31 July 2013


Ideas came last night (head on pillow) for both Après-mystère and just what everyone was expecting. Without particular effort, I remained aware of both ideas this morning, although at that time I did not record them, choosing to focus instead on The Mystic Trumpeter. When I cracked open the notebook at lunchtime, though, I did scribble some notes, to serve as reminders hereafter.

My brother Kurt was planning to draw a windmill for his lunch break, and asked for appropriate musical suggestions. Of course, I thought first of R. Strauss's Don Quixote. And then of Monteverdi's Zefiro torna, Debussy's Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest, the setting of Westron Wind in the Stravinsky Cantata.

Wound up talking a bit about White Nights with Marc, and a customer overhead me. Excited, she said she'd post about it on Facebook.

Wild alarums

This morning, and just when needed, I found the "war's wild alarums" sketch. It's on a page which it shares with four other sketched bits. (Of these five patches of material, four have made it into the piece intact. And the fifth, the nominal reject, is an earlier version of another sketch on the same page.)

This "wild alarums" material was thus quite an early discovery for the piece, sketched while I was still working the second stanza; and when as yet I had no clear sense of the music for the fourth or fifth stanzas. This multi-sketch page has rested in my notebook all this time; and yet, it's such a busy page, for a day or two I half feared that I had mislaid it. It remained a fairly specific artifact in my inner ear, though; and I am well content with the contrast against, and continuity from out, the preceding stanzas. (As recorded here in the blog, I only really discovered how I should set stanzas 4 & 5 this past week or so.)

Mentally, I am starting to feel that the end of this score is in sight.  And it feels like The Mystic Trumpeter may ultimately clock in at somewhere about 18-20 minutes. We shall thus need another piece, ca. 6 minutes in duration, to fill out the October program, a flute/clarinet duet which I may call Après-mystères. Starting to feel ideas emerge for that one.

Already, thoughts are beginning to coalesce for the clarinet/marimba duet, just what everyone was expecting. A 5-minute piece is requested; and as I wrote to the clarinetist (who suggested that the percussionist is a mite difficult to please), I'll write the piece as I want it, so that one person, at least, will be happy with it. May sound strange, but part of the inspirational energy for this one appears to stem from writing for some clarinetist other. (Although, it should not surprise me if at some point I do play it, myself.)

30 July 2013

Past the half-way mark

Curiously, the shade of Carl Orff lingered nearby, and almost before I was aware of it, I found myself incorporating a motif associated with his most famous film score, erm, oratorio in the pageantry/tournaments stanza.

The practice I seem to have settled into, has been to write the voice line (and perhaps for the entire stanza), and add the clarinet after.

When I did my daily composing yesterday, I made my way through to The glow, the blush, the beating hearts of lovers . . . and, while I felt that I knew generally how I wanted to continue, I did not quite ‘see’ it.

Today, both in the morning on the train, and at the top of my lunch hour, I heard (and with such clarity, that I wondered why I fancied I did not hear it, yesterday) the rest of the stanza. At this point, then, The Mystic Trumpeter is a bit better than half done, and the process is still rolling.

In the back of my mind, I am forming ideas for the clarinet/marimba duo.  And the time is nearing when I shall need to send along parts for Misapprehension.

And over the weekend, I was introduced via email to a choral conductor in Rhode Island with whose choir Henningmusick may possibly make a good fit.  We shall see.

28 July 2013


Some time ago, I set the end of July as the deadline for the Trumpeter. The performance will be in October, and I want ample time for unrushed rehearsal.

Still, it's early enough that there is no need for harshness as I miss this soft deadline. And I am pleased with the musical result, and with the pace of work. Today was largely a day of rest, yet I made progress, adding the clarinet accompaniment to one page of my voice line from the past week. There is another page, and I admit that I am more pleased that I saw to so much of the text this week, than "disappointed" that I have not yet completely caught up.

In all events, the score has reached measure 190. And we are on a roll.

27 July 2013

Onward some more

There was a good deal of rain this week. Which, as rain, needed for the water table and vegetation, I have no quarrel to. With that backdrop, though, O Gentle Reader, you may understand that when I stood waiting 20 minutes at a bus stop this morning, on a sunny sidewalk beneath blue skies, I took it not as any inconvenience, but as an oasis, a gift.

My spirit thus becalmed, while I was aboard the bus, the setting for the following portion of the Whitman text came to me readily:

Blow again, trumpeter! and for thy theme,
Take now the enclosing theme of all--the solvent and the setting;
Love, that is pulse of all--the sustenance and the pang;
The heart of man and woman all for love;
No other theme but love--knitting, enclosing, all-diffusing love.

This passage is a fresh contrast to that before, not only in tempo and rhythm, but in pitch material, which reaches back to a scale I discovered (though please note that I do not insist that I am at all the first to discover it; I joy to report only that I did not owe my discovery to any music other) while preparing to compose my doctoral thesis. More recently, I made use of it in the Viola Sonata; but of course, I am nowhere near having exhausted its usefulness, any more than centuries of composers have "exhausted" the usefulness of C Major.

Befitting the text, I want the music to have a character at once tender, and earnest, but nothing soft.

25 July 2013

Close of a stanza

Set on 25.vii:

...tumultuous armies--Hark! how the cymbals clang!
Lo! where the monks walk in advance, bearing the cross on high!

In some ways, this was the stanza I was least sure how I was going to approach it. Entirely pleased with the solution I've discovered.

24 July 2013

Mystic Progress

Set on 22.vii:

... and for my sensuous eyes,
Bring the old pageants--show the feudal world.

What charm thy music works!--thou makest pass before me,
Ladies and cavaliers long dead--

Set on 23.vii:

...barons are in their castle halls--the troubadours are singing;
Arm'd knights go forth to redress wrongs--some in quest...

Set on 24.vii:

...of the Holy Grail:
I see the tournament--I see the contestants, encased in heavy armor, seated on stately, champing horses;
I hear the shouts--the sound of blows and smiting steel:
I see the Crusaders'....

16 July 2013

Yesterday, in the park

This here Trumpeter has been bustling along at something of a business-like pace (the piece, I mean, not so much its composition).  So on reaching the text:
A holy calm descends like dew upon me,
I walk in cool refreshing night the walks of Paradise [....]
. . . I had a sudden sense of easing the pace, of trying my hand at some lyrical setting.  I set that part of the text yesterday morning on the train.  That is, I wrote the soprano line . . . I need to reflect on how I quite want the clarinet to accompany, there.
Yesterday, at lunch-time, I had not at all planned to leave my air-conditioned cocoon, but the fancy struck me of taking my notebook out to the park, to sit on a bench and perhaps inscribe a quaver or three.  When I got to the park, though, sounds of a flute wafted across the grass, and I thought, That sounds like my buddy Peter, doesnt it?
The really funny thing is, not only had I not planned to be in that place at that time, Peter was subbing for a violinist who had canceled.  It was a warm, and rather sticky day, but he was pacing himself for the marathon (two hours, and just he and his flute, no accompaniment).  It’s the first we had laid eyes one on another since he and Becky came to hear Annabel Lee at the Armory in Somerville; and yesterday he had warmly congratulatory words for that occasion, which I forbear to repeat for fear of appearing boastful.
He asked what I was up to, and I mentioned The Mystic Trumpeter, and also that (as I shan’t know quite how long the piece will be for a little while yet) I might need his musical assistance at King’s Chapel on 8 October; he has generously signed on.
It was only this morning that I folded the new-written soprano line into the Sibelius file, but that was well, as it got musical neurons firing.  Not only did I write out the rest of the soprano line for that stanza, but I also received inspiration for the change of musical character for the next.

13 July 2013

The rolling of time

The gradual progression of the opus number assignment, from about the time I first conceived of writing the piece, to the present. Over time, other pieces emerged, and wanted finishing. Then came this year, and a renewed will to wrap up various worthy musicks which deserve a public.

There have (probably) been musical sketches to match, added at each successive time. Each succeeding milestone may likely represent as simple a matter as, I was leafing through my notebook again that day, and my eye fell upon the Whitman text, and I thought, That's still a good idea, what if I work a bit more on it?...

12 July 2013

Annabel Lee in Somerville

11 July 2013

The Muppet warrior

Last night I dreamt I met Yoda. We conversed on I remember not what, when I realized he was speaking in perfectly normal word order.  I brought the chat up short with, “Wait, so what is all this judge me by my size, do you? rannygazoo?”

To his credit, he looked a little embarrassed, seated on a convenient toadstool. “My agent said I needed it, to stand out from the pack, else I'd just another little green spitball.”

Last night, more progress on The Mystic Trumpeter.