28 February 2014

Wrapping up February

Fixin' to send a score to a call for saxophone quartet.

After which, I think the fl/cl/db/frame drum piece will be ready for finishment.

Greatly enjoying Malcolm MacDonald's book on Schoenberg.

27 February 2014

Order of Business

Going to teach my choir to chant Psalm 51 this evening, zaba zaba zoo....

26 February 2014

Insufficiently Dysfunctional

Yesterday saw substantial progress on the quartet, whose provisional title had been Dysfunction & Outright Extortion. The piece is a sort of introduction and allegro, to last a total of 5 or 6 minutes; and the Andante introduction was pretty much finished as of Monday. (It would have served all right for dysfunction, although it is in fact perfectly coherent . . . .) For "outright extortion," I actually envision nimble, high-energy music...but that second section of the piece has emerged as more of a slow burn, marked Allegro non troppo. And so, in the back of my mind, I already knew that the music was assuming a character out of step with the title. (Though it is a good title, and requires music to match.)

The Clincher was: last night I "played" the 9/8 section (at first; we did later get around to The Entire Piece So Far) for the artists in my life, who like it much. Of course, I was asked if the piece has a title.

It simply would not do to give a title which we would all understand is unsuited . . . so I responded with the invitatory, "What do you suggest?" "I don't know...something mysterious."

And she's perfectly right, of course.

So I have three prospective titles which crowded in upon the study of my imagination last night . . . .

25 February 2014


Good progress on the April quartet, and my "focus group" have responded warmly. I hope to finish (or to get close) tomorrow.

Thanks to Paul, who found an orthographic anomaly in Plotting, and as a result, we've agreed on an altered note...a fleeting musical instant, the difference discernible only to Paul & myself...and to that listener in the distant (not to say, unforeseeable) future who will listen to the piece at least five times.

Mild disappointment with some of Slava's Prokofiev symphonies...more detail to follow. I still enjoy the recordings, the music;  but I find a few of the choices questionable.

Enjoying greatly the Levine/CSO recording (from the 90s) of the Prokofiev Opp. 25 & 100. Also: the box of Pierre Hantaï....though Doctor Bull's Good Night more than half sounds like an elixir...and I think the faux interview with Telemann impossibly twee. (I should have liked proper notes, really...I'm trying to think better of Telemann.)

24 February 2014


Some more progress on the quartet.

Rehearsal went well yesterday with both bell pieces.

Good word has come in on the saxophone choir arrangement of the Intermezzo.

Jim tells me I've not given him anything unidiomatic to the mandocello.

Have sent JW the completed movements of the Mass, and the Passion (again, I think).

And on Saturday my ears drank in an interesting pipedream whose theme was the Mass. One never know, do one?

21 February 2014

Outright participation

Some progress on Dysfunction & Outright Extortion. It's been a busy week, and in good ways.  Still, I have gotten at least a little work done each day ... and in fact progressively more work each day.  It is a fun piece to write, & I hope it proves to be a fun piece to play, too.

18 February 2014

A new piece FOR us

David Leone of Nashville has written a piece for Peter H. Bloom and me to play together, with fixed media.  I like the piece very well, and will scheme a place and date to perform this later this year.

Presidential Day

Yesterday, I found that I had indeed finished The Crystalline Ship to my satisfaction. And I arranged just what everyone was expecting for clarinet, mandocello & double-bass (and I hope to find that I needn't radically re-work the mandocello part).

This morning (on the train, so what else is new?) I got a start on the quartet for 15 April, Dysfunction & Outright Extortion. Great fun to be thinking frame drum again.

16 February 2014

Back Into the Twilight

Just sort of sauntered into a second survey of The Twilight Zone on DVD.  So well written and so well shot, a second viewing is illuming.  This evening I saw “Walking Distance again, the first "time-travel" episode, and hence the first in what would become a long line, so that Serling himself chuckled at the apparent obsession.

Op 119 № 1

First, there was the snow to remove from the car (less snow than we might have expected, and cold dry snow which is easy to remove, so lucky on two counts), and I made my way to church, where Charles Turner and I performed his arrangement of Come All Ye Mourning Pilgrims, a lovely adaptation of a shape-note piece.

Then, home for a spot of hot tea; and now I think I may have finished The Crystalline Ship, and I am only awaiting word from the poet before I send the piece to D'Anna Fortunato and Peter H. Bloom.

So, what next?  The quartet for April, Dysfunction & Outright Extortion, and then (probably) the Sanctus (which will be inscribed to Heinrich Christensen) and the Gloria (to Nana Tchikhinashvili).  Somewhere in among those I am also scheming a trio for clarinet, mandocella and bass.

15 February 2014

Re-emergence, a weekly trend

Approaching that gladsome state of both having had sufficient rest, and having time in the day, so that progress can be made in composition. The Henning brain's nooks & crannies start to bristle with fresh musical ideas, and with fresh input for works already in progress.

I am scheming a piece for clarinet & mandocello, and now I am inclined to rope in the bassist, as well.

I learn that Misapprehension is indeed presently in rehearsal. And if word on the saxophone choir arrangement of the Intermezzo is as yet indirect, it is positive.

14 February 2014

Wintry mix, the Holmboe First Symphony, & Journey in the South

Yesterday we had enough of a wintry mix that I decided simply to cancel choir rehearsal last night. In that interval, fellow 9th Earian Charles Turner wrote a piece for voice & clarinet for us to perform on Sunday's service in lieu of the choir, an arrangement of a shape-note piece, Come All Ye Mourning Pilgrims (I almost wanted to type O Come, All Ye Mournful).  It's a lovely little arrangement, it will be fairly easy to put together before the service, and it is sterling of Charles to have put it together "on demand" (I didn't demand — he offered, and I accepted).

This week I have at long last been revisiting (gradually) the Holmboe string quartets and symphonies.  (I liked them staggeringly well, the quartets especially, on first hearing, so there was nothing of avoidance in the unseemly delay.) Yesterday I came back to the Symphony No. 1, op.4/M.85 (1935), which strikes me as a first symphony every bit as strong as Nielsen's, Shostakovich's or (technically a special case) Prokofiev's. The modal, rhythmic profile of this one makes me think (in an entirely flattering way) of The Lion in Winter.

As for mine own musick, the good news is that our Olivia Kieffer in Georgia, whose Reinhardt University Percussion Ensemble performed Journey to the Dayspring this October past, has hoist the concert video up on YouTube; and a cracking performance it is.

12 February 2014

Oh, and another thing

Later this year, both Paul Cienniwa and Michael Joseph will severally program the Organ Sonata.

Last night, I drew up about half of the baritone saxophone accompaniment for The Crystalline Ship.

Peter Czipott and co-translator John Ridland have graciously consented to permit me to use their translation of a Sándor Márai poem for the Op.119; there are some steps of choreography to secure formal permission from the publisher(s), yet. I am planning to accompany that one with bass flute, but will hold off actual work until permission is formally granted.

Which reminds me that there is a matter I must see to with an old acquaintance in Buffalo . . . .

11 February 2014


Good news is just flying in over the transom:

Nana Tchikhinashvili writes (and warmly) to say she likes the Agnus Dei, and plans to have Moderato Cantabile sing it.

And Paul Cienniwa advises me that he and EmmaLee Holmes Hicks will play Plotting (y is the New x) for the Prelude at FCB on Sunday, 30 March.

Sunday brim-full o' musick

[ 9 Feb ]

As reported after the fact:

Dear L-,

Good morning! I think the extra outlay of energies this weekend past - the semi-nervous anticipation and preparation for the radio interview, a little undercurrent concern for the Alleluia in D (we kept wanting to sing C# in the m.32ff passage in e minor, and this disinclination of pitch was apt to throw the rest of the choir in doubt . . . and then we had seeming trouble going from G at the cadence of that long period, to the F# which begins the final section), the modest efforts to make sure that the bell ringers' parts for Divinum mysterium were properly marked, and then: on my way to the interview, I got lost! Michael had of course given me the address, so I knew that I had that info . . . I also had a link to directions in Google Maps, so I did not think to take note of the address, as I counted on it being there in the Google Maps directions.

However that may be: Michael had suggested that I arrive at half past two; and the directions in Google Maps informed me that the drive would take 37 minutes, so I left home at ten minutes of two. The drive was smooth and the directions served me perfectly well getting to Nashua; but at the last, Google Maps turned me off onto a dead-end street, and told me my destination, a half-constructed residence in a condominium development, was on my left.

Well, I have Michael's cell number, so I rang; but he couldn't pick up (must have been busy with pre-show prep, himself). And I was now in the hills of southern New Hampshire, and my Droid was not responding with its wonted rapidity. I was somewhere in Nashua, not where I needed to be, the clock read 2:33 - and I needed to be at a mic at 3:00.

I roll back down the hill to the main-ish road, and look around. Mercifully, I spy a Police Station. I make my way thither, and stop the car in the parking lot of the Station; I try ringing again, try to coax Google to search for me on my Droid - nothing in both cases. I step inside.

A very nice lady comes up to the reception window and asks if she might help me. "I do hope so; I'm lost. I'm trying to find a radio station where I am to be the guest for an interview, but Google maps somehow sent me into a development site."

Yes, she remarked, there used to be a radio station up on that hill, but they've moved (and I think they may have rearranged their call letters in the process of the move). Anyway, this sainted lady steps back to her desk, and returns to me two minutes later with a phone number and an address - and I do recognize the address as that which Michael had given me earlier, 159 Main Street. I thank her warmly (she had printed out hard copy of directions for me). Given the actual street address, I knew Google Maps could be relied upon.

At the last, I walked into the studio at 2:57, which was (for us now-a-go-go composers) plenty of time . . . I shed my coat, drew my pad with notes out of my MFA sack, and sat down to my microphone.

As I was saying, though - oh! And the Alleluia in D, had gone well, though imperfectly. In the pre-service rehearsal we went over the "difficult" passage several times, slowly. I don't know why we were failing to hear that C-natural, nor why that sliver of doubt threw other singers into pitch disarray. But there was, apparently, no time to fix it permanently.

During the service, I gave them the D from the piano. I started to conduct them, and right off we generated a pitch cloud, in the spirit of Ligeti. Half of us were singing at half-tempo; and I quickly judged that there was no simple recovery, apart from just starting over. I stopped them. One of my sopranos cheerfully asked, "Would you like to start over?" I smiled so that they should understand it isn't the end of the world, and said, "Oh, I thought I might." One of the many things I am grateful for in this choir, is the overall good nature; we're all friends.

Started afresh, the piece went really quite well. As is so often the case, we performers are alive to each of the problems which need to be addressed; but the performance rolled on without seriously losing its step, and the overall result was that the choir projected the music well. A few parishioners complimented the choir on a beautiful anthem.

And now, yes! I must wrap up that baritone saxophone . . . .

10 February 2014

Igor Fyodorovich in an unlikely place

[ 7 Feb ]

At the MFA shop on Friday, Michael rang up the order for a young man, while I assisted with the bagging.  A Baroque piece was playing in the shop, and I hopped aboard soncially, humming a measure or two.

"Do you know this piece?," he queried, with his face lit up.

"Actually, no," I replied, telling the truth, and shaming the devil.

"I can find out, if you want," Michael offered.

"No, thank you;  I only wondered if you know much about music."

"I'm a composer, and while I don't know all music, there is quite a deal of music which I do know."

— "Oh. I wondered if you know much about Stravinsky?"

"I am a particular fan of Stravinsky, and I know a great deal of his music."

— "What music of his would you recommend?"

"Well, he wrote in quite a variety of styles across his career.  If you tell me a piece of his you especially like, I may be able to suggest something similar"

— "Apollon musag├Ęte." [Not a piece I should have guessed he would reply with!]

"Orpheus is exquisite," I offered.  "Also, perhaps the Symphony of Psalms."

Shortly afterward, I waited myself upon a somewhat less young gentleman.

"I should have suggested A Soldier's Tale."

Took me a second to twig that he was picking up on the Stravinsky conversation.

Naturally, I agreed on the excellence of the piece . . . and then I related the story of how I came to play the Soldier in a stage production of L'histoire at the College of Wooster.

It is not every shift at the MFA gift shop when I get a chance to chat Stravinsky up.

Pre-Alleluia rehearsal

[ Thu 6 Feb ]

Taught the choir three manners of chant, which they learnt quite readily:  a metricalized version of Divinum mysterium, which I had arranged for choir unison and handbells, and which will be essentially ready whenever my bell ringers are;  Richard Proulx's arrangement of a Russian Orthodox Liturgical chant, a setting of the Beatitudes, in four parts;  and a chant version of the Lord's Prayer, also in four parts, found in our hymnal, which the Pastor has desired to make an addition to regular Sunday worship.  The choir took to them quite readily.

Then, rehearsed my Alleluia in D;  still a bit of stickiness near the end of the middle e minor episode.  Need to iron that out, but the piece is quite largely ready.  I offered the choir the option of postponing the Alleluia in D another week, but the general feeling seemed inclined to press ahead for this Sunday.

06 February 2014

Just happened to be on the air

"Philadelphia Freedom": Quite possibly the least inspired use of the flute in a pop song, ever.

05 February 2014

Dinkum Divinum mysterium


My original draught of the arrangement of Divinum mysterium for unison choir and handbells required 25 bells, which might require up to 12 ringers. I have at most 11, and one of this tale of 11 has gone on vacation — all of which is to say that 25 was probably impossible. However, the loss of four of the bells actually clarified some of the chord voicings

So: 21 bells. The three lowest of the bells are actually quite readily managed by a single (strong-armed) ringer; and two of the higher bells are used quite seldom. With judicious distribution, the tweaked arrangement is readily manageable by 9 ringers, who are all given a reasonable amount of employment.

I did want to get this wrapped up, so that I can have the choral score in the folders for tomorrow evening's rehearsal.

Now, to mark out the bell parts for the bell rehearsal after church this Sunday . . . .

04 February 2014

Crystalline mysterium

Viz. Crystalline Ship, D'Anna confirms that the writing fits her voice fine; and so, getting to work on the bari sax accompaniment was what I did on the train this morning.

The idea came to me, to arrange Divinum mysterium for bell choir as tasteful accompaniment to my choir singing the chant. It is high time they had another piece in their folder for practice. We do still need plenty of practice with When the morning stars sang together...; plus we need all hands for that 'un, and one of my ringers has just left for a month's vacation (with my good leave). Am also thinking of taking the Agnus Dei and arranging it for the ringers . . . that is already an expansion of the original thought, which (at the time that I started typing) was just to take the dona nobis pacem point of imitation and arrange it for bells.

And, from the Ministry of Trippy Coincidences . . . the other day, I sent e-mail to Ed Broms, thanking him for keeping my Nunc dimittis in the St Paul choir's annual rotation, as it were. Ed wrote back, "You know I'm no longer at St Paul's?" I immediately replied, "My thanks are no less hearty for applying only to past kindnesses." All, right: call that Item #1.

Item #2: I am grateful that Easter is as late as it is this year, for it gives me some more time to prepare for my first Holy Week at Holy Trinity UMC. Congruent with this, the pastor (Larry, a most agreeable chap) wants to make the weekly service more musical . . . and wants, for instance, that the Lord's Prayer be sung. Happily, there is a chant version in our hymnal, which I think it will be fun to teach the choir to sing (to lead the congregation), and which I think will be a musically lovely addition to the liturgy. (And the more beautiful music there is in the service, the better my engagement will seem to both the congregation and the pastor.)

(It is also the "more chant" vibe - of course, any chant is more - which the pastor is gently broadcasting, which suggested to me doing something with Divinum mysterium.)

Item #3-ish: I also recalled an English adaptation of a traditional Russian Orthodox setting of the Beatitudes (arrangement by Richard Proulx, I now am reminded) from the 1982 Episcopal hymnal . . . so I called my friend (and former fellow chorister) Bob Greiner, who is now admin for the Cathedral, about borrowing a hymnal.

So . . . while I stopped by to borrow a hymnal of Bob, I asked who the present music director is.

So now I have a name and an email address for the Interim M.D., and I've gone ahead and sent him the scores of the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei. The fellow is from the UK, and because of a future "merger" between the Cathedral parish, and the parish of St John on Bowdoin Street, no one yet knows what will happen as of April. But I consider it a posy of potential wins.

1. If he is kept on at St Paul's and likes my music, my work could conceivably be 'restored' to use at the Cathedral.

2. If he is not kept on at St Paul's and likes my music, a man of such musical talent will find some better place, and my work will find a fresh venue there.

3. The "merger" with St John's may (I imagine) mean a restoration of the weekly lunchtime recital series, and Henningmusick will ride again!

02 February 2014

Quick wrap

The two concerts this weekend by The Ninth Ear were, I think it is fair to say, smashing shows.  More on that soon.

I have now finished setting the voice line for Leo Schulte's poem "The Crystalline Ship";  only waiting for feedback from D'Anna.

My choir are quite close to managing the Alleluia in D (the original version for choir in two parts). If we can get it quite under control this Thursday, we shall sing it this Sunday coming.

My bell choir are making progress with When the morning stars sang together... Still, a piece with which we shall need to "live" for a bit yet.

Thinking of what else I can put in the bell choir's folders for next week . . . .