30 April 2013

Musings on ... et malum

Whether I am actually content with the third movement as is, or whether my brain is just resting, and magnetically repelling any evaluative thought on the matter, I do not find myself thinking of any musical alteration at this point.
There are (at the least) some notational emendations to see to;  even in addressing these, though, waiting to hear from organists to see how a certain marking would be received.
Probably the ‘most daring’ aspect to the notation in the third movement, is the beaming across bar-lines.  My idea was to make the motivic cells clear; my concern is whether an organist will find this metrically distracting.  My working hypothesis is, that some organists will find it a distraction, and others won’t;  so I suppose I am waiting to see if an early indication of consensus justifies leaving it as notated.
(While I was sketching on paper, I wondered if the cross-beaming would be a nuisance to realize in Sibelius; but in fact, it was wondrously easy . . . I don’t like to think what a dogsbody spot of work it would have been in Finale.)
Singing in a choral concert to-night of Holst (a couple of delicious Rig Veda choruses), Vaughan Williams (the five Mystical Songs) and Britten (the Hymn to St Peter) . . . assorted lesser oddments, as well.

29 April 2013

By this hand

Puff the magic dragon

Lived by the sea,
And frolicked with Jackie Paper
Near the tomb of Annabel Lee . . . .

After a sustained period of sketching three measures one morning, and seven measures the afternoon of another day entirely, I am entirely within reach of finishing the Organ Sonata, Eritis sicut Deus, scientes bonum et malum.  The apparent fits and starts of the composition process do not appear to signify, as I look over the score;  in many ways, it is as snug a bit of writing as I’ve ever done.  Indeed, I have intuitively “felt” the ending to which the movement has trended, and only this morning realized that it is, in fact, an inversion of the first movement – which is entirely harmonious with the motto of the piece.  The movement will be briefer than I had quite been thinking, all this while – but that is all to the good, too.  It wound up becoming essentially a toccata, and (as I tend to right them) a gnarly toccata, too – so, the briefer the better.  And so much the better to serve either as (potentially) a vigorous postlude to a service, or the energetic close to a recital.

As I reflect on the recently complete scores – Misapprehension, Annabel Lee, the Organ Sonata – my sinews bristle with the awareness that I am at the top of my game.  And as Hamlet tells Horatio, The readiness is all.  And composition is the sort of game where there is not a decline from the top of one’s game, but only a vantage point from which to gain further heights.  I think this is about the right point at which to finish the setting of Whitman’s “The Mystic Trumpeter” for soprano and clarinet.  Not to sound like rationalizing the procrastination – but the piece now will be much better than I might have written before.

While I wrap that one up, I shall start mulling ideas for the clarinet/marimba duo, Grapefruits of Rage.

Separately – while I thought that this was exactly the phrase as related to me when a friend spoke (in an affectionately jokey manner, to be sure) of his favorite country songs . . . the only results on the Internet to show for “I Sure Could Learn to Miss You, Baby, If You’d Only Go Away” are posts which I made, myself.  What if I made that up?

What if I entirely made that up? [Well, it wouldn’t be entirely . . . there really was another person’s remark, back when . . . .]

26 April 2013

For the hat trick

Three premières in two months: the Kyrie, Thoreau in Concord Jail, and now Annabel Lee, magnificently sung by the Libella Quartet.

24 April 2013

Longer gestation than I thought

The computer file with the text for "Annabel Lee," indicating that I was planning to set it (at some point), is dated July 2010 . . . .


You know, I have made a point of always carrying my notebook on my commute, though it isn't every day I "feel" like writing.  Some days, though, just making the very slight effort to open the fool thing is the catalyst.  I opened her up, not even thinking that I had any particular idea to impart to the page, but once the pen was in my hand, I found that I knew a cracking variation of the idea earlier scribbled, further up the page.

And as a consequence, enthusiasm is substantially rekindled.

The really great thing about waking up to Wednesday April the 24th, is the smoking thought that to-morrow evening, the Libella Quartet will sing Annabel Lee.

22 April 2013

Now, where did it go? . . .

The odd thing is, I feel certain that I have more sketches for the third movement of the Organ Sonata from (granted) a couple of weeks ago, but they’re not in this notebook. I am sure I did not imagine it . . . .

Anyway, (a) I could recreate those sketches if I find that I feel strongly about that material, and (b) the sketches from this week fit better with the movement at this point.
The ‘missing material’ may work better in augmentation, anyway . . . rather than actually writing the music at a breakneck pace (which would in all likelihood, as with the Toccata before, limit performances) I think it may be enough to initiate the movement with the hint of a reckless tempo, and then ‘bask’ in that established tone, but keep the activity under apparent control.

Separately, very excited about the Libella Quartet concert this Thursday coming. I am certain they will do a cracking job with Annabel Lee.

21 April 2013

Back at work

On the day when Boston returned to normal, the record shows that I wrote some of my Organ Sonata on the E train. Singing in choir this morning (and a delightful surprise was running into a fellow chorister and his charming family at the MFA yesterday); planning to roll the sleeves up again this afternoon.

Heard the Aardvarks play at MIT's Kresge Auditorium last night, a concert which they were not sure (on Friday) would go on, but go on it did. Great fun! The concert had its solemn notes, as well, not least because the slain police officer was part of the MIT community.

19 April 2013

Most grievous

The narrator of The Prisoner Video Home Companion says nucular.


17 April 2013

In the mail

A nice card came yesterday remarking kindly on the Return of Atonal Honking selection.

From last night's rehearsal, really enjoying the Holst Op.26 Rig Veda choruses. Great fun to sing. Nearly make me wish I were a proper tenor.

12 April 2013

That's a GOOD thing, right?

Contemplating the convoluted praise of a line on a poster here in Boston: It's hard not to be amazed.

At it, again

Instead of complaining pointlessly that I missed one train… while sitting on a bench, looking into the bare trees while waiting for the next — I discovered a new idea for the third movement of the Organ Sonata, one of which I hadn't had any inkling before.

Once again, I learn that creative work is often a matter simply of quieting down, and paying attention.

10 April 2013

Just noting

Sang some Holst, Britten & Vaughan Williams last night. Listened to some Villa-Lobos (First String Quartet), Haydn (a few of the single-digit symphonies), Bach (Leonhardt & al. playing The Musical Offering), Holmboe (a symphony & a string quartet).

Oh, and the Haydn Schöpfungsmesse, Bach Brandenburgs (Koopman & al.), Penguin Café Orchestra.

09 April 2013

So, not much, admittedly

A few measures' progress on the third movement of the Organ Sonata, yesterday & to-day. But, modest as this news is, it trumps inactivity.

There's a corner of my musical brain already preparing for the push on The Mystic Trumpeter, of which about two pages have been done, for a long, long time. (I could probably check previous blog posts, and learn just how long.)

Thinking about a flute choir piece, though I need to settle the question of exactly how to score such a piece.

Also thinking of a clarinet/marimba duo.

In short: no lack of ideas.

07 April 2013

By the way

Dear Blog,

Over the past several weeks, I have actually been unusually productive in composition. I know that posting here would have been the right place to document the gradual progress, but . . . there it is, I've just gone ahead and written it all, and let's pick it up from here, okay?

On 10 March, Paul Cienniwa directed the First Church Boston choir in the première of the Kyrie, from what is now a Mass-in-progress for unaccompanied choir. (I have substantial sketches for the Credo, much of which dates from visiting my brother and sister-in-law in South Carolina.)  That's a piece which may have legs

I finished the unaccompanied clarinet piece, Thoreau in Concord Jail (Op.109) for performance at King's Chapel on 12 March. Although I certainly wish I had practiced more, I think the performance was on the whole creditable.  My only substantial dissatisfaction with my inaugural account of the piece is, that I 'rushed' it.  However, (as with the Kyrie) there will be a next time, and the performance record of the piece will improve with repetition.

When Thoreau was done, on Sunday the 10th I circled back to Carola Emrich-Fischer of the Libella Quartet to be reminded when scores were due for their call; and the answer proved to be, Saturday the 16th.  Since I already had (some) sketches and (substantial) mental notions for a setting of Poe's "Annabel Lee" (a poem which I have known, it seems, from the egg), I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  The finished score was completed and submitted on time, and has been selected for their 25 April concert at the Armory in Somerville, Mass.

Then, as I had promised Dr Timothy Phillips of Troy, Alabama a piece for his clarinet choir (and because the idea of writing a piece for 15 clarinets, including one Eb sopranino, two bass clarinets, and one Bb contrabass, was entirely too inviting), I settled in to work on Misapprehension.  No word yet on whether a performance will result, but a composition in which I take no small measure of pride has been delivered.

All this activity left an Organ Sonata which I had begun late in 2012 incomplete, apart from a first movement which, though ostensibly finished, I modified in the odd detail some four or five times before settling on a form upon which I refuse to tinker further.  So yesterday I finished the second movement; about to get to actual work (as opposed to the odd sketch) on the third.

Dear Blog, I shall try to post more currently henceforth . . . .


06 April 2013

Greatness and Nearness

A fellow blogger wrestles with the question of Greatness in Music.

And last month's performance of Thoreau in Concord Jail: