28 February 2015

Three or Four

The mind and heart settled, I find that Discreet Erasures is indeed finished. This project put me in mind of a very different earlier piece, composed for the Quincy Symphony Orchestra, and indeed composed long enough ago that I have only an old Finale file. Since I am going to need to put her a bit with the Sibelius file of the Discreet Erasures simply for parts management, I think that creating a Sibelius edition of The Wind, the Sky, & the Wheeling Stars will be apt preparation.

So, today I set to that task. I then had the happy interruption of being asked for some of my music for clarinet and organ. Last year I prepared the organ solo adaptation of the Op.77 Canzona & Gigue, but I did not yet follow through with a Sibelius edition of the original. This I have now done.
At least, I did already have a Sibelius file of the clarinet version of the Prelude on 《 Kremser.

27 February 2015

Done! Done?

Will sleep on it, but I believe I may just have won my way to the end of the Discreet Erasures. The ending is just what I wanted: something for everyone to do on the last pages, but a quiet ending all the same. And the whole piece, perfectly organic, in spite of my having started the score in 1999: very proud to have pulled it off (as I am fond to think I have).

There may be some tinkering I need to do with the Sibelius file, so that the parts come out properly; for I started the file, not really knowing how to manage the staves.

Destination in View!

So far today, I have folded in Phases I & II of my notes from yesterday, and am entirely pleased with the result. This evening is for rolling up the sleeves for Phase III, which I am content to run its course into tomorrow as needed — and I think the Discreet Erasures may be completed before sundown tomorrow.

26 February 2015

Progress not apparent, but ...

... I am not idle. Sure, when I opened my three-ring binder on the train, I found I had left my pen at home; so, I sent notes for the closing passages of Discreet Erasures to myself via email. At lunchtime, equipped with a fresh pen and my email notes, I made some sketches. Since I shall soon be on my way to choir, that may be the extent of today's work ... but that, and the cogitation, will count for a great deal when I set to it tomorrow.

25 February 2015

End in sight

More progress on Discreet Erasures.  I should think it entirely feasible to have the piece finished this weekend.

24 February 2015

Not really a walk-back

Even as I blogged the hypothetical if I write one minute more each day, the piece will be done by March, it was not a commitment. I knew that practical, mundane matters might "interfere"; that I might reserve the right to mull a bit; and that, most important of all, there is no actual deadline to finish the piece by March.

Let's say, instead, that it was not a commitment strictly on those terms: I am engaged to work on Discreet Erasures daily, until it is done (even though I am the only person who requires so); and even if circumstances make one minute of the score each day an unsustainable pace, there is no reason why I cannot compose at least 30 seconds of the piece each day.

Now, because Saturday is wide open, and I may sprint to the end, it is still possible for the piece to be done by March; but in all events, it will be done by the Ides. When I give my pre-performance chat about The Mysterious Fruit, I can suavely let drop the news that I have completed an orchestral score.

Yesterday, I did compose a further 40 seconds of the piece. The funny thing about the work I did yesterday: I worked on two passages - mm.141-157 / mm. 158-169 - completely apart (though in order). The material from the first passage comes from "the new stuff" (this week), while the second passage is based on the cello line at [ C ] (p.7), and thus quite "old" material. So while I was working yesterday, mentally I was thinking of all the "contrasts" between them . . . yet to my ears, the two passages are perfectly organically connected. Which is to say, the piece (which started out strong) gets only stronger.

In other news, I have acted on the thought of arranging the Sanctus for tuba quartet (two euphonia, two tubas). Chances are fair that it will get a reading by a local group.

22 February 2015

Progress [Viz.: Clean-up]

henningmusick: Clean-up

... if I write a minute more each day, the piece will be done by March.

Today, I wrote a bit more than a minute's worth. Puttered with the few elements which I tacked on at the end of yesterday's work; drew in some material from the (shall we call it) exposition; and devised a trio for piccolo, marimba & harp which was a spontaneous notion of today, and which (I suppose) we really ought to call a quartet, since I added a tenor drum for additional rhythmic counterpoint. So, the Discreet Erasures are well on their way.

21 February 2015


All right: the Calmo passage is "filled out," fitted with melodic foreground material, all the typographical concerns are addressed, and I've started to press on.

The 1999 beginning score lists 8'30 as the projected duration ... I could aim for that and claim it was where the music was headed all the while. As of today the piece is 4'20 done.

I'll go ahead and say it, though the future is always a bit of a mystery: if I write a minute more each day, the piece will be done by March.

So--we shall see.


Well, so I took a nap, went grocery shopping, and watched Strictly Ballroom last night rather than working more.

This morning so far I've cleaned up the ostinato passage graphically, the divisi staves had rests which wanted uncrowding, and still suffered visually from the occasional off-kilter triplet (&c.) bracket.

This done now, here goes ....

20 February 2015

Return to the Erasures!

It has me feeling a little artistically reckless, but I have resumed work on Discreet Erasures.  This (unfinished, obviously) orchestral piece I began no later than 1999, at which time its title was Barefoot on the Crowded Road. I am only guessing that I had about one and three-quarters minute's worth done back then.  I took it up again sometime in 2009, re-titled it Discreet Erasures (possibly reflecting some revisions I made at the time?) added perhaps one minute of finished music, and then a minute and a half of ostinato accompaniment, with a loose idea of what I planned for the foreground, never at the time notated.  That was possibly because I felt I wanted to modify the ostinato in some way.

So, today, the first thing I did was, discover how I want to modify that ostinato, and I like the result (very well, in fact).  This evening, I think I shall discover the foreground . . . .

— Ah, yes, the most important question, we might almost say:  How long will the final piece be?  I forget what exactly (or approximately) what I had in mind originally.  With the foreground added, the as-yet-completed trunk will be a bit more than four minutes.  Seven minutes for the finished piece?  Maybe I'll find myself cooking . . . ten minutes?  Let's say somewhere between seven and ten minutes;  when I write the end, the piece will be done.

What a crazy adventure!

Message at Cross-Purposes With the Content

You've go to love CD liner notes which open (here I paraphrase):

Not all Elgar's music is like that, there's a great deal of variety.  But, yeah, all the music on this two-disc album, yup, it's all kinda like that.

19 February 2015

The beginning of the end (so to say)

Time and reflection have smiled upon the initial idea for the Gloria (chicken-scratch on-the-train sketch shown below). As I had conceived (but not troubled to commit to paper), I've teased this idea out into a full opening sentence, with which I am entirely pleased. The movement thus begins in a manner completely distinct from the other movements of the Mass, which was one high priority. (The two movements which most nearly begin alike -- the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei -- I am well content that it should be so. The Sanctus begins with a distant echo of the antique Alleluia in A-flat. And the Credo begins in something of a similar manner to my St John Passion, which is probably only to say, somewhat chant-like.) Very excited about this start; looking forward to the weekend when I hope to make good gains on the piece. And you never know: perhaps a première of the complete Mass by the as-yet-unnamed Boston collective project is a sound possibility, after all.

18 February 2015

viz.: Mass endgame

henningmusick: Mass endgame

Performed the very minor repairs needed to the Credo.  Thoughts turning not only to the Gloria, but to the long-neglected orchestral torso, Discreet Erasures.  Pleased to find myself readying towards wrapping up some old things.

Mass endgame

Managed a sort of start on the Gloria while (seated) on the train yesterday morning; and it may wind up scuttled, and if so, you know the finished piece will justify the call.

This morning, the thought occurred to me, of writing optional interludes for brass quintet. Haven't decided one way or t'other.

I think I will, after all, start by tweaking (making sure the Altos are not invited to sing anything patently uncomfortable) the Credo, and adding rehearsal reduction where necessary.  And then, to the Gloria.

17 February 2015

Snippet of dialogue

"In a perfect world-"

-- "What are you talking about? If the world were a nicer place to live, it would be harder to create meaningful Art!"

"Actually, that is a challenge I am prepared to meet."

16 February 2015

Sanctus done

Admittedly, I was hoping (knew that it was at the least a sound possibility) to finish the Sanctus today;  but I was mindful also of the several false starts on the piece.  Nevertheless, I think I've made my way through to the end, and Heinrich has already written back to say he likes it all right.

So, yes, this feels like the season to wrap up the Mass, Op.106, which means addressing the Gloria remaining.

To recapitulate:  it started with my feeling that I wanted to set the Kyrie, and I called Paul to ask if a Kyrie would be suitable for use at FCB.  In the course of that chat, Paul asked, Is this the first movement of a complete Mass?  Which up until the moment when he asked, it wasn't, particularly.  But I thought, Why not?  (That was when I formed the idea, too, of dedicating each movement of the Mass to a choral director who has been a musical support of my compositional work.)  Only I was not going to set to writing it up movement after movement right away, but as the spirit moved.  And I thought I would start out (I mean, after the Kyrie, dedicated to Paul Cienniwa, was done) with the Credo (dedicated posthumously to Bill Goodwin), simply because there is so much text ... I wanted to feel that I had found my musical "solution" to the challenge of all that text early on.

The composition of the Credo got drawn out (various factors) but once it was done, I thought how nice that the Agnus Dei is such a compact text ... and I then composed that movement (dedicated to Mark Engelhardt) in a fairly short span of time.

At which point, I pretty much left the project alone for a longish while.  However, I had shown the Kyrie and Agnus Dei to Heinrich, who periodically has the King's Chapel choir sing the three numbers (Kyrie, Sanctus & Agnus Dei) from a Mass during their Sunday service.  Thus it was the Sanctus which was next in line for my attention (and thus appropriately, with Heinrich Christensen as dedicatee).

There remains now the Gloria, although I think I may "start" by reviewing the Credo, and adjusting places where the altos sing together with the sopranos, only rather higher than altos ought to be expected to sing.  (I suspect, too, that I may need to add rehearsal keyboard to much of the Credo.)

15 February 2015

Sanctus non sanctimonious

Progress on the Sanctus is good. The work goes smoothly -- not rapidly, but smoothly, which is sufficient. It took several passes before I discovered the music, but having at last taken ownership of the discovery, I find the material apt.

The piece has proven rather more chromatic than I had anticipated, but in the first place that resonates nicely with such elements in the Credo, which is a good strength for the Mass as a whole. And in the second, since this number of the Mass is for Heinrich at King's Chapel, where his choir frequently sing the three selected Mass numbers Kyrie-Sanctus-Agnus Dei, the chromaticism is (I think) an effective contrast to the K. & A.D.

May or may not finish the number tomorrow.

14 February 2015

henningmusick: Try, try again

henningmusick: Try, try again

It is with great pleasure (and perhaps a little relief) that I report that these most recent sketches for the Sanctus are exactly what was wanted.  (I even scavenged material from Version 3 for Dominus Deus Sabaoth.)  The act, process, experience of composition continues to engage and even surprise me;  I hardly remember the last time I had to set aside three attempts upon a piece, and turn to a fourth.  And four completely different musical notions.  I've got what I wanted, musically, so it is unalloyed success.


Alexander the Great wept, for he had no more worlds to conquer. The Artist suffers no such limitation.

Barring the need to make some typographic tweaks, shifts and spacial improvements, I think that the voice-&-piano version of The Mysterious Fruit is done.

Statement of Purpose

Do I believe in fairy-tales?

In Life as in Art, I am not sure that fairy-tales occur naturally on their own;  but I probably believe that they can be made.

“The mind creates the abyss;  the heart crosses it.”
— Nisargadatta Maharaj

“Sometimes, the mind can be an ass.”

Try, try again

This must be my third or fourth assay at the Sanctus. Were the others genuinely bad, or was I mostly pressing for even better? Let's not make it any question of vanity, and dismiss the earlier sketches as bad. They felt to me too much like, yeah, all right, this is something roughly on the lines of this other, earlier piece of mine, but this new stuff is not earning it's place on the page.

So, does this fresh start make the cut? Tune in for our next episode ....

The other task to which I shall with alacrity turn my hand while the fresh snows fall, is the piano version of The Mysterious Fruit.

13 February 2015

Variations on tra-la-la

How gratifying that, in spite of the pummeling weather, my gallant choir members came to last night's rehearsal all the same. We reviewed and refined the anthem which we had meant to sing this Sunday past, for the service which wound up canceled, courtesy of the blizzard. (There is more snow coming, so this present Sunday is in some doubt, too.) With Lent beginning next week, the cancellation has meant that I put the Alleluia in D on hold; how very nice that one of my altos suggested that we sing it as a second choral offering on Easter morning . . . and so, we rehearsed that, as well. We also sight-read Charles Knox's lovely Wings for Our Soul (and it seems that our use of this piece on 22 March will be its first performance in its original guise); I knew it is a beautiful little piece, and it was gratifying that my choir agree with me.

The as-yet-unnamed composer-conductor choral concern continues to shape up. We've agreed on rehearsal times (though I shall be out of town for the first rehearsal, alas), and I learnt last night that we have found a rehearsal space, in Cambridge. The concert date is Thursday, 21 May, and unless there is some bump in the repertory, my Agnus Dei ought to receive its premiere then; a second (and nearby) date for the same program will be added. I am excited and interested to learn what piece I shall conduct on those concerts.

The present necessity for a somewhat curtailed version of the score means that The Mysterious Fruit joins such illustrious company as Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song & Castelo dos anjos (and, technically, I Sang to the Sky, & Day Broke) in the ranks of Henningmusick Whose Inaugural Performance Required Temporary Cuts. Not a grave worry, as I feel certain the Fruit will be done complete before very long. Castelo dos anjos is languishing awaiting an unabridged performance.

Tomorrow, I shall prepare the temporary Performing Edition of the Op.124; and over the weekend, perhaps I shall finish the piano adaptation of the piece for Sara.

Oh! And in a sense I am making progress on the Sanctus, since I have decided (pretty much without any effort of salvage) to discard the first two attempts. I suppose, I just need to listen a little more clearly.

In short

Did I mention finishing the last of the Tiny Wild Avocadoes? And writing the second short cello-&-piano piece, a Valentine.

The great and repeated snowfall in Boston & environs has been rather a sustained disruption. Possibly, in normal circumstances, there had been time enough to prepare The Mysterious Fruit for its 15 March d├ębut. As it is, the piece being both substantial and demanding, there has arisen a need to consider reducing the piece, not permanently, but only in the interests of showing the piece off to its best advantage despite the trying conditions surrounding its inauguration. The author, with grace and dispatch, has proposed his own abridgment of the text, and I conveyed to the performers a schedule of the musical cuts thereby derived. A couple of the seams, I shall need to re-compose.

There is a rehearsal today, so we shall hear what we shall hear.

11 February 2015


How I hate writing something, and finding that I need to discard it entirely.

Or, rather, how grateful I am, that I have the sense to discard something, even though I've "committed" it to paper.

08 February 2015


He carried his fame lightly, he had no arrogance in him at all about his work, although he cared deeply about the quality of his work.

~Jn Furia, Jr, speaking of Mr Serling

O Beauteous Heavenly Light

Organist Carson Cooman recently loaded the Op.34 № 2 up onto YouTube:

It was a kind and neighborly gesture;  Carson was to have played the Op.77a at King's Chapel this Tuesday past, but I strongly suspect that the blizzard got in the way of that event.

07 February 2015


In a manner perhaps similar to the Twilight Zone, he went to visit the past. He was uncertain before the visit; indeed, there was a part of him which was prepared to think it all futile wishing, until he stood in the room. What surprised him, though, was how even after the visit uncertainty continued to gnaw at him, the surprising contest between actual experience, and irrepressible uncertainty.

06 February 2015

Avocadoes back in season

Having finished off the Fruit (although now I have promised a piano version) I went back to the Avocadoes . . . of which I had originally thought of writing five, but then (as they found favor with the ears of the woman I love) decided to make it a set of seven.  I found a Sibelius file, empty of any notes, but bearing the title Cheerful Song on the Wing.  Feeling that I recalled what I had in mind for the piece, I wrote it up quite quickly.  But . . . I'm almost afraid to go back to review the first five, for fear of finding I've just repeated myself here in the sixth . . . .

Optional R.E.M.-tertainment

Last night I dreamt that Zappa hired me to play alto saxophone (heading a three-man sax section). Dreamt much of the gig, including killer solos I didn't know I had in me (as a sax player). Zappa eyed me with respect partly for the performance, partly for the chap in a suit who, after the concert, congratulated me, and additionally remarked, "I can't believe that guy [what guy? who knows -- or cares?] doesn't like your chamber music!"

02 February 2015

Hosiery and the How

[ repost ]

Had a dream of putting on my socks. Or rather, trying to put on my socks. But they were Möbius socks, and I had interminable difficulty in trying to figure out the outside of the socks.

There is already such a great deal of wonderful, beautiful, perfectly executed music in the literature, now and again someone asks, How can there be any more music to be written?

I don't know how, I just write it.

Let the mouse sleep!

It's been a busy week, and now The Mysterious Fruit, Op.124 for mezzo-soprano & marimba, 14 minutes in duration, is done. There may yet come word from the percussionist to suggest improvements in the idiomatic writing. The grand rehearsal is the day after tomorrow.

I've also adapted two more of These Unlikely Events for clarinet & cello. No reason, now, not to see the whole set through.