09 August 2013

Thank you, Dr Hovhaness

Now that the end of the task of composing The Mystic Trumpeter is well in view, I have been clarifying the several sections yet to be written.  (“Yet to be written” is a slight misstatement, as in fact composition is in progress on all the remaining sections.)  Stanza 6 is begun, and has its proper character, and its composition will be a largely ‘formal’ matter of setting aside a chunk of time to attend to the task.  My original idea for stanza 7 is unaccompanied voice;  I may or may not stick to that, but in any event that section of the piece is about half composed.  Last night I settled the question of just how to set stanza 8.  How did that transpire?
Last night I was listening to Schnittke’s Psalms of Repentance, one of a large group of pieces which I enjoy greatly, admire without reservation, and which is not at all how I would write a piece.  (Somehow, when I started out studying to be a composer, pieces which were very much not how I would do things, were at first something of a nuisance.  I am glad to have gotten over that, and long ago.)  Enjoying the piece though I was, the hour was getting late, and the music was engaging my neurons to a degree which was not convenient to the time of day; so about three-quarters of the way through the Schnittke, I switched to Hovhaness’s Celestial Gate Symphony.
Even though the Hovhaness is exactly the sort of music which herds my neurons into a zone separated from actual sleep by the thinnest of veils, on its own plane it engages my musical thought no less than the Schnittke.  So that even while mentally I was slouching towards slumber, I found myself discovering just how I want to set stanza 8 (the song of Joy).  And (how one does this, I do not quite understand, myself) even while listening to Hovhaness, in my inner ear I was composing music of completely different stuff.  In a way, and probably subconsciously, I am already tying The Mystic Trumpeter together with the brief, yet-to-be-composed companion duet for flute and clarinet, Après-mystère, because the music I was composing while my head reposed on last night’s pillow is a variant on the sketch I drew up a week or so ago for A.-m.  So, courtesy of an audition of the Celestial Gate last night, I came to compose the greater part of the song of Joy.
Now, many a time in the past, I’ve gotten a musical idea before drifting off to sleep, but if I do not make an ancillary effort to plant a neural flag in my brain, I have been apt to forget it.
This morning, although last night’s composing was nowhere near the forefront of my mind, as soon as my eye fell upon my notebook (as I was gathering everything before heading off to work) . . . directly I glanced my notebook, I remembered all the music I had composed last night.  And while riding the train, I recorded it all on paper.

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