29 June 2017

Dances With Dostoyevsky. Memories. The Chapel

Scene 8 of White Nights is chuffing along nicely.  The original outline (the Once and Future Scheme?), the more-than-one new sketch-lets, are at one and the same time non-binding artistically, yet profoundly correct for the project (per my Rubik’s cube analogy of yesterday).

The hottest bit of news, which is not yet reflected in the score (at press time, 98 measures, 2'40) is the epiphany that I can – nay, must – bring in an allusion to the start of the Overture.  It is often (by no means always) the case that an overture to a stage work ‘previews’ material to be sung (or danced to).  In these my White Nights, all of the hour-plus music which has been danced prior to Scene 8 has been new material, none of it presaged in the Overture.  (Which is one musical reason why I could realistically entertain the idea of discarding the present overture, and writing a new one.)  But it has undeniably been my intention to mine the Overture for dance numbers within the ballet.  Leo’s assurance that an 11-minute overture is not, in itself, evidence of madness helped, perhaps, to clear the air for me, and I can proceed with strengthening the interconnections within the ballet by seeding dance numbers with material from the Overture.

The composer is actively at work, most of the material (by design) has been furnished by Rossini, the method is tested and viable.  It is not unrealistic to look for the Scene to be in the can on Independence Day.  More work, later today.


You may have noted, Gentle Reader, that one detail missing from the recent electronica (Memories of Packanack Lake) is, an Opus number.  I think I have decided to add a layer of live performance.  The novelty here (in contrast to Mistaken for the Sacred, e.g.) is that I am planning a series of statements played by musicians live, with the timing of the entrances guided-but-indefinite;  so the piece will unfold in an improvisatory interrelation of fixed musical objects.  The resulting Op.145 will be christened An Other Than Physical Distance (Memories of Packanack Lake).


We have a Henningmusick date at Boston’s historical King’s Chapel on 10 October, and I am taking thought for the program.  I am thinking, for starters, of the wind version of the Tiny Wild Avocadoes, and the Op.145.

From the Archive, Daft Dreams Division

[ 29 June 2009 ]

Very peculiar dream last night.

Dreamt I was visiting a friend in New York; or, more accurately, that I was playing part of a brief recital of my own music in New York, and my friend was at hand to assist.

I started to play Blue Shamrock.  It’s a piece (a) which yields no time to turn pages, so you spread the music out on two or three stands, and you go; and (b) whose music goes by so quickly, that you practice it so that you’ve nearly memorized it, and the pages (which pass by mickle quickly) are more a visual ‘place-keeper’ than anything you are reading in real-time.  That said (and this being a dream) I am playing the Shamrock, and I see the first two pages before me.  An unseen hand removes those two pages for me;  but now, instead of seeing the next two pages of the piece, they’re missing, and I see two pages of random newsprint.  Of course, I just keep playing.  (That has the look of a dream of anxiety, perhaps;  but in fact, I rejoiced to react so quickly and smoothly to the surprise.)

I finish playing, and a “virtual acquaintance” (who in real life is actually a pianist) is about to play a piece of mine, running twenty minutes, for unaccompanied English horn.  My New York friend shepherds me away to a Green Room while the recital proceeds;  and thence directly to an empty hall, where I suppose there is going to be an informal reception at the recital’s conclusion.  I ask if anyone is there to review the event, and my cell phone jingles (I never, never dream of my cell phone) to indicate that a text message has arrived . . . and of course my first thought is, if they've reviewed it this quickly, they must have been “typing” during the performance.  Bad form.

Anyway, daftest dream I’ve had in an age.

henningmusick: One Reckless Berry

henningmusick: One Reckless Berry

The years and the Watermelon roll by. What fun for me (at any rate) to see the first page I wrote of the nascent Op.97.

28 June 2017

Jocular with Gioacchino

If we thought of the overtures to La gazza ladra and to Il barbiere di Seviglia not as complete musical compositions in themselves, but broken down into components, components smaller than the formal blocks by which we would normally articulate the architecture of the whole.  And if we thought of these musical shards as squares, like the numerous squares making up the six-sided Rubik’s cube;  then one view of what I seek to achieve in Scene 8 of White Nights is a solution to the puzzle.  One difference is, there is (I suppose) only one correct solution to the Rubik’s cube, where I think there may well be more than one ‘correct’, musically satisfying (by my lights – I almost said, by the composer’s lights, but of course I am not the only composer involved – not to say that I have really gotten Rossini involved in this) solution.

Although I seem to have composed (in 2014) the introduction to the scene without having consulted it, this is an outline scheme I drew up, I don’t rightly know when (2005?)  I was going to write, Here is an example of pre-compositional planning which failed, but I don’t know that this is true.  All I can properly say is, I appear not to have consulted/considered it recently.  To try the question properly, I should ‘decrypt’ the outline by comparing it with the scores (which, truth to tell, was the idea) . . . but I have preferred to strike out afresh without bothering with the old scheme.  So (to echo G.K. Chesterton, I think) it was not a failure, it was not tried.

What is probably fair to say is, that as a part of the process, it is a step towards (hopeful) success;  and while I have neglected to keep to the outline (if “neglect” is right), drawing the outline up helped to form the process in my musical mind.  (Years ago, yes, but still.)  And perhaps what matters is, the “image” (however changeable it is) in my inner ear.

27 June 2017

Sonic appliqué

This began as the Pavane for handbell choir.

Also, the battery in the Microtrack recorder failed at last;  there was no easy way to replace the battery;  once I made the decision to replace the device, there was no obligation to get another Microtrack;  so I wanted to test-drive the new Tascam.

For this project, I did not use the performance of the Pavane in Sunday's service, which was the best take of the piece; but instead "upcycled" a rehearsal take, i.e., a recording which would now serve no other purpose. The result of various superimpositions and modifications, was a 12½-minute Take 1 track, with which I was fairly well pleased. Somewhat provisionally. I wondered if I did not want more “bottom” in the texture.

Earlier in the day yesterday, then, I thought about what I wanted, as “remedial counterpoint,” and when I got home I readied the Tascam, and my blue translucent recorder.  I listened to take 1 on headphones, hit the Record button, and improvised vocalizations, and a few bits on the recorder. For good or ill, I did it “in one breath,” and in a single take.

I added that new track as a layer to the mix, and made modifications here and there.  There are harmonic felicities between the bells and the air columns which are not chance, but musical (I shall hope) improv.

Today, now, it’s fun & games with Rossini.

26 June 2017

henningmusick: The Faithful Muse

henningmusick: The Faithful Muse

Eight years ago, today ... and, while I'm not doing the research just at the moment, I expect that this fl/cl duet is catalogued in the list of Saturday's post.

24 June 2017

Making a List

This morning, Peter’s office made a request for this list. It did not take me very long to create the list. Or, the fact that it took a while to create the list underscores my cause for ongoing gratitude to Peter for his active support.

List of Henning compositions in whose premières Peter H. Bloom participated

Op.59 — Radiant Maples (2001) Flute, clarinet, harp, piano. Duration: 5'. First performance: First Church, Woburn, Massachusetts (24 June 2009).

Op.64a — Fragments of « Morning Has Broken ». (2002) Arrangement for flute, clarinet, piano. Commissioned for the First Congregational Church in Woburn (William Goodwin, music director). Duration: 4'00.
Lux Nova Press — Catalogue № LNP-0287.
First performance: Cathedral Church of St Paul, Boston, Massachusetts (12 May 2010).

Op.94a — The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword. (2008) Alto flute unaccompanied. Adapted for Peter H. Bloom. Duration: 12'. First performance: First Church, Woburn, Massachusetts (24 June 2009).
Lux Nova Press — Catalogue № LNP-0215

Opus 95 — stars & guitars. (2009) Bass flute & harp. For Duo 2: Mary Jane Rupert & Peter H. Bloom. Duration: 20'. First performance: First Church, Woburn, Massachusetts (24 June 2009).

Op.97 № 1 — Heedless Watermelon (2009) Flute & clarinet. For Peter H. Bloom. Duration: 6'30. First performance: Peter H. Bloom & the composer, Boston Public Library, West End branch, Boston (28 July 2009).
Lux Nova Press — Catalogue № LNP-0232

Op.97 № 3 — Swivels & Bops (2010) Flute & clarinet. Duration: 3'00. First performance: Peter H. Bloom & the composer, Cathedral Church of St Paul, Boston (12 May 2010).
Lux Nova Press — Catalogue № LNP-0234

Op.101 — Here You Go / Hear You Go. (2010) Flute & clarinet. Duration: 6'. First performance: Peter H. Bloom & the composer, King’s Chapel, Boston (18 May 2010).

Op.103 — How to Tell (Chasing the Tail of Nothing). (2011) Alto flute, clarinet & frame drum. Duration: 10'. First performance: The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble, King’s Chapel, Boston (19 May 2011).

Op.113 № 2 — Après-mystère. (2014) Flute (or piccolo) & clarinet in A. Duration: 5'. First performed by Peter H. Bloom & the composer, King’s Chapel, Boston (7 Oct 2014).

Op.114 № 2 — Zen on the Wing. (2013) Flute & clarinet in A. Duration: 5'. First performed by Peter H. Bloom & the composer, King’s Chapel, Boston (8 Oct 2013).

Op.117 — Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels. (2013-14). Flute, clarinet, guitar & double-bass. First performed by The 9th Ear, Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church, Somerville, Mass. (1 Feb 2014).

Op.119 № 1 — The Crystalline Ship. (2014) Mezzo-soprano & baritone saxophone. For D’Anna Fortunato. Text by Leo Shulte. First performed by D’Anna FortunatoPeter H. Bloom, Church of the Advent, Boston (14 March 2014).

Opus 120 — I see people walking around like trees. (2014) Flute, clarinet, double-bass & frame drum. Duration: 5'30. First performance by The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble, King’s Chapel, Boston (15 April 2014).

Opus 122a — Le tombeau de W.A.G. (2014). Arrangement for alto flute, clarinet, double-bass & frame drum. First performed by The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble, Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church, Somerville, Mass. (6 June 2014).

Op.126 № 7 — Gabriel’s Message (Basque Carol). (2015) Flute, violin, two baritone voices, and small women's chorus unison. First performed by Peter H. Bloom, Rachel Wimmer, and members of the choir of Holy Trinity United Methodist Church, Danvers, Mass. (13 Dec 2015).

Op.126 № 3a — Variations on a Basque Carol. (2014) Arrangement for C flute unaccompanied. First performed by Peter H. Bloom, Holy Trinity United Methodist Church, Danvers, Mass. (13 Dec 2015).

Opus 129 — From the Pit of a Cave in the Cloud. (2015) Soprano, flute, bass flute (doubling on piccolo), tenor recorder (doubling on soprano recorder) & horn. Duration: 14'00. Text by Leo Shulte. First performed by Barbara Hill-Meyers and The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble, at King’s Chapel in Boston (27 Oct 2015).

Opus 138 — Oxygen Footprint. (2016). Fl, va, hp. Duration: 7'00. For Ensemble Aubade. First performed by Ensemble Aubade, Stamford, NY (20 Nov 2016)

Opus 138a — Oxygen Footprint. (2016). Arrangement for fl, va, pf. Duration: 7'00. For Ensemble Aubade. First performed by Ensemble Aubade, Jacksonville, Illinois (7 Apr 2017)

Opus 140 — Sound + Sight: Music to Paint By. (2016) 2 flutes, clarinet, horn & fixed media. Duration: 25'.
1. The Conquest of Emptiness
2a. Avant-subterfuge (Before the Tape)
2b. Sonic Dissemblage (Sex Tape)
3. Contemplating the Irrepressible (Happy Birthday, Carl Nielsen!)
Première performance:  Maria Bablyak, Irina Pisarenko, & The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble, King’s Chapel (21 June 2016).

Opus 141a — Mistaken for the Sacred. (2017) 2 flutes, horn & fixed media. First performed by The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble, Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church, Somerville, Mass. (24 Mar 2017).

22 June 2017

From 2014 to 2017

2014 was the summer of “rescuing” the numbers already composed for my ballet-in-progress (with the frank acknowledgment, Gentle Reader, that when the pace is that slow, there is bounteous generosity in the word progress) from the enchanted cavern of Finale files which I could no longer manage. Three years ago today, I was finishing the then-new Sibelius edition of the Overture to White Nights. The summer solstice is, in fact, the time of year most apt to the task.

At times a mostly-idle thought crosses my mind: what if the Overture to the ballet ought, in fact, to be a shorter piece?  The complete ballet sans Overture will run a bit more than two hours.  My first thought, back in 2003 (!) when I first schemed the project, was that, if the audience are ready for an evening at the ballet, an 11-minute Overture is not madness.  But what if that is just wrong?

The Overture, as it is, will not stand abridgement;  should I compose a new one?  But, as it is, I like the Overture, I'm proud to own it.  I shan’t discard the piece, nor pretend that I wrote it for any occasion except to inaugurate the ballet.

Perhaps I should “go Lenore,” and write an alternative Overture, and leave the choice of which to use, to the conductor (or to those to whom the conductor answers, or whom the conductor advises)?

Well, the questions circle, slowly.  It is not any matter I need to settle, this side of actually finishing the ballet.

Which will be finished.  This year, if I can manage it.

20 June 2017

The stock-taking

Preamble:  As I may have noted erewhile in this blog, Gentle Reader, although the broad desire “to write a symphony” had slept in my back room for quite some time (perhaps for nearly as long as I have pursued composition seriously), and periodically arose from its slumber in apparent readiness to demand its breakfast, only to collapse back on its cot in a by-no-means-uneasy rest ... it was only in October of last year that I felt thoroughly motivated to embrace the task. It was not, let us charitably suppose, laziness which ‘prevented’ realization of the endeavor; but that the composer waited upon the right time. In support of that flattering interpretation, we point to the reasonable despatch wherewith the score reached completion.

Now:  White Nights has arguably been stalled at the scene in the theatre. Nastenka relates her story to the Dreamer (we may say he’s a Dreamer, but he’s not the only one), and a central event in her narrative is the evening when she and her Granny are taken to see Il barbiere di Seviglia. It is an obvious bit of business to make use of Rossini for this scene, to be sure;  and from the outset, in the first sketches for the piece, I intended an extended splice of the overtures to Il barbiere di Seviglia and La gazza ladra. Here is where my preamble appears relevant.

Because the idea is obvious enough, it needs to be done well, done right.  And, well, I do feel ready.  I’ve found all my materials, and my composition desk is cleared.

So, let’s see ....

{ Later in the day }

While in my present, ‘reimmersion’ stage, I feel right away (or, nearly right away) that I want to discard the first draught outline for the scene, and craft a fresh outline. I believe this may be a sign that I am genuinely ready for the task, that I want a better outline/plan, and that I feel no lazy obligation to take the preexisting outline as at all ... “canonic.”  The composer’s feeling is, a refreshed engagement with the source material.

The signs are good.

18 June 2017

From the vault: The Seven-Year Crocodile Itch


Enormously pleased with yesterday’s rehearsal of the cl/vn/pf trios. Eric Mazonson is, quite simply, the best pianist with whom it has yet been given to me to play; and he makes all of Night of the Weeping Crocodiles sound both musical and . . . almost easy. There is rapid arpeggiation in a 9/8 section (and apart from its rapidity, the arpeggiation is out of phase with the beat — the figure rises and falls, but the bass note only occasionally coincides with the metrical pulse). It’s not really an enormous deal, musically — but it is one of numerous “gee, this isn’t plain easy” elements to my work, which (so far as I can tell) are a factor in so few pianists getting back to me enthusiastically about scores I send them.

And Alexey is a marvelous violinist. Although the timetable suggests that I expected matters to fall out so, it is wonderful to experience how easy the piece has been to put together with these two. And they both like the music. Eric is not rehearsing this in the spirit of “This is for the 21st, and then we can put it to bed” — we will keep this piece in our repertory, and we will play as a trio again.

There was some unfounded optimism:  We never did play again as a trio.

17 June 2017

A lesser to-do list done

Gentle Reader, I can make the following provisional Report:
  • Wednesday evening, I finished the piano-&-string-quartet-accompanied adaptation of the Op.50 O Gracious Light.
  • Thursday evening, we had the first “full rehearsal” (i.e., with piano accompaniment) of the new arrangement of I Want Jesus to Walk With Me, Op.142 № 9
  • Last night, I marked the handbell parts for Pavane (Memories of Packanack Lake), Op.142 № 10
  • This morning I adapted the 3rd & 4th movements of the Clarinet Sonata for flute and piano, for the use/consideration of my colleague Peter H. Bloom;  the resulting diptych (Op.136a) I have dubbed Denial of Symmetry.
And I have found my notes &c. for White Nights.

16 June 2017

Going on a bit

Gentle Reader, I’ve not yet done with talking about the Clarinet Sonata. And this is a natural part of the process ... this stage in the cycle.  I’d been at work upon, or musically considering, a large-scale chamber work for a year and a half:  it would be strange if, so soon after I reached the final double-bar, I felt I had said it all.  A composer focuses upon, lives with the task for an extended period. Given the nature of the medium, most (all, perhaps, even) of the work is nonverbal. At the end (which is, or ought to be, only the beginning) there is elation at the accomplishment, and Quality Control review, and the desire to get the work out into the world.

Into the ears of an audience.

And before there can be a performance realizing the piece, in most cases there must be talk about the piece. As the most interested (and, hopefully, best-informed) party, the composer perforce does much of the talking. And, in a curious way, since my work on the piece heretofore has been mostly nonverbal, this is a time of discovery, of considering which may be the most apt words. Why, any thing, but to the purpose.

Here’s some words.

i. Another Think Coming.  As with the earlier Viola Sonata, the piece begins according to advice recorded as marginalia by Edgar Allan Poe.  What exactly he wrote, I dare not this morning pretend to recall accurately. But it is to this effect: Begin in such a way, that there is no doubt in the reader’s mind that something is up.  With this composition, I thee shake;  I mean business, and if you think you already know everything that this Henning has to say in music, you’ve another think coming.  The movement ends in strength, and (befitting the title) whether the listener knows it or not, he’s not heard the last of it.

ii. « Boulez est mort » (Wounding Silence).  As I consider how rightly to express the relation of the two instruments in this movement, I waver between talking past one another and mutual obliviousness.  The piano is wilfully clangorous. The clarinet pursues a series of melodic objets trouvés (I promised myself that I wouldnt catalogue them, and I have pretty much kept faith). They end together. Or do they?

iii. Unanticipated Serenity.  In the original plan, this was to be clarinet unaccompanied, but the piano refused to be left out entirely. After the energetic insistence of the first movement, and the shattered disorientation of the second, here is an oasis.  Is it “the true slow movement”? Or a dance? It is not a worrisome question.

iv. Ambiguity & Overlap (Something or other, if not something else entirely). This is the scherzo. Or, the third & fourth movements together (played attacca) are conjointly the scherzo. It begins as a kind of jazzy dance, which yields (reluctantly at first) to a relaxed march & trio, although unlike most marches, there is a return after the trio.  The idea of a march came from a music forum member, at a time when I was yet at work on the second movement; so that I tentatively accepted the invitation to write a march, and had time to fold the notion into the framework of the Sonata.

v. After a reading of “The Mysterious Stranger.”  I recall, when I first read this novella as a teenager, I found it unsettling.  I knew Twain as a folksy humorist and raconteur;  I intuitively read him as at times bitterly sarcastic here.  This, and the challenging cosmology, made me uncomfortable, or perhaps it only stretched my mind a bit at the time.  A needful stretch sometimes registers as discomfort.  The movement begins with a sort of homey Americana, though the chorale (for instance) is more modern than Twain. The center of the movement reflects the magisterial ungovernability of the title character, the innocent excitement and joy which the young boys found in their powerful and at times alarming friend, and the drama of the trial episode.  The recapitulation of the opening struck me as the most suitable reflection upon Theodore’s absorption of the last remarks of the Stranger, on a final visit after his most extended absence from Eseldorf.

“He vanished, and left me appalled; for I knew, and realized, that all he had said was true.”

15 June 2017

What It Has All Meant: Balance

On Facebook the other day (12 June) I wrote – and if you wish to skip the end, you have leave:

This is an “old” blog post (5 June 2017). I'm posting it here, this morning, as an expression of pleasant surprise.
As I revisit this instalment on my blog, I “discover” that, apart from the melody in mm.24-33 (which I scrawled sometime in May), I composed the fifth movement of the Clarinet Sonata in a week.
Yes, I imported/modified nine measures of piano accompaniment from the second movement, and a couple of brief passages from the first movement.  But for the most part, the 201-measure, 8-minute conclusion of the Sonata was the work of seven days.  (And I did not do much work on Friday, as I was playing in the percussion section in an Arlington Philharmonic concert that night.)
In fact, I hope my friends will forgive me if I indulge in something of a victory lap for three accomplishments over the past year:
30 June 2016:  With the completion of the Gloria, I finished the Mass Op.106 for mixed choir SATB unaccompanied.  I composed a Kyrie in 2012;  I accepted as a good-natured challenge a friend’s suggestion that it might be the first number of a complete Mass, although I was determined to take my time, and only compose each further movement when the Muse bade me.
21 January 2017:  Completion of the Symphony № 1, Op.143 (three movements, 25').  Composition of the Symphony began 8 October 2016.
11 June 2017:  Completion of the Sonata for Clarinet & Piano, Op.136 (five movements, 35').
Thus:  three substantial works, one each of sacred choral, orchestral, & chamber music, completed in the past year.  Some of my friends know exactly where this is going:  No later than Independence Day, I shall resume work on the ballet White Nights, nor will I let it go, except its completion bless me.
Anyway, I made a promise that I would not start a Symphony № 2, until I put this ballet to bed.

Something I am celebrating even above the accomplishment of the three major pieces (is a clarinet sonata a “major piece”? You go ask Mr. Brahms) is:

Like many of the composers I know, composing music is not gainful employment. Therefore, like many of the composers I know, composing music is not the only thing I do. I have full-time (non-musical) work – and thank goodness for that – and I am also the choir director at Holy Trinity United Methodist Church in Danvers, Mass. Obviously, for that choir director position to coexist with my full-time job, it is but a part-time engagement. In a sense, though, I am sometimes “on the clock” beyond the usual Thursday evening choir rehearsal and Sunday morning service commitments. It is my pleasure to report that part of what is expected of the music director at the church is, occasional fresh, pertinent compositions for use in the worship service; thus, for instance, on Tuesday evening I composed a brief piece for the church’s handbell choir to ring as part of the service on 25 June.

The triumph, then, which I celebrate is that it has been possible to find a balance of the Day Job, the Church Music Directorship, and my own (selfish) creative work so that I could get these three major pieces completed, and to my entire musical satisfaction.

(Of course, my working life is a little more complicated still, as I am a founding member of Triad: Boston’s Choral Collective, and I do try to play my clarinet now and again.)

So, if you skipped to the end (which in neighborly goodwill, I made you free to do), go on back, and read what you missed.

You know you want to.

14 June 2017

henningmusick: Sound & Sight in the works

henningmusick: Sound & Sight in the works

This time last year, we were hot on the trail of the Op.140.  What a tolerably productive little composer I do seem to be.

Light Duties

Yesterday evening I composed a brief piece (not in C Major) for our handbell choir at HTUMC (not pictured).  Ease of reading and performance are paramount, as we have just the one rehearsal after this Sunday’s service, and then it is part of the service (together with a reprise of my arrangement of America the Beautiful) on 25 June.

Also on the work slate was the easy-ish adaptation for Triad’s use, of O Gracious Light, to be accompanied by piano & string quartet.  Did a bit more than half of that yesterday, so it will likely be finished this evening.  (This will be the Op.50d.  I think.)

13 June 2017

Onward through the Nights

One take: Serious resumption of work upon White Nights depends on my locating materials, sketches, outlines, plots, organizational graphs which I know I have not yet discarded, so that I keep the Big Picture in view.

Another take: Serious resumption of work upon White Nights depends on just writing, because I know the arc of the story, I can create the music which will suit, and it is just necessary to do The Work.

Yet another take: Resumption of work upon White Nights depends on not getting hung up over The Serious.

Even though, yesterday, I thought I should “need” a respite ... I just felt like writing a tune. I wrote it down this morning, but the start of it was in my inner ear yesterday afternoon.

That is, if the music is coming to me, I'd be a fool not to get to the work.

12 June 2017


I’ve sent the Sonata (all its several five PDFs) to three pianists here in Boston, and known to me.  So . . . let us see if we can arrange a reading this summer.

I need to prepare an informatively-cued clarinet part for the second movement;  otherwise, I think the clarinet part layout fairly straightforward . . . so that the Lux Nova edition should not languish.

What now, you ask?  In the way of taking a breather before (yes! at last!) plunging back into White Nights, I do have a few light items to see to:

1. We have one more Sunday (25 June) for the handbell choir to ring at church, so I need to see to a piece for rehearsal after the service this Sunday.

2. There is talk of working with a string quartet for the second Triad concert this coming season (that is, talk of keeping with that idea, even though we had an ad hoc quartet for two pieces this last concert).  So I will adapt O Gracious Light for accompaniment by piano and SQ.

3. And the handbell choir director of an Episcopal parish in Cambridge reached out yesterday with the possibility of commissioning me to write a piece for them.

11 June 2017

Op. 136 done

So:  I’m a clarinetist, and I compose.  It was high time I wrote one.

The Henning Sonata for Clarinet & Piano runs about 35 minutes, and is in five movements:

i. Another Think Coming | Allegro (10')
ii. « Boulez est mort » (Wounding Silence) | Adagio (10')
iii. Unanticipated Serenity | Grazioso (3') — attacca
iv. Ambiguity & Overlap (Something or other, if not something else entirely) | VivoEasy MarchVivoEasy March (4')
v. After a reading of “The Mysterious Stranger” | LarghettoPoco più mossoPoco più mosso ancoraAllegroA tempo primo (8')

I composed the first movement in January of 2016 (hence the Opus 136 designation).  I started the second movement on Monday, 25 January, and set it aside in February (2016) for other tasks.  Picked the second movement back up in April 2017, and finished it;  and I have been fairly faithful to the piece since.

As a something of a divertissement, the third and fourth movements go together, I think.  They are deliberately a “retreat” from the rhetorical rigor of the first, and from the cool austerities of the second.  Because I came to see the fifth as a return (competing a kind of arch) I eliminated the attacca which I had originally meant to follow the fourth movement.

And now . . . to find a pianist . . . .

10 June 2017

Closing in!

The fifth movement, After a reading of “The Mysterious Stranger,” of the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op.136 is to be in three sections, slow-fast-slow.  Working on this movement has been a curious intersection of How I designed the movement, long ago with sudden, spontaneous inspiration.  There is nothing of paint-by-numbers here.

The opening slow section (too substantial to be labeled an introduction, I think) came to this world effortlessly, and required only minimal finishing once it had been set in fair draught.  Then, in an apparent nod to Beethoven, I found myself harking back, first, to the second movement (a passage which one sympathetic listener had told me, he would be happy to hear more of . . . we shall see if this change his tune);  and, second, to begin the fast section, I had the whimsical idea of importing a passage from the first movement (Another Think Coming) with the purpose of finding somewhere else to take it (in a way harmonious with the title, I should think).

Almost assuredly as a result of revisiting Plotting (y is the new x) this morning, I decided that the bulk of the fast section would be a kind of passacaglia, on a five-measure subject which emerges from the material borrowed from the first movement.

Contented with what I feel has been good work today, I rather think I may reach the end of the piece tomorrow.

09 June 2017

Ear Buds II

Back on 4 June, I worked on the orchestral adaptation of Ear Buds and had a very nice meeting with Orlando Cela, who likes the Symphony very much, although it will be a world of manœuvering to bring it to pass.  2019-20 season at the soonest.  But/and the orchestral Ear Buds may prove a good first step.

On 5 June, I finished the arrangement of Ear Buds for orchestra  This fresh, substantial visit with the piece has been highly gratifying; and it even surprises me, a little, just how natural a fit the piece is for orchestra.

08 June 2017

henningmusick: A start, or, a second start

henningmusick: A start, or, a second start: I remember drawing up the start of a melody, oh, I dunno, three-four weeks ago.

I don't say it's at all impossible to scare up that leaf of paper.

Just a note that, in fact, that leaf of paper has been found, and the material gratefully incorporated.

07 June 2017

More on the Op. 136

My original outline for the Clarinet Sonata was as follows:

i. Another Think Coming [ Allegro ]
ii. Boulez est mort [ Adagio ]
iii. Ambiguity & Overlap (Something or other, if not something else entirely) [ Vivo ]
iv. Unanticipated Serenity [ Allegretto grazioso ]
v. After a Reading of “The Mysterious Stranger” [ AndanteVivace assaiAndante ]

The third movement was meant from the start — well, from the start of work on the second movement, which begins with an extended piano solo — to be clarinet solo.  However, as I started composing the material for the third movement, my marking was Grazioso.  So:  movement 3 became instead Unanticipated Serenity, and a further change is that there light, very light, piano (with a preference expressed for plucking the strings).

One change was, a friend had requested a March, and having music of such character runs athwart the idea of Vivo in the fourth movement.  (We may observe that it arguably jars with Allegretto grazioso, as well, so some adjustment in The Plan was already indicated.)  The March was a welcome idea, additionally, because given the space I wanted the fourth  movement to occupy, and its recasting as the Vivo movement, making it a hybrid Vivo + March was both an excellent solution to my time requirements, and lo! fit very nicely the subtitle upon which I had long ago settled (Something or other, if not something else entirely).

The state of the outline on 25 April was:

i. Allegro (9:45)
ii. Grave (9:45) [as in the original plan, the two movements of roughly the same duration]
iii. Grazioso (2:30) – attacca
iv. Vivo Marziale ma amabile (3:45) – attacca
v. AndanteVivace assaiAndante (6:45)

I have since struck the attacca after the fourth movement, and composition of the third & fourth movements (quite within expectations) overshot the timing plan slightly.

06 June 2017

Trio Lite

On Facebook, every now and again there will be an alert that someone has looked at the page for The 9th Ear. Over the latest “Triad weekend,” Charles Turner indicated that he has noticed, as well, and it has surprised him. (There has not actually been a 9th Ear event for almost three years.)

Parenthetically, a chap here at the office is part of a sort-of-jazz-ensemble which has had an online presence (YouTube, e.g.) for some years, and the cumulative hits have by now resulted in a kind of demand for them, and they are getting gigs. So there is no reason to suppose, just because The 9th Ear have been dormant all this while, that they’re dead.

Charles has spoken of doing something in the summer. On the chance, I have composed a new piece for clarinet, guitar & double-bass, a mere bagatelle really, called Nun of the Above.  I finished the piece on 15 April.

05 June 2017

In the way of clarifying (post-dated post)

I composed this post on 23 Jan 2017, but the blogger app on my phone is – oh, let’s do be polite – buggy, so it hung out in cyberlimbo all this while.  Posting it today, because I find it an interesting snapshot at this remove, four months later and the second, third & fourth movements of the Op.136 now in the can. ]

Gentle Reader, my conscious is mildly pricked at the thought that, in my post of 21 January the discussion of daily (or, more accurately daily-ish) work habits gave more of a “heroic” cast to my work than is really justifiable.  Because the recently completed Symphony is not simply a result of “a little work each day.”  Well, that was quite possibly true of the first movement;  but an honest review of the remainder (and simple majority) of the score shows that I wrote almost 85% of the Larghetto second movement while I was out of the office on PTO the week after Christmas, and that the lion’s share of the heavy lifting on the Vivo assai third movement, I performed over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.

Nevertheless, a combination of putting the time off from the full-time job to good musical account, and having good compositional work habits around the ‘inconvenience’ of the gainful employment situations, is what made possible the completion of theSymphony in good order.

What now?  The composer is ready (and indeed keen) to apply these methods to completion of the current large-scale works-in-progress, the Clarinet Sonata and (yes, really) White Nights.  I am inclined to begin with the Sonata, since prospects for its performance are more apparently immediate.

It is that time of year, when I need to have some music in the folders of my handbell choir (rehearsal to resume this Sunday), and I do have an arrangement in mind, which will occupy me somewhat this week;  but I believe I can also begin getting my mind back inside the second movement of the Cl Sonata.

A start, or, a second start

Spent some of lunchtime sketching the piano part at the beginning of the fifth movement of the Clarinet Sonata. I remember drawing up the start of a melody, oh, I dunno, three-four weeks ago.

I don't say it's at all impossible to scare up that leaf of paper.

I like both the character of today's sketch, and the possibilities for Places to Go.

Tonight:  to (quite likely) wrap up the orchestral version of Ear Buds. It should not really surprise me that the new ensemble environment suits the piece very well.

04 June 2017

Four out of five

Finished (probably finished) the fourth movement—Ambiguity & Overlap (Something or other, if not something else entirely)—yesterday afternoon. I must have been re-charged by the vacation: I had not touched, in any sense, the fourth movement since 17 May, and yesterday I just wrapped it up.

I already have a sketch started up for the fifth movement.

The Plan:

1. Finish the Clarinet Sonata
2. Decide whether or not to do an orchestral version of Ear Buds
3. Get back to work on White Nights, and finish by year’s end

The new music choral ensemble Diamonds From the Dust gave the première of I Want Jesus to Walk With Me (this is version 3) last night in Worcester; very well received.