05 October 2017

About ye Music on Tuesday’s Program

NOTES (Packanack Lake not pictured)

Tiny Wild Avocadoes :: These are originally scored for a trio of two violins and viola.  I composed them for conductor/pianist/violinist/teacher John McLaughlin Williams, as teaching pieces (to develop ensemble, rhythmic accuracy, &c.)  Each piece is designed to cover two pages, and all three players play from the score – hence the pieces’ brevity.  John and two friends premièred the first and second of the Avocadoes, shortly after their composition, on 12 Nov 2014 at St Clare’s Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Last year-ish, I felt that the pieces would work equally well for a trio of winds, and thus we bring these exotic fruits today.  Psychologists and Bio-ethicists have dedicated a great many, and very expensive, man-hours to the question of their nature, but there is no doubt that these are no avuncular Avocadoes.

Neither do I condemn thee :: This was an oblique commission (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Flutist/conductor/cuatroista Orlando Cela sent me a message one day, When are you going to write me a piece?  “Flute-plus-what, and of what duration?,” I queried back;  and the result was this present flute duo.  The title comes from an incident from the Gospel.  Not to retell it in detail, its essential meaning is:  Never worry about anything wrong you have done;  but instead, find someone whose behavior you find especially offensive, get a mob together, and punish the bejeezus out of the offender.  Afterwards, bask all together in a self-righteous glow.  There is a school of thought which wonders if this may be an inaccurate reading of the Gospel, but few Evangelical public figures take that dissenting view at all seriously.

Kurosawa’s Scarecrow (Memories of Packanack Lake:: In the parlance of our times, It’s complicated.  Phase I was a piece for the church handbell choir which I direct.  I puttered with a rehearsal take of this for Phase II, which is the fixed media in the present piece:  octave displacements, superimpositions, rhythmic augmentations and diminutions of the “raw material” of the handbell choir recording, to which I added gestures which I played on (or breathed through) a dime-store plastic recorder, sounds which (when I slowed them down electronically) sounded delightfully – to my ears – as a “poor man’s shakuhachi.”  Also added, some laryngeal sounds similarly ‘treated’ so as to sound like an exotic field recording.  Phase III, the final piece (although, to be honest, I believe that Phase II constitutes a final piece in its own right) incorporates phrases played live by the quartet of winds.  Differing in some ways from my previous live-instruments-plus-fixed-media works, this piece thus has two defined elements (the fixed media, and the composed-out wind phrases), but the interaction between the two is indefinite, a result of chance (or, perhaps, the clarinetist’s whimsy).

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