20 April 2010

April is the musicallest month

Recently, I reached a state of peace with the idea of an ‘abbreviated’ optional version of The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword for unaccompanied trumpet . . . I sliced and diced, and a just-over-7-minutes version has emerged, which I think flows reasonably well It feels short to me, but of course, it would. My thoughts are these:

1. Let the original version remain available; you never know.
2. Hopefully, getting the ‘abbreviated’ version actually performed will get things in motion for the trumpet version.
3. I’m less anxious about the idea of the changes, since the piece as originally composed lives on in all events as a flute solo work.

Working last week on Angular Whimsies, I wrote out both the rest of the bass cl, and devised a bongo ‘dialogue’ against it. I made my way to the end, felt that the piece was largely done, but was dissatisfied with the effect of the last three-four pages. It was not so much a matter of doubting the material, as wondering what adjustment(s) needed making . . . I felt strongly that I still had some work to do, but intuitively I felt that if I discovered the right path, I could erase my dissatisfaction with those pages, with efficiency of effort.

Essentially, I managed a series of tempo changes, added the 32nd-note gestures which are now interspersed through the bass clarinet’s sustained notes in mm. 243-283, and either simplified or removed (the most radical simplification, I suppose) perhaps 5-6 measures strewn through the bongo part. Those modest steps took me from dissatisfaction with the last four pages, to . . . well, I like it very nicely now.

It’s something of a ‘Debussy trick’, but Angular Whimsies includes a bit of bass clarinet flair that I wound up getting some mileage out of. I started with writing it just as a frenetic solo outburst (mm. 119-129). Later, I thought it would be fun as a duet with the vibes . . . and I decided that I wanted a somewhat slower tempo, so that we can enjoy the intervals between the two, and the interaction of the timbre. Even at the slower tempo (mm. 152-162) I think it gives a sufficient impression of exciting velocity. I might almost have left it there, but then I thought that if the material comes back, with the bongos, it will practically sound new (mm. 285-295) and I get the compositional benefit that it neatly ushers in the ending The other (obvious?) benefit is, that the bass clarinetist practices that one passage (and, it will want a little practice, you know) and gets good use for that practicing time.

And now that Angular Whimsies is in the can, I can concentrate on finishing Swivels & Bops.

Almost immediately — while Peter Bloom and I were first rehearsing Heedless Watermelon — I knew I wanted to expand on the ’melon, and write a three-number suite for flute & clarinet. The ‘slow second movement’, All the Birds in Mondrian’s Cage, came to me with gratifying rapidity. Since then, it has been partly a matter of work on other things, partly an uncertainty that my initial sketches for Sw & B are really what I wish to do with the piece.

So I essentially started out anew last week, and I won’t be long about it. I’ve done some writing on the train going in to Boston, on the Green Line’s E train, and in the North Station lobby.

These swivels are getting around. I am careful to attend to some boppage, too.

Ah the marvels of the Internet(s).

My clarinet teacher posts rarely to fb, but she did recently, about upcoming concerts she is playing with a trio (cl/vn/pf). So, I pinged her with an e-mail message asking if I’d sent her any Henningmusick of that scoring.

She wrote back (with marvelous economy), No. Can you? So, last night I managed to find pdf files I had already prepared of Night of the Weeping Crocodiles & Mirage. I don’t know why I don’t already have pdf’s of Fragments of « Morning Has Broken » . . . but I quickly found the source Finale files both for Fragments, and for my arrangement of the Sibelius Valse triste. Sent them all to Nancy last night.

Got word from her this morning that she will be meeting with the Gang of Three on Friday, and they’ll do some reading.

A hundred small things . . . .

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