rael (Peter Gabriel)
title track, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Genesis, 1974

At http://angryorganist.blogspot.com/ (yes, I like that already) there is a post, dated the 4th of July, decrying Neon Arrows, wherein it is written (on whatever it is that they write it on up there) that the author has tried to develop a position different from both anti-pop trumpetings . . . and the fashionable relativism which is the trumpet for pop.

The author consideredly opposes:

  • Cultural theorists who reduce the workings of society to economic interactions (Marx) or power relations (Foucault)
  • Scientistic thinkers who reduce the workings of the universe to the interactions of its physical
    components (the so-called "
    eliminative materialists") or the workings of the human mind to psychological and evolutionary factors (Pinker, Dennett)
  • Historiography that attempts to reduce messy periods of history to neatly organized categories and lists of characteristics (Peter Gay's Modernism, see also sidebar) or that imposes upon it a Whig History perspective
  • Theories of musical meaning which needlessly constrain the possible meanings of a musical work by prescribing a particular analytic technique (Schenker) or a particular narrative
    reading (much of the "new musicology")
  • Postmodernists who claim that the failures of the above projects are evidence of something called "the death of the metanarrative," and that we should therefore accept an equally dogmatic relativist worldview in which all truths are socially contingent.

Yes, I pretty much like all that, too.

The entire post I find of great interest to ponder (which I think is not dependent on the fact that I agree with so much of what he has to say); though perhaps I especially enjoyed the zinger:

[T]here’s also something counterintuitive about claiming that all genres are a priori equal: surely no-one would seriously maintain that a classical-music listener is “missing out” by not listening to an equal amount of death metal?

15 August 2009

Messy Pages

I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn’t like it.
-Samuel Goldwyn

Après-lullaby has been making slow progress, or, had been making progress, and now I’ve got to take a little stock. A couple of passages are not quite as they ought to be. They’re not “throw ’em out” quality; I've suspected that they need only minor ‘tinkering’ to set them right, and the key has been to work smarter, not harder.

[ click for larger image ]

This is the last stretch of an ostinato passage which is ‘about’ a 31-quaver pattern (7 crotchets [14 quavers] + 17 quavers), and two chords. It is a passage which emerged out of a too-idle thought (even such thoughts, I like to turn to some good use) on the primitive order of, a whole piece from only two chords? (No, this won’t be that piece.)

This stretch of the piece is close to working as I wish, so it was necessary to address the how of getting it ‘just right’. So I decided the thing was a little ‘performer’s attention insurance’, and I added little flourishes, eight in total (not all of them shown here, and two per player) whose appearances form a kind of accelerando.

[ click for larger image ]

The illegible remark in the left margin is Chorale P5 [i.e., perfect fifth] higher. Insofar as I have any cosmic design for Après-lullaby, that design springs from (a) the ostinato nature of Lutosławski’s Lullaby, and (b) the counterpoint of Marginalia; the latter piece was ‘just something I wrote’ while visiting Moondi and his lovely family in Bethesda . . . but then, there may be reasons I write the things that I ‘just write’, so I listen (somehow).

Anyway . . . immediately after Maria’s birthday (5 & 6 August) I composed a chorale-cum-counterpoint to serve as part of Après-lullaby which would tie in with the Marginalia. At some point (a week-ish ago?) I then discovered that I wanted a passage which welds the material from the chorale, with the rhythmic game of the ostinato. It’s not a complicated idea, but it has required a bit more focus than this week has quite given me any luxuriating in, hence the unconscionable slop of these two examples.

(I don’t mind showing this inelegant ‘pre-finish’ stuff, because I trust in where it’s going; I should mind showing this, if it were as good as it gets . . . .)

[ click for larger image ]

This really is the mass of dough which looks nothing like the finished cake.

The simple, simple idea which wants execution here is to take the rhythmic pattern established by the initial bass entrance (notated below the musical example of the second illustration above), and apply it to a transposition of the chorale. The only distracting ‘complication’ results from needing to displace one of the voices in the final chorale an octave lower, and the corresponding shift between two of the players. Nothing serious, only it is another reason why I need to sit down with it for a proper hour.

A tree no one heard fall in the forest

When Albert Ahlstrom played the long-awaited (well, I waited a while for it, I can tell you) première of my designedly demanding organ Toccata, at St Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta (9 October 2005), it was a non-event in the press.

That of itself would not seem unusual, but that Atlanta Journal-Constitution music critic Pierre Ruhe did review the concert. The review concentrates on new works by Atlanta composers, so my première went unnoted, through the accident of my not being a local composer. (Since none of my music has been reviewed in hard print here in Boston, either — not even Out in the Sun, at whose première I did with pleasure note the presence of the critic from a local paper, in which no comment on my piece ever appeared, that I wot of — far be it from me to hold any grudge against Mr Ruhe.)

A devoted cadre of diplomatic friends commented on the on-line AJC; for which I am grateful, as this drew the revelation that Mr Ruhe had indeed made some notations about the Henning Toccata:

Indeed this article was centered on Atlanta composers, which explains why the world premiere of the six-minute Toccata by Boston-based Karl Henning (b. 1960) was left out of an already oversized review.

But I was listening. In my notes, I described the Toccata, composed in 2004 but premiered on Sunday, as Gothic in style, inspired by Widor. The Toccata’s energy was restless, often prowling and catlike, sometimes sounding like it was pent up in too small a container, looking for an outlet. Near the end — this is from my notes — the music was making me nervous, all that bottled energy, ready to explode. Organist Albert Ahlstrom, as ever, gave it a winning and showy performance.

Pierre Ruhe ajc music critic
“Prowling and catlike”; I’ll take it.

(The composer again extends hearty thanks for all their kindness, to Mark, Stephen, Mike, Davey & Pepper — who, I can assure you, Gentle Reader, are not the same person.)

13 August 2009

My mp3 player can withstand the closest scrutiny . . . .

Our Man in Minnesota (they call him “MN Dave”) tagged me on fb with an mp3 shuffle mode game. I was at an immediate disadvantage, having never used any shuffle mode on my Sansa Fuze player; my first attempt to play along, then, was a false start, as all the tracks being shuffled were from the same playlist (to which I had recently been listening). After a night’s rest, the solution came to me immediately: another feature I had never used before—Play All. In Dave’s note, he added the veiled threat, Yes, this can be embarrassing . . . .
First, the results, and then some notes:

1. Shostakovich, Prelude & Fugue in D Major, Opus 87 № 5 (Tatiana Nikolayeva)
2. Chicago, “Mississippi Delta City Blues” (Chicago XI)
3. Henning, The Mousetrap, Opus 91 (Henning, cl & Peter Cama-Lekx, va)
4. Bonzo Dog Band, “Turkeys” (Let’s Make Up & Be Friendly)
5. Palestrina, Sanctus from Missa Aeterna Christi munera (Oxford Camerata)
6. Shostakovich, iii. Allegretto from Cello Concerto № 2, Opus 126 (Jiří Barta/Maksim Shostakovich)
7. Nielsen, iii. Poco adagio from Symphony № 4, Det uudslukkelige (RSNO/Bryden Thomson)
8. Zappa, “Zoot Allures” (You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. III)
9. Mannheim Steamroller, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”
10. Sibelius, Aallottaret (The Oceanides), Opus 74 (LSO, Doráti)
11. Stravinsky, Scene iii, At the Mill, from Le baiser de la fée (LSO, Craft)
12. Zappa & The Mothers, “If we’d all been living in California” (Uncle Meat)
13. Bartók, i. Allegro from String Quartet № 5 (Emerson Quartet)
14. Nielsen, iv. Allegro from Symphony № 4, Det uudslukkelige (RSNO/Bryden Thomson)
15. Bartók, i. Allegro from Piano Concerto № 2 (Géza Anda/Ferenc Fricsay)


A. Can hardly complain with starting out with the Shostakovich Opus 87; highly auspicious.
B. I had not listened to the première recording of The Mousetrap in months; funny to think of having Dave and a trivial facebook pursuit to thank for returning to it! I want to play it better still, but I am all chuffed to have written the piece.
C. Delightful bit of ‘deflation’ to have that followed, not simply by the Bonzo Dog Band, but by a track with such a title.
D. Palestrina-Shostakovich-Nielsen was an inspired sequence.
E. And the switch to “Zoot Allures” . . . a masterstroke.
F. Christmas in August with the Mannheim Steamroller, and why not?
G. The ‘audio vérité’ aspect of “If we’d all been living in California,” one of a number of objets trouvés peppering the Uncle Meat album, makes its appearance at random in this shuffle somehow cosmically fitting.
H. That it followed a snippet of Stravinsky, who late in his career resided in Hollywood (and who was admired by Zappa), confirms the cosmic Conceptual Continuity.
I. Since the game is a course of 15 tracks, the run of three Allegros proved a fortuitously brilliant closer.
J. I may just do this again.
K. Who knew?

11 August 2009

“Everything is science-fiction (and I ought to know)”

This past Saturday (which already feels long ago) it was a delight to attend at Club Passim in Harvard Square while Greg Hawkes put sundry-sized ukeleles through their paces—beginning with (I am guessing) his smallest, while singing “You Might Think I'm Crazy.” The first set also included “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “I’m in Touch with Your World” (when you’ve heard the lines I’m a psilocybin pony/You’re a flick fandango phony sung to a ukelele’s accompaniment, you are well on track to having lived a full life), Martin Mull’s “Ukelele Blues”—let other blues singers begin with the lament, “I woke up this morning”; these here blues are for the chap with a serious complaint, who cannot get up till the afternoon. In a back-to-the-egg moment, Greg even picked out the theme from The Mickey Mouse Club.

At one point, Greg called for audience participation involving small change in “Pennies from Heaven”; the triplets were my responsibility, and I think few of my pennies have ever been made to work so hard ever before. Before the interval, Tim Mann joined in, and repertory broadened to include the Everly Bros. & the Turtles.

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Greg Hawkes will be offering ukelele instruction at Club Passim; extended techniques on display this past Saturday included singing into the sound-hole, and rapid body spins (the body of the instrument, not of the instrumentalist).

08 August 2009

Company for the Sun in November

Out in the Sun is again in the sweet spot: after a tasty opener, and just before the interval.

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Informal Questionnaire

Upon finding out that I am a composer, one virtual neighbor queries:

What composers have influenced you?
It’s not a helpful answer, but really, every composer whose music I have listened to, has influenced me. As a composer, you have to make choices . . . the most-used tool in the artist’s kit, is his Filter. (Nor is it that all the composers and/or musical works occupying the overstuffed Reject Bin, are composers and music that I do not like; but that’s another tale).

The seven composers who have been my strongest overall influences, from the days I was studying the craft of composition, have been: Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Chopin, Sibelius, Hindemith & Stravinsky. Three pop artists whose influence upon my musical outlook is at times nearly as pervasive are: Genesis, King Crimson & Zappa.

As you are composing, I am curious to what kind of style, musical “imagery,” modal usage, etc. you have adapted in your own compositions.
I work in a range of styles, which was one element of the June recital on which a large number of the audience & participants remarked; so if you would like to attempt to form a clearer answer, I shall with pleasure send you a recording of the event. Similarly, I enjoy working with a variety of pitch-worlds: some of the sacred choral music I have written is fairly close to Common Practice; and various pieces of mine strike out at greater or lesser distances from that ol’ Common Practice. I don’t believe there is really “atonality”; which is also to say, my understanding of tonality is broader than Common Practice. There is a pitch center, or there are some centers of pitch; and there are questions of the degree of strength of the musical activity’s attraction to those centers.

05 August 2009

Fresh Every Time

For now, though, I should concentrate on Après-lullaby; for which I have three very different sketch-snippets.

I should probably just discard them, and get to proper work, afresh.
Wrote that last night, thinking, oh, where will I find those sheets? Actually, they surfaced with surprisingly apt timing today.

I am sure that one and a half pages are already inhabiting a Sibelius file, so I must be some kind of endorsing it. Will investigate further tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in the train-ride home tonight, I amused myself with writing a little counterpoint . . . a bit longer-breathed than the counterpoint for Marginalia.

How do I incorporate this (and shall I incorporate it in more than the one apparent way) into Après-lullaby? Oh, I do love composition so.

04 August 2009


Really ought to finalize the program for the 17 September date at the library. This idea is hovering around me, of adapting Lutosławski’s Lullaby for fl/cl/hp . . . but I don’t know yet if it’s a brilliant idea, or an idle distraction.

For now, though, I should concentrate on Après-lullaby; for which I have three very different sketch-snippets.

I should probably just discard them, and get to proper work, afresh.

A good feeling.

And Now to Bed (End of Lullaby)

Amazing what you can get done, given a couple of free evenings. I was only hoping to continue work tonight on the cello ensemble adaptation of Lutosławski’s Lullaby, but momentum took over, and I sailed through to the end.

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It’s a project I’ve reflected on a dozen times—and for which I had even started some fresh sketches on paper, only I soon reached the conclusion that work would be simpler and more efficient if I worked directly in Sibelius.

The Lullaby is an arrangement of a piano toccata. One decision I reached at an early stage (so early, indeed, that the rationale got lost, but I continued to trust the decision) was to transpose it down a minor third to c# minor. There is a short passage in which I wondered if the enharmonics compelled by the transposition were worth the trouble . . . but I reasoned (or rationalized) that string players like sharps. And in all events, when I got to the last two measures, the closing passage lies perfectly in the new key for cellos, and vindication (both for the transposition, and for the arrangement as a whole) was complete.

Originally, I settled upon the idea of this arrangement, when I was imagining scoring it in eight parts. When Audrey & I talked further, and we decided on four parts, I then misdoubted whether the piece would work in fewer parts. This was, in fact, a non-problem.

A correct numeration was a slow decision. Normally, the original toccata being my Opus 25, I should have designated this arrangement Opus 25a. However, I decided at some point (probably around the time when I was in doubt that the arrangement would work in four parts) to compose a new piece, or new pieces—and in April I did indeed write the Marginalia, which is probably about when I gave it the Opus 96 spot . . . but it seems confusing and fussy to insist on tying the first of three pieces to the opus number of the source-work, and to have the second and third pieces a different (and much later) number. All in all, it was only this week that I decided to include this arrangement of the Lullaby in the Opus 96 as № 1, the Marginalia will be № 2, and Après-lullaby, № 3.

Thank goodness that’s settled.

03 August 2009

Passion & Lullaby

The March ’10 performance of the Passion is officially on the Sine Nomine calendar.

Actual application, tonight, to the arrangement of Lutosławski’s Lullaby for cello ensemble, which in its course will absorb as many of the fleeting notions that I’ve been mulling, as can be made to cohere all together. This has been a project for which “pre-compositional hashing” (post-compositional, really, as the Lullaby has been a finished piece for a decade and a half) has been more ‘generative’ than (strictly speaking) ‘productive’; but then, that simply means I can be selective, which has to be a good thing.

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02 August 2009

Movie & Minor Ruminations

After all the activity (all the gratifying activity), this composer has been in power-down mode. Watched Terry Jones’s Erik the Viking last night. I had not seen this since going to the cinema to see it the year it opened (with a friend named Eric, whose hair is red, but who was a bassoonist, not a Viking); and I really enjoyed it then. The mixed critical reaction seemed to me to miss the point. My not seeing it since was never a comment on the movie . . . just never had occasion.

As to the Director's Son’s Cut angle (which is delightful, and cosmically appropriate, as Jones wrote the source-stories for his then five-year-old boy) . . . I don’t remember the original running 100 minutes (i.e., it didn’t seem particularly too long, I didn’t watch the clock, &c.) Reading that the recent cut runs a lean 77 minutes, I thought, “23 minutes shaved off?” But it’s 20 years since I saw it last, so if I was missing anything, I didn’t miss what I missed.

The inevitable pleasures of revisiting this 20-year-old movie now, are all the participants I didn’t know at the time, now familiar from other environments: Imogen Stubbs, Charles McKeown, Jim Broadbent (can hardly tell him in his metal hair, he’s one of a brace of rapists whom the title character kills early on), Tim Robbins himself . . . and Neil Innes, whose name is misspelt in the opening credits for the music. (His name is spelt right in the end credits, as a Hy-Brasilian . . . so chances are, there’s grist to some conspiracy theorist’s mill somewhere in here.)

Jones himself plays Arnulf, King of Hy-Brasil, who leads his people in a comically poor musical performance. (Adjustment of this musical component seems to have been one enhancement in the DVD, I read — for again, with a 20-year gap, I recuse myself from comparison-duty.) It’s awful, the Vikings cannot possibly like it, one angle of the comedy in the scene is Erik’s pains in wishing to be a good guest, and yet when pressed to be honest, no, he didn’t like it.

King Arnulf weeps on his daughter’s shoulder at this artistic crisis, and Erik diplomatically offers that he & his companions come from a land of the sword and the axe, where there is no music.

With both expert comedic sense, and its fair escort, awareness of balance & proportion, Jones leaves this rich situation be, with its several wild aesthetic potentialities charging the air.

And so shall I.