25 December 2014
Write what you want to hear, not what you think others might want to hear. It's impossible to discern what anyone else wants to hear, anyway.
Waiting and not knowing is not oppression, it is opportunity. Everyone has ample occasion betimes to wait; but not everyone waits well. Waiting is not a passive state, but I have not known many who understood how to act aright into the Waiting.
24 December 2014
23 December 2014
The time was this morning, and the place was the MBTA bus . . . and the Basque Carol variations for clarinet unaccompanied, Op.126 № 3, are now done. Or 97.5% done, anyway.
The pitches for the arpeggiated chords of Variation IV. are essentially drawn from the tune plus a transposition of its inversion. I used different transpositions of the inversion for each successive phrase. I did not trouble to keep the tune and transposition registrally distinct through the sequentiation of the chords; my priority instead was arranging the (apparent) four voices which played out as I deployed the accumulating pitches.
The Theme returns, cast in a different register, with disruptive silences and the occasional additive eighth-note flourish.
A modest piece, to be sure, but (I think) suitable.
22 December 2014
Var. III — "skeletized" theme plus rapid two-note pick-ups
Var. IV — arpeggiations
Theme — varied return
21 December 2014
The “full title” behind this tasty little number (one of his dad’s “signature tracks,” per Dweezil) is: Trying to play a guitar solo with this band is like growing a watermelon in Easter hay. A suggestion of the virtually impossible, if you will.
Happy birthday, Mr Zappa . . . .
The key is, that the motivation is internal rather than ext. The inspiration was, singing this as a guest in the choir for the Lessons & Carols at St Adelaide's. I feel certain I've sung this carol before, but I don't recall when ... and if my memory is not befuddled, it's a long time since I sang it.
Devising the first variation has given me a clear sense of variations II. & III. Tomorrow morning, I may start with the concluding altered return of the theme.
20 December 2014
19 December 2014
18 December 2014
Day before yesterday, I resumed work on The Mysterious Fruit; a little work each day, and it may be done by year's-end.
Settled on the music for Christmas Eve, including an unaccompanied clarinet piece which I need to write (but that is what the weekend is for).
Should get some of the audio from the Christmas concert up on-line, while the season is still imminent (or, as some maintain, already in swing).
17 December 2014
16 December 2014
Just the Odd Echo of an Idea Probably Expressed Better by Someone Else Dept.
In an environment where even the ensembles dedicated to New Music(tm) consider no living composer's work worth their attention unless it conforms to the trend(s) they promote, or unless it is Socially Relevant(tm), the composer who goes back to First Things, and the idea that the artist's highest mission is to bring more Beauty of exquisite craft into the world, this composer is the real radical.
Beautiful music, by God, does not ever mean tedious music. Let's be clear there.
You Never Know Dept.
Attended a very interesting, and (I say with some personal caution) potentially fructiferous meeting. As much as I dislike meetings (though I see the need for [some of] them), this one was much better than most. Met an assortment of smart and affable fellow musicians. The idea is to organize a choral group, consisting of composer-conductor-singers, dedicated to work by living composers, which will in fact sing nothing older than written 25 years ago (as of the moving present) . . . not that there is anything wrong with the old music, there are just hundreds of groups to serve the already-established lit.
We shall see.
And one of my new colleagues has already permitted me to send a copy of the Op.123, A Song of Remembrance.
Can't Say I Didn't Try Dept.
Earlier this month I re-visited El Niño, and it was ultimately a worthwhile endeavor. My opinion, my ears, but the piece still fits my "Adams model" of [some genuinely excellent work] mitigated by both [stretches of BAU (business as usual)] and [But does it seal the deal as an Overall Composition?]
So, what was good about the process was, that the long stretches, entire numbers, which (basically) soon grow uninteresting to me (and never quite recover), I endured, and found the odd number in the whole which is Adams at his best (it happens too seldom, but it does happen). A fellow composer really likes this piece, and now I could have a reasonably informed conversation with him about it.
I may not come back to this for another two or three years; and there is still the question Were even the best bits worth the tooth-pulling? Not sure that there was actual redemption. But I did discover some excellent music hidden away amid all the dross (YMMV).
My choir sang a Christmas concert yesterday, and I am unalloyedly proud of them, they did so bravely and well. It was an ambitious program for them, but their hearts remained strong, and they stayed with me. Certainly there was the occasional mistake, but overall they carried the program; and we had a large and thoroughly appreciative audience.
Put thus succinctly, it’s going to give the impression that the concert was The Karl Henning Show, but in fact I was complimented by many for the balance and mix of the program . . . the Henningmusick on the concert was:
Le tombeau de W.A.G., Op.122 (original version for low brass trio, and a première)
The Allegro grazioso closing section of the Sinfonietta, Op.38 (brass quintet)
In the shadow of the kindly Star, Op.126 № 2 (violin solo and handbells, première)
Musette, Op.118 № 7 (handbells)
Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song, Op.67 (choir, brass quintet & organ, première of the piece in its entirety)
The Snow Lay on the Ground, Op.68b (children’s choir, mixed choir, handbells, violin solo & organ, première of this version)
Anne Bennett (also an alto in my choir) is the director of the children’s choir, and they did smashingly. In fact, they stole the show (earlier in the program than my Op.68b, they had a set of three numbers they sang on their own). Rachel Wimmer stood out for her lovely violin playing. The handbells were of course a hit, as well. And the brass (although there was the odd clam or missed note – they’ve had a lot of music to blow this weekend) did splendidly; and they all warmly complimented the composer.
Even with the imperfections of execution, I am elated to have brought the Op.67 to an audience (and to so large an audience!) at last.
The church in Wayland is also doing The Snow Lay on the Ground, though I do not know just when.
I haven't checked the audio, but I had a go at recording the entire concert.
Followers of The Henningmusick Chronicles know both, that my Micro Track recorder runs only about half an hour on a fully charged battery, and that the outlets at HTUMC are not grounded, so that it's worthless trying to use the Micro Track plugged into those outlets.
Although this possibility was not in my mind when I initially ordered the Jackery® portable charger (I was simply thinking about maintaining the charge for the cell phone), I had the happy thought (or, I hope the result affirms the happiness of the thought) that I might try running the Micro Track, with the power cord plugged into the J.® p. ch.
In all events, Charles also recorded the entire concert. So with luck, we shall have two documents of the concert.
14 December 2014
13 December 2014
[...] Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem;I whisper with my lips close to your ear,I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.
O I have been dilatory and dumb;I should have made my way straight to you long ago;I should have blabb’d nothing but you,I should have chanted nothing but you.
I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of you;None have understood you, but I understand you;None have done justice to you—you have not done justice to yourself;None but have found you imperfect—I only find no imperfection in you [....]
There’s a Whitman poem I am keen to set for soprano and clarinet.
I celebrate my gratitude that I have the privilege to be a choir director; that I have the direction of a choir who are game to put together such a concert as we shall together present tomorrow; celebrate the fact that, thanks to my changed circumstances resulting from this appointment, I can spend today preparing for the concert, doing a little grocery shopping, and taking two nice walks around the pond.
Today my musical tasks are, to send a last pre-concert e-mail message to my choir and handbell ringers [done]; and spend just a little time studying Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song [partly done] — mostly re-memorizing the changing meters, but also deciding where to drop from a quick two into one-beat-per-bar, so that everyone in the ensemble knows that's what I am doing, and therefore to mend one transition which was the one dodgy thing from Thursday's run-throughs which was purely my own fault.
And there will be a grocery run!
12 December 2014
Excellent choir rehearsal last night with the brass; there are still some rough edges to file off, but with application, focus, and a bit of luck, we should do quite well. And after dismissing the choir, I led the quintet through the Allegro grazioso closing section of the Sinfonietta (that ancient work, Op.38). Very gratifying that the brass players have responded so favorably to the pieces.
This morning, the inspiration visited me to try to interest the players of the lower instruments in trying out Le tombeau de W.A.G. as a prelude to the Allegro grazioso. And through the conjoined miracles of PDF files and e-mail, we've all pow-wowed, and the matter is settled. We shall rehearse/read the piece as a trio just ahead of the 2:30 dress rehearsal for Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song on Sunday.
And I think I may have chanced upon a workaround for the problem of needing a power source for my portable recording device (for durations > 23 mins).
How wonderful to make music. End of blog post.
11 December 2014
Two action items which arose recently (and which I have executed with dispatch) were: a C melody saxophone transposition of the Op.127 N° 1, and making over the marimba in just what everyone was expecting into a sort of piano part. I have a soprano for whom I am keen to write an achingly moving setting of a Whitman text; but her sound artistic sense is, that the occasion which was the original springboard, probably will not actually be suitable for such a piece. So this potential Whitman project waits yet in the wings, and this composer awaits some other text (it may be) for this occasion.
Tuesday's torrential rain not only soaked many of my garments, but spoiled my working score for Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song. So I must mark up a fresh copy for tonight's rehearsal.
08 December 2014
Good rehearsal yesterday of The Snow Lay on the Ground (our children's choir are doing splendidly, and of Lord of the Dance, and of the violin-&-handbells piece, In the shadow of the kindly Star. More work to be done.
Iain Quinn sends word acknowledging the Organ Sonata, and a partial performance may be arranged.
Kenton Kravig sent a message speaking warmly of I Want Jesus to Walk With Me.
06 December 2014
This morning I arranged Out for a Walk for cuatro and guitar (no, not a difficult task, by any means).
And I need to finish marshaling all the info for the program for the concert.
04 December 2014
But I did not change the station, for fear of lighting on another which would be playing that awful, awful Christmas music.
The devil you know, is better than the devil you don't . . . .
03 December 2014
Some of my composing, I do while my head is lying on the pillow, and I make a kind of game of refraining from switching on the lamp and scrawling notes, instead trying to create a sufficiently firm mental impression of the material, so as to recall it the next morning.
In just this way, the night before last (-- I know, ancient history in blog terms --) I discovered the idea for a duet for two of my nieces, who play the flute and saxophone, respectively. Yesterday morning, on the bus ride in to Boston (-- the faithful Reader of this blog will perceive a pattern --) I drew up the beginning of the duet, the first of a set of pieces on something of the Tiny Wild Avocado model. And yesterday evening, I wrapped it up. I called this number simply "Out for a Walk," but Masha hears in it a Christmas song, which is perfectly fair. The set will be Notebook for Elaina and Anna.