30 April 2014

The readiness is all

This morning, before I had yet ta'en three sips of my coffee, I found that a colleague on Facebook had posted a call for new music. Pow!  Submitted both the Pierrot-plus version of Counting Sheep (or, The Dreamy Abacus of Don Quijote) and the original duet form of just what everyone was expecting. Aye, another arrow I've shot into the air . . . .

Last night, not only did I bring the Sibelius file for ... illa existimans quia hortulanus esset .... up to date with my sketches, I added a brief recapitulatory phrase; and now, ready to forge ahead with co-opting the unused material from the unaccompanied clarinet piece which was not meant to be for the Bill Goodwin memorial event. (They're good notes, no call to leave them begging at the door.)

And, very nearly confirmed that the New Bedford Symphony Chorus may sing the women's choir version of the Alleluia in D as part of the pre-concert lecture on 10 May.

Now and then, thoughts steal upon me for the Sanctus and Gloria, but they aren't quite where I want them. I am not "worried" that I am not "getting the Mass done"; when the ideas are right, they will find me.

29 April 2014

Slave to the rhythm

On a virtual note here on my Droid, I've got a rhythmic pattern for one bar of common time, of which I made note at the belly-dance event to which my sister graciously invited me Sunday night. The app is handy, and there is a reminder, up in the task bar, that my note is there. Sometime today, I shall transcribe the rhythm to paper.

Over the weekend, I made further progress on the new cello-&-piano piece. Also, I promised my niece a piece for her to play on her alto saxophone ... I may make it a duet, with flute, for two of my nieces.

24 April 2014

“If I had been there . . .”

This morning, I read that George Martin (the EMI staffer who produced The Beatles' albums) considered the omission of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" from the Sgt Peppers album the "greatest mistake he ever made."

So I thought, What if? . . .

Although the longest album The Beatles had recorded to date, Sgt Peppers (theres no apostrophe on the album covers bass drum, did you notice?) still clocks in crisply at less than 40 minutes, so (if an artistic flow can be settled upon) interleaving the double A-side singles (and keeping all the original tracks) will not necessarily make an unwieldy album.
The "problem" with "Penny Lane" is that McCartney contributed so much to the album already (singing 6 of the album's 13 tracks, and the "middle bit" of "A Day in the Life"). There is already a three-track stretch ("Getting Better" / "Fixing a Hole" / "She's Leaving Home"), which works partly because of the sequence of contrasting moods, partly because John sings some counterpoint on the last; it's probably too much to ask, to find a way to fit "Penny Lane" in for a second 'triplet'. And, because I do enjoy "Within You, Without You" as an entr'acte which is a bit alien to most of the album, I want to leave that as the start of Side 2. So my suggestion is to slot "Penny Lane" in as track 3. The tempo and swing of "Penny" seem to me almost an extension of "With a Little Help"; and I like the contrast between the close of "Penny" and the opening arpeggi of "Lucy."

We have a different "problem" with "Strawberry Fields Forever": its strength. I think that it would be too much of an intrusion upon "the main album." Now, the idea was that "Sgt Pepper" and the reprise should serve as "bookends" for the album, but The Beatles themselves jettisoned that idea by following the reprise with the powerful encore of "A Day in the Life." So my idea is: insert "Strawberry Fields Forever" as an encore directly after the reprise – and then follow it with the yet stronger second encore, "A Day in the Life."

Obviously, there is no one "right" solution (even if we concede that there is a "problem" to be solved) . . . this is simply one suggestion, and the reasons behind it.

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" McCartney 2:02
2. "With a Little Help from My Friends" Starr 2:44
3. "Penny Lane" McCartney 3:00
4. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" Lennon 3:28
5. "Getting Better" McCartney 2:48
6. "Fixing a Hole" McCartney 2:36
7. "She's Leaving Home" McCartney 3:35
8. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" Lennon 2:37

Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
9. "Within You, Without You" Harrison 5:04
10. "When I'm Sixty-Four" McCartney 2:37
11. "Lovely Rita" McCartney 2:42
12. "Good Morning Good Morning" Lennon 2:41
13. "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" 1:19
14. "Strawberry Fields Forever" Lennon 4:05
15. "A Day in the Life" Lennon/McCartney 5:39

Total album duration: 46:47

(P.S./ If I had been there, I'd have been about six years old . . . .)

22 April 2014

Something old, something new

...although not especially old. It has occurred to me to arrange Misapprehension for an alternate ensemble, perhaps for two alternates, and I have been mulling just how. In any case, to score it for a heterogeneous group.

And yesterday, I made a start on a new piece for cello and piano.

A week ago today

How the time has flown!  The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble played at King's Chapel last week:

18 April 2014


Rather unusually, per this blog post, Jai Jeffryes sent me a nice, brief e-mail message acknowledging receipt of my score.

He may or may not break the unfortunate trend this year, of regular rejection from every call to which I've submitted a score this year.  We shall see.

The temporary unattachment of 121

Op. 121, that is.  A few weeks ago, I began sketches for an unaccompanied clarinet piece for this slot.  While that work was yet in progress, I wrote (quickly, quite quickly . . . probably within a 24-hour period, stretching overnight) the trio for low brass, Le tombeau de W.A.G.  The following day or so, I arranged Le tombeau for a k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble scoring of alto flute, clarinet, double-bass and frame drum;  and in that form we shall play the piece on the 6th and 7th of June.  These two scores are Op.122 and Op.122a, respectively.

As events have transpired, I have decided not to pursue the unaccompanied clarinet piece;  I may or may not use the material for another work.  Have not yet decided what next to write . . . maybe this, maybe that other.

I may begin by arranging an alternative scoring of Misapprehension, a piece which I had hoped would be be played this academic year.

17 April 2014

Morning memorandum

So to be clear (because even as a joke, you hardly "honor N.'s memory" with the crack "don't quit your day-job"), will you play the [piece] or not?

I have a group of different scoring who will play the piece in June; so while your comment indicates that, for whatever reason, YOU do not care for the piece, I have musical colleagues (whom I hold in even higher esteem than yourself) who perceive its musical merits.

As to your "joke" about the day-job: there is one person I've known here in the Boston area who, for nine years, impressed me as being probably the least tactful person on the planet. Your "joke" has let him off the hook completely.

Finally: let me do you the courtesy (for old time's sake) of taking your joke not as scorn, but at face value. No, I do not foresee quitting the day job, for which I am grateful, as it helps me to support my family, and allows me the freedom to write whatever music I please, for whatever reason I please (such as a memorial piece for N., which you refuse to play at the concert in N.'s honor). In our day, unless your name is John Adams or John Williams, a composer does have some other means of keeping alive.

But I'll tell you something: in 50 years, the music dictionaries will have an entry for the composer Karl Henning, and his substantial catalogue of original musical work. And in 50 years, no one will have heard of, or much care about, [name of group].

Thank you for taking the time to seriously consider my piece.

Best wishes,

16 April 2014

Too busy to blog

And that's been the good thing.

Yesterday's concert at King's Chapel went splendidly. More on that later.

Getting closer to clarification for the June event(s). More on that later.

Wrapped up an elegiac low-brass trio for the 4 May memorial concert, Le tombeau de W.A.G.  En effet, wrapped up not only that score, but a subsequent arrangement, as well, for alto flute, clarinet, double-bass & frame drum, for The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble.  And I have a funny story even about that.

For later.

10 April 2014

Looking ahead to May

... though I have much to do yet in April.

For the Bill Goodwin memorial concert, the brass will be able to take part!  The lower three-fifths of the quintet, anyway.  This morning I spoke with the quintet's liaison, and they are game for a trio from me;  and just now, I spoke with Geo. Bozeman (who is organizing the whole do, God bless him), and he knows to expect a brass trio in addition to the elegiac clarinet solo The Tower Room Is Empty (in memoriam Wm A. Goodwin).

I was thinking at first (the time being short) of adapting one of the trombone duo interludes from the Evening Service in D.  Maybe I shall still do that . . . or, since Leslie told me that the brass will not get together until next week, perhaps I shall write something entirely new.

09 April 2014

08 April 2014

Brahms Mash-Up

You're looking at Act I, Scene 1 of a nightmare, intones the immortal Rod Serling at the outset of “Long Live Walter Jameson."  Chances are, he read that line without realizing its musical import, following as it does two phrases unnaturally hacked from Brahms's Academic Festival Overture, two non-consecutive phrases which were bizarrely conjoined — in The Twilight Zone.

A sort of [personal] record

Over at YouTube, Plotting has been viewed 101 times in its first week of availability. Much less time than the centenary of Annabel Lee.

07 April 2014

Cello on, cello on in majesty

Sara Crigger, the cellist for whom I wrote Nicodemus... will be playing it tomorrow evening, and advises me that there will be video.

And the piece has impressed her teacher, who has asked for more Henningmusick with cello . . . so there may be hope for It's all in your head (not that that's a bad place for everything to be) after all!

06 April 2014

And some more

Today was a bit of a blur . . . rehearsal with the handbells ran late, so I wound up arriving at the Rivers School Conservatory after the concert had begun, but (happily) well before my Cello Sonatina, which young Celeste McGinty played bravely and beautifully.

Today was the day, too, when (quite possibly) Paul Cienniwa, in the interests of building a sense of ensemble among the ladies' chorus who will sing along with the New Bedford Symphony for Holst's The Planets, may have had them start to read the 3-part women's choir version of the Alleluia in D.

This may have been the morning when my music was sung at King's Chapel . . . or it may be this Sunday coming.  Word will come, I doubt not, in season.

05 April 2014

Big Henningmusick weekend

I have heard the recording of last night's performance, and Kirstin Seitz Peltz and Vytas Baksys gave an exquisite performance of Nicodemus brings myrrh & aloes for the burial of the Christ.  Tomorrow, one of Kirstin's cello students, Celeste McGinty, will play the première of the Cello Sonatina at one o'clock.

And The Mystic Trumpeter calls to me now and again . . . so I have petitioned a soprano to have a look.  Of course, it may not suit her voice (or, she may simply not care for the piece).  But we shall see.

Tomorrow morning, my choir will sing my arrangement of the Maronite chant of Psalm 91.

03 April 2014

My choir

Just had a lovely (if hard-working) rehearsal.  Love working with these folks. Good night!

02 April 2014

Apropos of nothing in particular

I don't know if fortune-cookie fortunes are the same all over;  certainly, these fortunes are different than I remember from my boyhood.  But at this time, and in the Boston area, at any rate, on one side there is a fortune, on the other, a word or phrase to learn in Chinese.

Quite amusingly, on the reverse of this serene fortune...is the Chinese for headache.

01 April 2014

No foolin'

Thank you all!

What words of encouragement or advice can I offer, from my privileged vantage as a reasonably famous composer, and celebrated by peers the world over? First off, it's absolutely true, what you've heard all this time: music is a business, one more of a number of industries, and your work will mean nothing if you cannot create music with a market; your greatest priority is to learn to market yourself, no other skill really matters. One used to hear objections on the order of "but music is an art"; the bottom line, though, is that art is goods, and goods can be marketed and sold. If the art is not goods, what good can it be? "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money," wrote Samuel Johnson, and Lord knows he was paid to write it.

Knowing that the saleability of your music is its raison d'être, for what higher inspiration could the composer ask than the check? Well, perhaps an even higher inspiration in our days of more advanced technology: the direct deposit! A more satisfying reason to get writing could not be desired.

Some envious souls have criticized my music for (as in the darkness of their minds they are fond to snipe) supposed limitations of expression, for using and re-using a handful of musical devices. The first answer to this is: if it is good enough for the institutions who repeatedly commission me to write the music, isn't their money endorsement enough? The second answer is a related point: the audience bought 300,000 copies of the compact disc with the first piece, so we know those musical ideas sell, there is a market! I am proud to say that, having found a sound with a ready market of CD-buyers, and therefore a marketing agent who sees the opportunity to furnish more iterations of similar product, because its marketability is proven. I am gratified to observe simply that, if anyone cavils that twenty notes in my latest piece are pretty much the same 20 notes as can be found in another piece or two from earlier seasons, they sell no less well, because the listeners know they are notes they like.

There are set-backs, to be sure. Soon after his appointment here at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, maestro Andris Nelsons contacted me, eager to commission a new work. "Andris-baby," I firmly insisted, "you know my terms: if you cannot guarantee me at least three sarrusophones, and a section of handcrafted Malawi nose-flutes played by properly trained players, you deny me the most basic of compositional freedoms. Get back to me when you're ready to talk nose-flute."

What of the future? Now that the ballet White Nights has at last been finished, dance companies in New York, Chicago, Lyons, Genoa, Karachi and St Petersburg are eager to mount productions, and the question really is, which of them is hungry enough for the honor of the première?