23 April 2012

To a man with an iron . . .

. . . everything looks like a wrinkled tablecloth.

This morning I am reaching for a Haydn string quartet nicknamed (who knows who by) “Sunrise” – since the sunrise is about the last thing we might see this blustery morning in Boston.  The morning’s listening will include Mennin & Wuorinen, as well . . . maybe some other composers whose names end in n.

Julie Andrews singing (in a duet with herself) “And hence, they find their task is not a grind” was a curious musical passage to cross mine inner ear while I was on the train this morning.  Will it mean that my (long) Monday will not be a grind?  Will it mean that especial effort is asked of me, to avoid feeling ’neath the grind? We shall see . . . .

20 April 2012

One jolly dart, not Cupid’s

I shot an arrow in the air . . . .
Although I've an idea I tried this before (an idea which may, in fact, be near purely fanciful), I've sent e-mail to a clarinetist's agent. We shall see.  Or maybe, we shan't see anything.
. . . no response to my second (and, I thought, correct) attempt to contact a chap here in Boston.  I do have a Plan C in abeyance.
Well, what news?  Listening to a passel of Bernstein which I'd never heard before: the symphonies, Facsimile, Symposium, Trouble in Tahiti.  It's all much better than I should have given it credit for, if I had listened a decade ago.
Revisited Pollini's recording of the Schoenberg piano solo music.  Better than memory seemed to report.  Again:  one's ears change, and (if one be lucky) they get "bigger" (cf. Zappa's "The Big Ears").
Ideas percolating for Mockingjay. That will have to be a fun piece.  Thinking of a piece to be called Oh, you think so, do you?

18 April 2012


Henningmusick: grown on small sustainable alternative tonality farms.
Speaking with Peter H Bloom yesterday (after he & Mary Jane Rupert performed s. & g. again, and with characteristic excellence), I said, “Now and again, I find myself thinking of writing another bass flute and harp piece, but then I think, What do I write, after stars & guitars?
Putting that thought into words as I did, I then thought further: Well you write a shorter piece for bass flute and harp.
Peter & I went on to speak of a multi-media program, artwork by the exquisite Maria, and Henningmusick, on a bird theme. “You have bird-music, right?,” Peter rhetorically queried.
And in the time since, I have formed thoughts of a bass flute and harp piece to be called Mockingjay.
Yesterday, I began to watch Kenneth Branagh’s film, The Magic Flute. Can hardly believe that I did not know before that the inimitable Stephen Fry is responsible (the technically and legally correct adjective) for the English translation. I like it! Would have seen it through to the end, only the recital left me so exhausted, I required a restorative nap.
Last night (when I was restored to a TV-viewing condition), I revisited “Town of No Return,” the first of The Avengers episodes to feature Diana Rigg. Now, this must have been the very first Avengers which I saw, after a decades-long absence; and then, it must have been the first time ever I saw that episode, period. So there was much subtlety (and, really, some not-so-subtle content) which I missed. Now that I’ve been watching some of the Tara King episodes, it is even more amusing to see that Patrick Newell puts in an appearance as Jimmy Smallwood (who has a dog of a time, arf).
Did I notice that first time that the Vicar (who, after all, is not really a Vicar) mistakes Mozarts Ave verum corpus for a requiem?

16 April 2012

Lenny & Haydn

It may not be the conductor/composer combination I should have come up with, on my own, but “it works, mate,” as Eric Idle’s Michelangelo said.  The first movement of the 99th especially seems to emphasize a Rossinian charm.  The second theme, in particular, has an ingratiating feline character which underscores a friend’s informal nickname for the symphony, The Cat.

14 April 2012

Super Shuffle

Yesterday’s listening:

1. Henning: Fair Warning (1st movement of Sonata for Viola & Piano, Op.102). Dana Huyge & Carolyn Ray
2. Beethoven: String Quartet № 3 in D, Op.18 № 3 – i. Allegro (Vermeer Quartet)
3. Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine – IV. Psalm 112, Laudate pueri (Boston Baroque, Martin Pearlman)
4. Beethoven: Piano Sonata № 18 in Eb, Op.31 № 3 – i. Allegro (Wilhelm Kempff)
5. Capt Beefheart: “Sweet Sweet Blues” from Trout Mask Replica
6. Prokofiev: L’orateur from Le pas d’acier, Op.41 (Jurowski, Cologne Radio Symphony)
7. Vivaldi: Concerto for two violins in G, RV516 – ii. Andante (molto). Monica Huggett & Raglan Baroque
8. Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony – ii. On the beach at night, alone (Haitink, London Phil)
9. Jethro Tull: “Round” (mono mix) from This Was Jethro Tull
10. The Bobs: “Pounded on a Rock” from Songs for Tomorrow Morning
11. The Talking Heads: “Lifetime Piling Up” from Once in a Lifetime
12. Frescobaldi: Messa della Madonna, Kyrie from Fiori musicali (Roberto Loreggian)
13. Zappa & The Mothers: “Dickie’s Such an Asshole” from You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, vol. 3
14. Styx: “Renegade” from Pieces of Eight
15. Ravel: Alborada del gracioso (Abbey Simon)
16. Zappa & The Mothers: “Magic Fingers” (single edit) from the reissue of 200 Motels
17. Berg: “Hier ist Friede,” Op.4 № 5 (Anne Sophie van Otter, Wiener Philharmoniker, Abbado)
18. Scarlatti: Sonata in b minor, K377Allegrissimo (Pieter-Jan Belder, hpschd)
19. Vivaldi: Concerto per violino, 2 oboi, fagotto, 2 corni ed archi RV 569 – i. AdagioAllegro (Fabio Biondi, Europa Galante)
20. Scarlatti: Sonata in C, K357Allegro (Pieter-Jan Belder, hpschd)
21. Genesis: “Me and Virgil” from 1976-1982 Bonus Disc
22. F. Couperin: Deuxième Livre, 10-ème Ordre – ii. La Mézangère (Baumont, hpschd)
23. Haydn: Piano Trio in f# minor, Hob.XV:26 – iii. Tempo di Minuet (Van Swieten Trio)
24. Vivaldi: Concerto for violin in d minor (La Cetra, Op.9 № 8), RV238 – ii. Largo (Monica Huggett & Raglan Baroque)
25. Holmboe: String Quartet № 20, Op.160 « Notturno » – ii. Con flessibilità (Kontra Quartet)
26. Stravinsky: “Royal March” from L’histoire du soldat (Boulez, members of The Cleveland Orchestra)
27. JS Bach: Prelude & Fugue in E from WTC vol. II, BWV878 (Christiane Jaccottet, hpcshd)
28. Bruckner: Symphony № 9 in d minor – iii. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich (Wand, Cologne Radio Symphony)
29. Toch: Symphony № 1, Op.72 – iii. Langsam Zart (Alun Francis, Berlin Radio Symphony)
30. Bob Dylan: “When I Paint My Masterpiece” from Greatest Hits

Notes on the shuffle:

  • I’ve loaded ever so much onto the player since playing a shuffle, a lot of “débuts.”

  • Firstly, though — I was digging the aural revisitation to the Viola Sonata so well, that before I addressed myself to figuring out that the next piece was Beethoven, I was taken with joy in the segue.

  • It remains signally appropriate that the first rock appearance is from Trout Mask Replica.

  • The transition from a section of the Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony to the Jethro Tull “Round” was sweet.

  • Good to see so much of the Baroque joy emerge on this shuffle.

  • Slightly surprised (though of course, entirely possible statistically) that no jazz emerged this round. Though “Dickie’s Such an Asshole” is essentially a blues, so maybe it will represent here.

  • Nice to see the début of Holmboe . . . and I was going to stop at 25, but I didn't stop the player, and when I heard the strains of the March from L’histoire, I was not going to stop just yet.

  • And so, we also welcome Bruckner to The Shuffle Game!

  • Toch is not absolutely new to this, but the transition from the Bruckner to the Toch was most apt, partly on its own musical merits, partly because both composers are on my radar largely thanks to my dear friend Cato.

13 April 2012

That ol' D Major Evening Service

Talking on the phone with an old, esteemed colleague set me to looking for the Suffrages &c. I had written for the Evening Service in D, lo, these long years ago.

May they possibly be sung anew?

12 April 2012

The character Groucho never played

“Marzipan Schmendrick.” Now theres a chap for Margaret Dumont to lose her head (and assets) over!

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11 April 2012

Another few pieces yet to write

Honeysuckle Zombie
Lament on the death of a coffee-maker
Elations and momentary setbacks
A group of devices which do not communicate one with another

Climb Onto the Saddle

Knowing that time would be short, and that schedule-juggling has its inherent challenges, I decided to shelve composition of the quartet.
Instead, and figuring on the three of us (flute, harp & clarinet), I elected to take a few short pieces, music which has not yet seen public performance, and arrange them for this trio into a makeshift suite running about seven minutes to finish off the lunchtime program at King’s Chapel. One of the pieces: Marginalia, the short middle piece from the cello ensemble suite, Its all in your head (not that thats a bad place for everything to be). For the surrounding diptych, two of the clarinet duos of These Unlikely Events.
The goals were:  (mostly) energetic music to wrap up the concert; duration (of course: cannot have the musical program run over, as many members of the audience – and we do hope they will be many – will need to return to their respective workplaces promptly);  and ease of rehearsal, as the time is short (concert is a week from to-day), and the other players (Peter H Bloom & Mary Jane Rupert) leave town on a brief tour to-morrow.
The two numbers from These U. E. made for easy work.  Without any transposition, the clarinet 1 part mapped quite readily to the alto flute, with only a couple of octave transpositions needed.  Adding the occasional harp touch as a highlight (which makes for relatively light duty for Mary Jane, who already has plenty of work in stars & guitars) was mentally easy, and musical value added out of proportion to that mild effort.
Adapting Marginalia was somewhat more effort.  There were just enough ‘moving parts’ to the task (transposing the whole up a major third; going from concert-pitch instruments to two transposing winds; needing to mind the alto flute’s range) that it demanded undivided concentration to get it right the first time (for there would be no time to mend it, if done wrong initially).  All the same, I had all three pieces ready by about six o’clock on Sunday afternoon, to send electronically to the band.
It was well done, for in the event, we three needed to rehearse Monday evening.  Which rehearsal went very well.
Last night I went to Memorial Church on the Harvard campus to hear David Briggs play the inaugural concert on a newly installed Fisk organ (Opus 139).  Fine concert, fun occasion, something of an air of “everybody who is anybody in the Boston organ scene is here.” (Not absolutely true, of course; just something in the air . . . possibly a whiff of complacency.)
Saw my old teacher (from Wooster) Jack Russell there. Jack has been in the Boston area some little time, so it was a somewhat curioyusly delayed (though no less delightful for that) reunion.
Mr Briggs’s program concluded with the Duruflé Suite, which itself concludes with a boisterous Toccata (“fiendishly difficult,” Mr Briggs called it).  That in turn made me think of my own (fiendishly difficult – no, but really) organ Toccata, and how so few organists have (read: only one organist thus far has) played it.  My buddy Eric Mazonson (no craven when it comes to playing Henningmusick) once suggested that the notation needs to be improved (I don’t know how closely he dug into the score, but he’s certainly an intelligent score-reader).  So long as all my notes remain intact (compositionally, I continue to own the piece entirely), I have no objection at all to changing the look of the notation, especially if it will aid potential performers of the piece.
Thus, after the end of the recital last night, I asked “J.R.” (as we fondly knew him back in Wooster) if he would kindly look the score of my Toccata over, with an eye to ‘optimizing’ the notation.  And I’ve sent it off to him via the miracle of e-mail.  We shall see . . . .
Just looking at the piece again, though, my excitement over, enthusiasm for, and pride in the piece all well up afresh in the Henning bosom.  It’s a piece which could take the organ music world by storm – if only we can find three or four intrepid organists.

04 April 2012

Day 1 (Five Days of Lunch)

Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, that is.  A friend in Colorado was kind to ask my thoughts on the album.
This is probably my favorite Dolphy album.  To be sure, I have twin ‘angles’ onto his music, as a clarinet-playing composer, and as a Zappa enthusiast (first I ever heard of Dolphy was via Zappa).  I appreciate how strange it may sound to someone coming to it the first time (and that other-ness, justified by its assured center of gravity, is one of the things I really like about the music) . . . I’ll jot the odd idea or two down . . . .

Track 1: “Hat and Beard”

I’ll say at the start that I like best, how it all hangs together. For the following will have the seeming of a laundry list, you know.

The descending walking bass, which sets up the metrical framework: it’s in 9, but not your straightforward 3+3+3; it’s constantly got the feeling of a subdivided 4, which winds up somehow surprised.

How Dolphy starts out in the “head” by shadowing the bass on the bass clarinet.

In general the range of ‘voice’ which Dolphy coaxes out of a bass clarinet, his extraordinary control of the instrument, and how beautiful his ‘straight’ tone can be.

The volcanic energy of his solo: comes across as the way that Stravinsky was trying to write for the bass clarinet in Le sacre, only the orchestra of the day could not have borne it (and there would have been a proper scandal).

Freddie Hubbard’s exquisite solo, which compliments Dolphy’s so marvelously.  They both drive through with an admirable restlessness, which is never aimless.

How during Hubbard’s solo, in particular, Richard Davis’s bass settles into a minimalist, quasi-Spanish ostinato. (This ‘dimming’ makes the return to the “head’s” walking bass descent a strikingly clear ‘arrival’.)