28 February 2010

Second Performance

This post is all after the fact (and so probably fails to emulate a blogly timepoint) . . . but Jaya labored mightily to organize a benefit concert for Haiti earthquake relief. The centerpiece for the concert-to-be was a Bach Cantata, so Jaya fought off a cold while casting about a net for singers and “old music” instrumentalists, and thinking repertory. To my profound pleasure, Jaya leafed through the Henning catalogue and found a Psalm setting I had been commissioned to compose for choir & organ, and which was performed once by the St Paul’s Cathedral choir here in Boston (20 March 2005).

Manifold was my pleasure at the prospect of a fresh performance of my De profundis. For one thing, there is the truth in Zappa's trenchant remark on new music — that even though the program says “World Première,” that usually means “Last Performance.” It can be (and in most cases, just plain is) difficult to bring a new score to a first performance; but (to evoke that magical phrase) a new piece doesn’t enter the repertory merely as a result of a première . . . and it is in many ways yet more a triumph when a piece gets a second performance.

For another, here was the prospect of a performance, which was not a direct result of my own efforts, which is not a performance in which the composer is himself a participant.

Please do not mistake me — I like playing, wish I were playing more (or, what is subtly different, wish I had more time for playing), and I enjoy singing, and I enjoy conducting. Performance was the mode in which I first became a musician, and I hope never to abandon it.

For a composer to become a success, though, his music needs to be performed and taken up by broader and broader circles. The tightest circle imaginable is, performances directly involving the composer.

To wax geometric for a moment, I took pleasure in the grander circumference of the circle in this instance.

Hearty thanks and a hearty kudos to all the musicians, who volunteered their time, talent & energies in the cause of the concert generally, and to my piece in particular.

There is a proper recording which was made of the concert, a copy of which will wend its way to-me-ward at some point. But I did have with me my shoestring “field recorder,” and the yen for some instant gratification in this case was too powerful not to yield to, and I did throw the switch:


  1. Shoot! I went to commment about the music I was enjoying and it cut off. I will have to go back and re-listen. Karl, this is magnificent. I love it!! What a gem. I know how you feel about less than perfect recordings but this one is not bad at all. It certainly shows your magnificence.
    Wish you could come see my show this week. (CATS) A far cry from the music you are composing but you would enjoy the youthful energy onstage. Now back to the music...I will sign this on Helen's gmail account (my daughter's). Luv, Sarah