18 September 2009

Library Echo (The Noise That Was)

First, we should start with visual aids, methinks: [ link ]

The composer is enormously pleased with how the concert went last night.

Before the concert as we were getting set up in the library’s rec room (choose a fish, any fish) , harpist Mary Jane Rupert asked me if the Lost Waters suite is published; two of the numbers would make excellent teaching pieces (she said).

Flautist Peter Bloom joined in, “What you should do is write a review of the piece and its pedagogical uses for the harp journal.”

“But,” Mary Jane responded, “they have to be published first, right?”

Which was as cheerful a reminder as a composer could wish, that I had a conversation to resume with Lux Nova, for getting Lost Waters in the pipeline.

Heedless Watermelon: At each of the two July performances, things went a little funny with the piece, in unexpected ways. Heck, it’s a tricky piece, and the experience of those two performances just bore out the fact that there’s no substitute for rehearsing a piece so many times , that you know it cold. Simply put, last night it went the best we’ve ever played it.

Irreplaceable Doodles: This, too, I probably played as well as ever I’ve played it, last night.

The Angel &c.: This is the third time Peter has played this one in public, and he’s really settled into it nicely. I understand some of my colleagues’ objections to solo wind instrument pieces that cross the magic 5-minute threshold; but I really felt, as I listened to Peter’s traversal of the piece yesterday, that one is aware only of the music, and not of the passing time. The composer feels that he has learnt well the lessons Messiaen, Cage & Feldman have taught him.

Lost Waters: This is only the second time Mary Jane has assayed the suite, and as was true in the June Woburn program, she carried the whole suite very musically: a lovely performance, and the most ‘approachable’ music on the program (apart from the closer, perhaps).

Studies in Impermanence: The two preceding pieces gave my chops a good rest before tackling this, which as always, is not so much a technical challenge (though there is that), as a matter of endurance. There was a gap of at least two years since I had played this one to an audience; although The Mousetrap from last year is more demanding (one result of sharing duties with a second playe). Last night, the Studies had the benefit of insouciance. I was completely relaxed about the changes in tempo from section to section – I don’t mean that the tempi were relaxed (or, more relaxed than they ought to be), but that mentally I was relaxed . . . I played in Don’t worry, be happy mode , which is a great help in tackling solo music of such monstrous proportions.

I haven’t mentioned applause yet; it was warm and fulsome after every number, but I was especially grateful for the applause after the Studies.

And the Tropes on Parasha’s Aria is a bon-bon which I don’t think any audience could dislike.

There’s the just-the-facts wire. What else transpired?

I think there were ten in the audience. Before the concert, Helen (the librarian) greeted me very enthusiastically, because someone came in, who hadn’t known of the concert, but who met someone on the street who told her about the concert, and told her she should come. Helen was the only one on duty at the library last night, so she couldn’t sit in the audience, but afterwards she said, every now and then when there was some tension on the job, she would bend her ear to the door of the room where we were playing, and she thought, “How nice!” and her work was no longer a burden.

An especial pleasure it was to see again a fine local clarinetist after the concert. While playing the concert, I saw him seated, but didn’t recognize him until we spoke together afterward. He is an excellent freelancer here in Boston, subs with all the heavy-hitter groups, and here I am blushing inside (and pleased beyond words) at so esteemed a colleague greeting me with “Incredible pieces, great playing.” He asked me incredulously, “Were you getting tired at all? You didn’t sound it in the least.”

On this score alone, I consider the evening something of a personal triumph.

Exterior Sonics Dept.: The Library is on Cambridge Street, not far from Mass General (and Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary, and a fire station) . Not far into the Studies (yes, my nice, quiet sustained tones), I begin to hear the wind-up of a siren. It actually didn’t get so loud as to ‘enter’ the space, it was at a sonic distance; and honestly, I just smiled inwardly.

Towards the end of the Studies (and more in the Tropes) I noticed someone taking photographs, with quite a serious camera. Et ma fin est mon commencement.

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