19 December 2015
18 December 2015
15 December 2015
14 December 2015
13 December 2015
a green the shade of new leaf
on the maple in april
the indefinable blue
of late autumn sky
reflected in cayuga
the sparkling grey in your eyes
when i return home
the unfailing invention
of the mockingbird’s song
so natural, so unaffected
that first you hear and then listen
the bubbling coo of the turtle
as she pecks through the black shells
the love in your voice
as you offer me some tea
12 December 2015
she doesn’t have a cat
so she stencils paw-prints
on the floor the paint brown
like the mud which in fact
she is glad the cat she doesn’t have
she pulls out her phone
so words float like stars
on a still pool
beneath the stars
not poetry but studies for poetry
an insistent inability to set pencil to paper
spurred by the vague desire
to record racing thoughts
there are letters you drop into slots
even though you don’t understand the signs
eternally misrehearsing a phone number
few or none of the buttons look right
turn off the moonlight
scattering the sunfish
before i awoke to your white night
and could brush my hair in the blues of your eyes
i saw mirrors in icicles surrounding my sunglasses
i answered a knock at the border with incorrect papers
i wrapped the cast on my arm in a plastic bag
to join men i didn’t know in a country sauna
i sank into a subway though i couldn’t see bottom
she gave me a photograph
from the future of a kitten
the cat has a young girl
you can see in the girl’s eyes
she is thinking of the cat
and even (possibly) of me
(there’s that look in her eyes)
you can see in the cat’s eyes
the girl & the photographer are less
than the sunfish trying the phone
deep in the background
in the cat’s paw you can see
(... casual paintbrushes)
11 December 2015
while it was raining
and while the droplets were still few
we found the edge of the pond
in a clearing past tall oaks
the smooth stones at pond’s bottom
offered no footing
so we squatted in the shallow water
cool and the air not much warmer
floating in the cool pond gave me
the fleeting impression
that i was big as the pond
that my fingertips could touch
the far shore
my arms outstretched
the ducks and geese
took to the air
stepping off my wrists
the bark of a distant dog
and the clap of nearing thunder
and we rushed
as fast as the slippery stones would permit
to the towels and the clothes kept dry
and after a while
we left the curious trail of ducklings
behind on the rain-speckled pond
(... summer swim)
So, really I ought to catch the blog up on all the composition which went on while the blog slept. And that is not something to be managed in a single post.
For the present, a relatively timely item:
Today is the deadline for a call for orchestral scores; it was the perfect fit (from this senator's standpoint) for Discreet Erasures. My materials were all sent in and received two weeks ago. At present, that's all there is to say about that.
Very good penultimate rehearsal last night with my HTUMC choir; we had the flutist and violinist with us for the first time. It was a long-ish and reasonably hard-working rehearsal; spirits were good, and we got much good work done. A few things that still want fixing (some of which, I thought had already been in good repair), but then, that's why we still have the Dress Rehearsal proper at 11 Sunday.
10 December 2015
i am singing
because the brightness of the stars tonight
would shame me
if i kept silence
i am singing
because the wind is so crisp
and the air is so clean
that with all my being
i feel that the song from out my lips
must be pure as well
i am singing
for if i did not give thanks
for our family
for our love
for the joy we share in creating
and for holding your hand —
if i do not give thanks for these
i do not deserve them
i am singing
to give thanks
to the giver of song
(... thanksgiving night air)
For those who may have wondered what Hamilton has been up to, lo, these 22 years. I've told Gary that, technically, I could be yet more pleased, only I should probably have to file for an extension.
09 December 2015
without asking whether i deserved it
i found myself writing
a song to the dawn
without opening the backdoor
i knew there would be peanut shells
on the back landing
and i thought of my wife’s easel
and the canvas resting on it
the canvas a living thing
in the way that it would change
and grow in response to the love
she applies to it through brush and paint
i put the kettle on
knowing i would need to turn the flame
lest its whistle awake my love from her dreams
dream on my sweet
dream that we are walking along the pond’s edge
dream that the bread falls from our hands
towards the impatient geese
dream of the wisps of cloud
reflected in the pond’s surface
my song to dawn is a song
of my beloved’s rest
as i knot my necktie
and patiently await
the pouring of hot water over teabag
joy at the work she has done
at her easel yesterday
joy at the work she will give
herself to later this day
a song of thanks to dawn
for the new day
and more peanuts tossed gladly
to the jays and squirrels
a song of the play of glancing sunlight
falling among the new leaves
as though light were a thing
newly invented by boyish laughter
of the proud tall birch’s shimmering leaves
trembling in the gentle morning breeze
a song of thanksgiving
a holiday to be celebrated
at all times and in all seasons
and always outdoors
did i think all these things
when i opened the backdoor
baring my soul and opening my eyes
to spring in the yard
or did all these beautiful things
my heart stirs at the whispered sounds
of morning quiet
dare i drown it out with my oafish noise?
i put the flame out
underneath the readied kettle
the steam-scent of jasmine tea
it seemed i smelt it with my eyes
did i think these things
or did they come to me
rising from the painted ceramic mug?
shall i drink this tea?
and should i not strive to become
one of spring’s finer thoughts?
i breathed in
great draughts of the morning air
and the rich scent of fresh grass
and the second flush of maple blossom
Yesterday was Jean Sibelius's 150th birthday; so I listened to Luonnotar.
In four days my church choir will sing a Christmas concert; so yesterday I made copies of most of "the little stuff" for the concert folder (the carols with which the audience will sing along, e.g.) The only items missing were The Friendly Beasts (not sure why I didn't have soft copy of that) and our "sneaky encore," the Christmas Round. I have those ready to send to the printer this morning.
08 December 2015
(song no. 14)
many teach that life
is a succession of blank pages
and that the history of man
is a matter of writing the pages over
some teach that the goal is
that all the pages be written over
with all manner of things
so that when the last trumpet sounds
we may know the number
of the pages
but the wise teach the true goal
that all the pages
howsoever great their number
be written over with the same thing
every last one
until the writing on all life's pages
is the same
and the writing is love
(... parable of the pages)
07 December 2015
06 December 2015
05 December 2015
The centerpiece of the concert is Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song, a single-movement cantata for choir, brass quintet & organ I originally wrote for First Congo in Woburn's music director, the late Bill Goodwin.
More of this concert later.
04 December 2015
03 December 2015
First full rehearsal after Turkey Day, and 10 days to the concert. On the docket: the Opp. 52a & 53a, and hopefully even a read-through of the Op.126 N° 7.
Remembering with gratification how I composed through to the end of From the Pit of a Cave in the Cloud, this past Labor Day weekend.
Everything for the concert should already be settled, so there is the odd chance I may be able to attend to finishing The Young Lady Holding a Phone in Her Teeth this weekend. We shall see.
02 December 2015
There were gotcha questions
She smiled as she walked along
the aisle of an undeniably cold bus
She asked (of no one in particular)
"Why can't all motion be agreeable?"
It was dark
It isn't that he clung to hope
Whatever the external pressures for hope
his own relationship to that construct had long since become
a matter of comfort and ease
It was dark
Yet he did not cling to hope so much as
there's a chair at the kitchen table where hope had been sitting so long
he just didn't see any need now to displace it
There would be gotcha rhythms
Some motions kept him awake
some motions lulled him into rest
It wasn't necessarily an easy matter
distinguishing between the two classes of motion
She smiled as she sat down beside him on the bus
Her smile reminded him of hope at his kitchen table
Why did the bus need to be so noisy?
He didn't know her
The smile was neighborly
He himself did not understand why unconsciously he thought
her name might be Hope
Not for the first time
he mistook the bus's motion
The rhythm is gonna getcha, she suggested
Not all rhythms are the same
he found it easy to elude most
he did not think it any talent
he supposed that most anyone could
Really it's always dark
he remembered some idiot remarking
While light grew in the east
The rhythm is gonna getcha, she teased
(And if you think it's a comfortable experience
being teased on a bus by someone you've not met before
you might think again.)
He sprang to the left
to a land of squares
not all of them cancelled
Tea bag packets
Disjointed 64ths of some unfortunate chessboard
Possibly the least imaginative of crackers
The east grew lighter yet
He didn't know her
The rhythm is gonna getcha, she warned
He sprang up to a land of cream
Really it's always dark
You should probably never trust the one who benefits
from sparking the fears of another
He was in all respects a master of rhythm
In the world all around him
fresh and beguiling rhythms
are being created
Rhythm and complacency don't mix
The rhythm is gonna getcha, she promised
He got off the bus
Entering a world
somehow neither dark nor light
01 December 2015
Posted on the eve of Thanksgiving:
I should hesitate to overcommit myself for this holiday weekend . . . I should at last post music from the HTUMC Christmas Concert; I need to prepare parts for the flute and violin for the upcoming Christmas Concert; I should break out the audio from both Triad concerts into tracks, and upload "teasers"; should decide if I really am going to arrange the Basque Carol for this Christmas Concert, and how; definitely submitting my application for the American Composers Orchestra call; and I owe it to Jack to draw up at last a proper review of his magisterial Symphony № 2 « Ascendant » . . . but probably none of that until the bird is in the oven.
That's not a crazy to-do list; but I am going to take it on the easy side, too.
30 November 2015
I have not actually heard any version of "Little Drummer Boy" on the radio yet (and that is how I like it).
But I've seen complaints on social media about "Little Drummer Boy" on the radio, before Thanksgiving especially. (I am largely sympathetic to the complaints.)
So, I've not yet heard a note of "Little Drummer Boy" this season. Normally, that would mean I just don't think of it (and that is how I like it). But the amusement of the on-line complaints has necessarily evoked thoughts of "Little Drummer Boy." But, I am not complaining . . . I am not thinking about any to-me-odious recordings of "Little Drummer Boy," but of one or two recordings which I do genuinely enjoy.
I may not need actually to play them; enjoying the thought of them, may quite suffice.
28 November 2015
28 September 2015
Last night, we had the initial rehearsal (for instruments only) of From the Pit of a Cave in the Cloud, Op.129, and the time was musical, productive, and stimulating. It's a big piece in a short span, a lot of notes, several sections in succession, a lot of Lebowskian ins & outs & what-have-yous. Each of the musicians is excellent, sensitive, alert, and the entire rehearsal was sustained by good humor and eagerness to start right off at getting things right. The experience and musical result were, in short, everything the composer had hoped, and better.
18 September 2015
Only in my dream an oboist was not someone who plays the oboe. An oboist was someone so fanatically devoted to the oboe, that he is practically suspicious of any other wind instrument, as a potential rival diminishing the supreme splendor of the oboe.
He was passionate. He was outspoken. The truth did not matter, only the oboe. The oboe was his Truth. Even the fact that he was restricted from air travel did not deter him in his single-minded devotion to the double-reed instrument.
He talked on and on, and I did not say anything in response, and after a while he fancied that he perceived some discomfort on my part.
You're a clarinetist aren't you? His eyes seemed to drill into my brow.
No, no! I mean, I play the clarinet, but I am not a "clarinetist"!
16 September 2015
From the Pit of a Cave in the Cloud is a scena, a monodrama, a verse adaptation prepared by Leo Schulte at my request, from part of one chapter of his novel in MS., From the Caves of the Cloud.
A year-ish ago, when Evelyn Griffin was doing such a marvelous job with my setting of Walt Whitman's "The Mystic Trumpeter" for soprano and clarinet (and while I had known of the Holst setting for decades, I forbore actually to listen to that classic until after I had finished my own setting), I was determined to write a new piece expressly for her. Her talent is an admirable combination of singing declaratively and emotionally for the stage, and an ear and taste for music that stretches beyond (in a word, or in a name, indeed) Puccini. (Nothing against Puccini, you understand.)
So I wanted a text for a dramatic piece designed to fix the audience with its glittering eye, so to speak, and I told Leo so; and he delivered just the text any composer might wish to set. (When I sent the half-completed score to the instrumentalists, so that they might have an idea of what they were getting themselves into musically, the plight of the poem's narrator was at that point so dire, that one of the musicians expressed concern that performing this piece would interfere with our ability to travel by air in future.)
The piece is musically challenging for both singer and the accompanying chamber quartet, but especially for the singer, who has scarcely any rest in a twelve-minute performance. But our Evelyn is game, and looking forward to putting the piece together.
I've only just gotten the completed composition to her, this past Saturday, so she is busy learning it yet. We begin rehearsing the instruments alone, so that we can be a reliable accompanist for the singer in the full rehearsal, for two rehearsals late Sept/early Oct.
The accompaniment consists of:
soprano recorder (doubling on tenor)
bass flute (doubling on picc.)
horn in F
This is the first I have written for recorder, and the most demanding chamber part I have yet written for horn, and the players have gently advised me that we may need to make some minor adjustments (which will not affect the fabric of the composition).
Though I'm the one saying it, I have been at the top of my compositional game for a good year and more, and any of my recent works, if it should have the ever-unlikely good fortune to have notice taken of it in the press, will present the composer to the world as a distinct and powerful voice. (Of course, when you're nobody - and I am nobody - no one hears your voice.)
12 September 2015
In just such a way, I feel no artistic limitation in the least, when writing a piece of music for two performers. Let alone for five. In fact, if a composer is capable of making a compelling 20-minute piece for two players, an ensemble of five is a spectacle.
10 September 2015
03 September 2015
Continued progress on the Op.129.
9th Ear talk about concerts in March.
I showed some of the Tiny Wild Avocadoes to a new acquaintance, who agrees that they are fun.
Adapted Sparrows Hopping on the Wet Sidewalk for tenor saxophone for my niece, Anna.
31 August 2015
30 August 2015
Thought I had done this already, but I do not find any email in my Sent folder to confirm so . . . so I've also written to Rodney Dorsey to ask if a piece for 17 winds and harp may be of interest.
Wondering this morning, too, if Misapprehension may work for a choir of flutes. Or . . . double-reeds? Oh, madness that way lies . . . .
28 August 2015
From the composer’s notes to the CD:
The idea for Requiem and Resurrection arose in 1967 after the first terribly cut performance of Symphony No. 19 “Vishnu.” I was deeply disappointed because I felt it was one of my best works. . . .and:
The first performance [of “Vishnu”] was conducted by Andre Kostelanitz with the New York Philharmonic in 1967.Connecting the dots, then . . . “Vishnu” had been commissioned by the NY Phil and Kostelanitz, so perhaps the assumption of editorial rights was a function of feeling that they “owned” the composer on this occasion.
Personally, I find this story encouraging, both because there has been an occasion or two when my work was cut, in spite of my conviction of the value of the lost material; partly because yesterday (per my earlier post) was a story of discovering new music from the ashes of a disappointment.
In all events, both pieces are top-tier Hovhaness, the Requiem and Resurrection in particular.
Hi, Tim! I am guessing that my Misapprehension is not the good fit for your clarinet choir that I had hoped. It is my own fault, pretty much writing the piece which I wanted to write. If I were to make a second attempt, how should I do things differently in a new piece?
Thanks for your patience and understanding.
Earlier in the week, on my after-work walk to the pond, when I reached one of my favorite spots — a deep cabinet of slender pines — my eyes were met by an unusual sight. A young person was seated on a stump, oh, perhaps 150 feet into the brake. It isn’t often I see anyone lingering in that spot (most of the people I see are folks walking about, like myself — which means that, hey, I seldom linger there myself . . . seldom, though not never), but I certainly had never seen anyone there, with a handheld device, and earphones. I am not writing this to judge: here was someone perhaps who needed to be alone for a while, and this was the way in which she needed to inhabit solitude. On the face of things, it did look like a sorrowful icon of Our Disconnected Age, each individual in a cocoon of symbiosis with a smartphone. As one who avails myself daily of the convenience and interconnection which a smartphone provides, I understand the grey area, and my hand shan’t take up that stone, thank you very much.
Why I mention this here is, that I reached those pines on my walk yesterday, when (by the way, availing myself of the smartphone which I almost always carry with me — it serves as my pedometer, as well) I had sent the above message to Tim, and my musical mind was turning to a new piece (piece x, you may recall). My walk yesterday, and the spacious, many-columned beauty of the place gave me the musical ideas; and the unhurtful pang of recalling the sight of that lone youngster yielded a kind of title (you knew, Gentle Reader, that I should not leave it at “piece x”). It started out (arguably, a little petulantly) as:
27 August 2015
One of the things I find most interesting about revisiting this post is, that now, 13 years on, I generally enjoy Ives better, think better of him. Some of the collage-charabancs, probably I am still apt to lose patience with. But in fairness and good musical conscience I must retract the snide crack about that ain't Ives yer whistlin'.
What if I were to hear that program today? Chances are high that I should still have thought best of the Stravinsky. Perhaps, even if I might still have the odd artistic quibble with the other items on the program, my ears might be more musically charitable.
I had other (and soberer) music which I needed to write, and instead I dedicated the laborious portion of a (mostly relaxing) Sunday afternoon (ye gods, such profanation on the Sabbath Day!) to this rather absurd item. I do not believe I had ever before considered a stylish re-scoring of the Pachelbel Canon, and why this particular thought careened through my brain at this particular time baffles me.
It must have been the money.
The parameters were simple: (a) I wanted my own ear to be engaged and amused by the unfolding textures; (b) I limited myself to those instruments which sound reasonably good "out of the box" in the Sibelius sound library; and (c) since this was purely a matter of generating a sound-file, and not any practical matter of assembling actual musicians, I just chose sounds as they occurred to and pleased me, not worrying about logistics of transporting instruments or hiring players.
If it takes on, though, an actual score could be produced . . . .
26 August 2015
This past weekend, then, a message came from the much-esteemed and always-celebrated Peter H. Bloom, asking on behalf of his cousin if I might make (an easy switch in Sibelius) a version of The Crystalline Ship for voice & euphonium, for Joe Broom (now a student at the University of Michigan). I then was prompted to ask Joe if he might have use for pieces with piano. I was actually thinking of adapting the Little Suite, Op.127 (and indeed, I shall likely act on that thought); but, my eye fell first upon the folder with ... illa existimans quia hortulanus esset ...., and I thought of how I've scarcely heard anything from Kirstin on it. Thus I found myself adapting the Op.121 for euphonium, first.
Today is the deadline for putting our hats in the ring for conducting duties for the fall's Triad concert. Will report when the assignments are finalized.
[ 14 Mar 2002 ]
The Symphonies of Wind Instruments was even better than fond memory led me to expect. In other recordings (none of which have I heard especially recently, but the latest I remember being a Dutoit effort), sadly, some of the strongest "retention" was the impression of screechy clarinets in the block which opens (and, since it comes back, with this timbral barbarity, gave the impression of the Unwelcome Guest who didn't know enough to stay away ...
... but even this block sounded balanced and warm. The whole piece was a joy to hear ringing in Jordan Hall. The alto flute did an awful lot of swaying, but if that's her mode, let her at it; she played fine (and the alto flute always gives me the impression of requiring more air than a tuba). The alto flute and alto clarinet duet has to be experienced to be believed; and, having once experienced it, it is impossible to believe that Stravinsky himself would give that up in a revision. It is a fact that he did, but it is a sonically impossible fact.
The closing Meno mosso (Tempo primo) section was astoundingly beautiful; I don't know when I've heard three trumpets play with such sensitive intonation, and indeed with such timbral sympathy that they sounded like a single trumpet. When the flutes and clarinets were added for the last page, the effect was magical, not as though new color were being added, but as though a highlight was cast on the color already on the canvas.
They played the Ives very well, too. Indeed (at once to paraphrase a hobbit, and subvert his meaning) I almost felt I liked Ives, while they were playing. They did a terrific job. The test of a wind transcription is, not wishing that there were the original strings, instead (but maybe there weren't original strings ... the program notes hinted at a band version of a [no longer extant] organ piece .. so maybe the strings were added by Ives).
But at the last, I was forcefully reminded of a complaint I have brought to Ives' door before -- for as I walked from Jordan Hall to the T stop, what was sounding in my inner ear was the march tune. And when Ives writes in a way that you remember a ta-da-da-taaa tune that he "quotes" and not Ives, well, you ain't remembering Ives, are you?
The surprise quiet coda, while theoretically the point, doesn't stay with you; the boorish blat of the brass band has had too heavy a sonic footprint.
The NEC Jazz Composers Orchestra (somebody help me but, decent ensemble though they were, this is an abuse of the word orchestra) had opened the program with a tune called Dreams. It was all right, without striking me as anything special. The trumpets/flugelhorns could have benefited from contemplating the wonderful intonation evidenced in the Stravinsky performance. I have a hard time taking seriously any clarinetist who plays with puffy cheeks. I mean, if he sounded like he had control, puffy cheeks notwithstanding, I could handle that.
But these clarinets sounded every bit like the cheeks were puffy.
There was a bass clarinet, but the way the "head" was written, you didn't care. Another sharp contrast with the Stravinsky, in which, while the alto clarinet was expected to have fully the facility of a soprano clarinetist, the part was brilliantly written with the registral characteristics of the alto in mind.
A most enjoyable evening at the hall.
25 August 2015
24 August 2015
It was not exactly what I had in view, either as part of musical activities yesterday, nor as the piece upon which to perform this operation, but I've now adapted ... illa existimans quia hortulanus esset .... for euphonium. More on that afterwards.
What I did mean to do yesterday, was continue work on From the Pit of a Cave in the Cloud; and I did manage to make some progress. I was mildly mired in consideration that I want this to be a 12-minute piece, and the Adagio opening runs almost a full minute, but addresses only the slightest fraction of the text. But, then, we always wanted to up the tempo for much of the work. More on this, too, afterwards.
An old Buffalo mate of mine, Scott Tinney, surfaced on Facebook, and in June he called generally for any and all composer friends to write him 15-second pieces. I think that, just at the time I saw his call, I was puttering yet with the audition portion of a piece for double quintet (m. on that a.) So the weekend of 27/28 June I wrote one 15-second piece. Over the course of the first week in July, I wrote the second, third, and fourth pieces; and I already knew that I was not just going to write four of them. I quickly (or quickly-ish) decided on a set of 20 in emulation of Prokofiev's early (and, no argument, more substantial) set, which gave me a title:
Visions fugitives de nouveau, Op.131
№ 1: One Leaf
№ 2: Versuch eines Milonga
№ 3: Beneath the Clear Sky
№ 4: That Tickles!
№ 5: Stephen Goes to California
№ 6: Kay's Blue Crabs
№ 7: Questionable Insistence
№ 8: Morning Prayer
№ 9: Bunny Keeping Still
№ 10: Gamboling Squirrels
№ 11: The Street Musician
№ 12: The Shade of an Oak
№ 13: "Could you change one more thing?"
№ 14: Waiting
№ 15: Bicycling in Boston Common
№ 16: Mist on the Harbor
№ 17: Peter Moves to Montréal
№ 18: Seeing a Long-Since-Cancelled Stamp
№ 19: ... but his mind is elsewhere
№ 20: Starless Summer Night
The set was done by 11 July.
23 August 2015
Night before last, I finished (at last) a flute duo for Orlando Cela. (How I came to write the duo is a mildly amusing story.) I then allowed that last draft to "cure" ... the novelty for me in the process of this piece, is related to typographic concerns. There is an idea I had for the final section, which I have probably thrown out. (Really, I reserve it for yet fuller execution in the new Schulte setting.) So, Friday evening I made my way to a provisionally final double-bar. I then began the trying phase: stress-testing the draught, deciding on places where (1) I might wish to make an adjustment, and (2) where my gut felt strongly I must make an adjustment.
The novelty, though, is that I regulated both (1) and (2) by the consideration of parts layout. All this while working on the piece, I wondered if I should "cheat" by just ("just"!) having the two players read from score together. At heart, I knew I must not settle for that cheat. So I checked the parts each time I made an adjustment. Perhaps inevitably, I began to devise adjustments specifically to yield a page turn here (for Flute 1) and there (for Flute 2).
So, yesterday morning, I reached the point where, now that changes are in place so that both players have convenient page-turns (itself, a perfectly reasonable and practical consideration), I wanted to make sure the piece works and flows as well as I felt it did before I began a-tampering.
And I find that these mundanely-driven alterations to the piece in no way impair the composition. And thus, Neither do I condemn thee, Op.132 for two flutes, is now finished.
Downside: No idea when it may be performed.
Upside: I know three flutists (including the commissioner) who will take an active interest in the piece, and I am sure they will all like it.
Downstream upside: Will be eminently marketable at the annual flutey-toot conventions.
Why-didn't-I-think-of-this-before? Upside: In November I made the acquaintance of a flutist in the ASO, whom we may interest in the piece, too.