18 September 2009

Sundry Angels

Whatever else may be said of my music, it seems to require just a little bit extra of even a very fine performer. The demands of Heedless Watermelon and of The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword notwithstanding, flautist Peter Bloom appears genuinely to like both pieces, even to the extent of his wishing to continue to find more occasions to play the music. He even suggested a version of the duet for flute and alto flute. So the rigors of trying to get all of the Watermelon’s moving parts just right, have not blunted Peter’s affection for the music.

The trumpet original of The Angel … has required some reflection. My thought has been to provide ossia passages wherever Chris O’Hara has objections. Peter Bloom’s several outings with the alto flute version of the piece — (should I just call it an alto flute piece, and write something else for unaccompanied trumpet?) — confirm me in ownership both of the composition as it stands, and particularly of its duration.

The other day, I had an excellent talk with Chris on the phone. His objections, in brief:

1. The two-octave leap to high C, which vexatiously returns again and again.
2. The duration of the piece:
a. As the piece runs its course, to sustain that high note gets more problematic.
b. The piece is sufficiently demanding, that at 12 minutes, Chris advises me that if he programs the piece, that’s all he would play . . . that it would therefore have to be a concert shared with other performers.
3. One frenetically rapid passage of three and a half measures for which he begs succor.

Technically, I should have added a 2c., as Chris generally spoke against any unaccompanied wind instrument piece longer than 5 minutes. As above, though, I consider the piece to wear its duration fine.

(However: a composer-sanctioned optional ‘short version’? An idea I shall play with.)

(— Separately: In the interval between the June and July recitals, Peter Bloom very discreetly voiced concern that stars & guitars might, just possibly might, be a shade too long; and this was a concern which I was apt, with regret, to give ear to, since a bass flute is a boat-load of plumbing to ask a fellow to hold up on the air for 20 minutes. However, a week later, Peter got back to me gleefully to say that he had discovered that he was playing his solo cadenza markedly slower than my suggested tempo . . . and that, with that adjustment, he is perfectly happy with the length of the piece. Gotta love it when the composer is found to be right, after all. — )

In advance of the phone-call, in thinking about alternate passages to address what I then knoew of Chris’ concerns, I composed a solution to the high C’s; and in talking it over with Chris, he sounded happy with my proposal. We are not far from having the piece in a form which Chris may consider performing . “Timing has been good,” he even added. “I am giving a talk at UNH in November on special challenges for trumpet players with new music, and I can use Angel to demonstrate some of the things I’ll be speaking about.” Which I’ll take as a good thing.

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