30 November 2017

Seven Years Since (Considering the Viola Sonata, 30.xi.2010)

Not just for the obvious reason (pleasure in the fact that fellow musicians and music-lovers respond so favorably to the music) I greatly enjoy Leo Schulte's essay [reprinted on this blog here].

I've started to read Alexander Waugh's (yes, Evelyn's grandson) Classical Music: A New Way of Listening, and the lion's share of the chapter I read this morning was good discussion on meaning in music . . . which we could summarize by a caption to one of the chapter's illustrations, to the effect that Beethoven wasn't thinking of moonlight when he wrote his piece, but there's nought wrong with 'hearing' moonlight in it.

So at first, it surprised me when Leo wrote that he hears Berg in the opening. But once I set that surprise to one side, I saw where he hears that . . . in short, one of the aspects of the essay which I enjoy (and find instructive) is getting a sense of what an entirely different pair of ears (and eyes) finds in this piece of my own.

Very gratified that someone else is so fond of the Pi├╣ mosso ancora . . . it probably fits the "schizoid" descriptor, but that section has layers which were carefully 'plotted' (I have fond memories of one evening in the staff lounge in the basement of the MFA as I worked on the more 'mechanical' aspects of it), and other layers of pure fancy, or fancy as nearly pure as my composition is capable of.

29 November 2017

Potpourri (not Popery)

Good nature, is good religion.
As to your joiner’s versatility, what is a coffin, really, if not simply the last piece of furniture you’ll ever need?
Exercise your brain each day. If you don’t, nobody does (your own, that is).
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

“Like dark-meat chicken,” Mr. Proctor said, “stringy and gummy.” Well, I may not always eat unidentified rat parts, but when I do, you can be sure they’re fried in Crisco! Poor man’s tempura, we call it.

Afterwards, what you need is not so much a palate cleanser, as a palate scourer.

The technological conundrum of our day seems to be: we build machines for consistency of performance, but their performance doesn’t appear at all consistent, does it?

Two foreign words which sound misleadingly innocent to an English speaker are skitsnack (Swedish for bullshit) and pappekak (Dutch, whence the anglicized poppycock), from Middle Dutch pappe “soft food” (see pap) + kak “dung.”

Humans: they have the capricious wilfulness of cats, only without the intelligence.

Idea for a monograph:  Actors who dont appear in a hit movies sequel, because they negotiated the new contract with a mistaken sense of how important they werent, to the project.

I’m not Amish, but I once dreamt that I’m Calmish. We were so poor those days, we didn’t have flies enough to make shoo-fly pie.

In sweetener news:  Big Sugar suppressed a study from 50 years ago connecting sugar to cancer; and a current study suggests a link between high-fructose corn syrup and opioid addiction.

28 November 2017

Back to scripting the Future

They're raising money to save a "clock tower," but ... the clock is not near, let alone on, a tower. I suppose that they would despair of raising funds to restore a Pediment Clock.

Maybe it's really a Twilight Zone movie ....

27 November 2017

The In-Laws [henningmusick: Compare & Contrast sine nomine]

henningmusick: Compare & Contrast sine nomine

Well, on the lines of this blog serving (me, at least) as something of a surprising remembrancer, here I have practically dated my fondness for the remake of The In-Laws.  And I stand by both my enduring fondness for the original, and the quirky-in-its-own-un-derivative-right remake.

Composition, you ask?  I have brought The Nerves into the graph paper dimension.

Watch me roar.

26 November 2017

Towards a Smoother Glide

This morning, I made some minor modifications to Just a Smoother Glide With Thee.  Starting tomorrow, I shall git practicing.

Last night, I watched The Wrong Man again. Hitchcock’s maxim was: Always make the audience suffer as much as possible. The suffering is a bit more acute in this one, knowing that it is based on the actual hellish experience of real people. This is only my second viewing, so this was the first time I appreciated Herrmann’s exquisitely delicate scoring in (e.g.) the scenes where Manny is losing Rose.

Although the periods/episodes were too irregular for the simile, my ears have over the years had a pendulum-ish experience with Moses und Aron. (And, as with the Berg Kammerkonzert, the pendulum at last came to enduring rest on the positive end.) But for a long-ish while, it would have been fair to say that I admired the opera, more than I enjoyed it. Now, I do genuinely enjoy it, although even so, it has been a work that I’ve gone to only when my ears were itching for it.

So, naturally, I revisited the opera last night, hopping in (perhaps capriciously) at Act II Scene 2, Wo ist Moses? For whatever posy of reasons, on this listen my ear is especially alive to Schoenberg the master colorist at work.

Well, let me speculate upon one reason:  my nascent work on The Nerves, somehow, has my ear piercing the Schoenberg score to a degree of specificity which is here new.  Given that Moses und Aron is a grand work, ambitious in compositional scope, I was apt to neglect all the passages of delicacy.  But this is nothing new, from (for instance) my familiarity with the Shostakovich Fourth Symphony.  So I have but learnt to move the lamp to a different angle, and lo, I see Schoenberg in  new light.

On the lines of High Time! I am listening to Martin┼»’s Ariane . . . in fact, I have a few of his operas which await my attention.

So much wonderful music, so little time.

25 November 2017

Don't Do the Hustle

One of the things which I find requires periodic vacation, is to relearn just walking.  Thus today, I went for a walk, a walk on which, through which, I gave no thought at all to anything I might do, when the walk was done.

The walk was not one item on a To Do List. I just walked.

Thus too, I went walking, not caring just when I might return home. In the matter of Time, it was a walk of pure Liberty.

There was no limitation of time. I just walked.

I walk a lot, even when there are the subtle ferrets fetters of something I am to do afterwards, sometime I need to be elsewhere. And there is value even in these perambulations.

But when I can just walk, there is the elated sense that nothing else in the world matters.

The Emancipation of the Winds

Early in October, somehow, I learnt of a clarinet choir based in Toronto.  On 9 Oct, I sent a query via their website, asking in essence if they would be interested in giving Misapprehension (the piece for clarinet choir in 15 parts, yet another piece awaiting its chance to be heard by an actual audience) a try.

A week later (which is to say, a perfectly decent interval within all courtesy) a representative of the group replied:
We're always interested in looking at new compositions. Could you send a few pages of the score and is there also a recording of the piece available? I can't promise that we'll be able to schedule a performance (especially a composition in 15 parts), but one never knows.
Which is a perfectly gracious and well-spoken invitation.  I began to compose a response, and would have sent right away, if the soundfile had been immediately accessible.  (Which it ought to have been, really.)

Anyway, Gentle Reader, I have at last sent, and (as ever) we shall see.  The bonus:  This has been an occasion to revisit the Op.112, and (an unsympathetic observer might suppose this is automatic, but no such matter) I think it tender, evocative, purposeful.  That is, I am puzzled why we have not found a group to perform it.

I am reminded that The Mystic Trumpeter is Out There, and abiding judgment.

So many puzzles.

This morning, The Nerves earned some more progress.  Delighted (in my revisitation of Misapprehension) to find that the new piece is completely distinct from other pieces of mine.  Pleased with the gradual progress.  My expectation is that the piece will reach a point of sufficient Self, that work can continue in parallel with resumption of The Daily Grind on Monday.

24 November 2017

Smoother Glide

In more somber news, our parish will have three funerals or memorial services in the coming weeks. For one memorial service, there was a request for an upbeat jazzy trombone solo, Just a Closer Walk With Thee. I consulted the Pastor, who reported that clarinet would do just fine. I have known this for two weeks and a half, but between laryngitis, the Triad concerts, and Thanksgiving, it is only this morning that I saw to the requisite composition.  Thus has been born the Op.146 № 6, Just a Smoother Glide With Thee.

By apparent chance the other day, I went from watching an episode from season 2 of Batman, with Shelly Winters as the “guest villainess,” Ma Parker, to Lolita, in which Shelly Winters is the widowed mother of the title vixen.  Nelson Riddle was a composer who did work on both projects.

23 November 2017

Walkies of thanks

The (or, A) thanksgiving place.

I’ve heard quite a bit of my music here, heard it before I committed it to paper (or to its electronic equivalent). Much of this music has yet been heard by no one apart from myself.

For all the good, I thank this sweet place.

For Thanksgiving, I betook me to a path along which I neer walked before.

It turned out (in only one, and not the most important, sense) to be a dead end.

More of The Nerves

For the joint HTUMC/2nd Congregational Church choir concerts—coming up in little more than three weeks—the last piece of the puzzle for which I was on the hook (and only by mine own consent, mind) was, a pair of instrumental interludes (flute, violin & organ) for the John Joubert Torches, from the Oxford Book of Carols.  This work, I got done with fair efficiency yesterday.

There is a request for Just a Closer Walk With Thee in an upbeat tempo.  Whether I may see to this today, or let it “cure” through today and do the work tomorrow, remains to be seen.

Yesterday’s work on The Nerves was largely (that is, not quite entirely) a matter of formalizing in the score some ideas I had in mind on Tuesday;  and I have made some more additions today.  All this work (we might say), and yet we have not quite 30 seconds of music to show for it.  But the work is accretive, and I am tightening what I had written before even as I gradually extend the canvas.

I am thinking half an hour-ish for the entire work (in four movements, as noted here).  So I am planning on The Nerves bristling for some 7 minutes.

20 November 2017

The Nerves, and The Nerve

Gentle Reader, in this very blog yesterday you may have read of the conceptual genesis of Karl’s Big (But Happily Incomplete) Map to the Body.  Mention was made that In the beginning was a musical Idea;  and I can report that part of my musical activity today was to start recording and building upon that Idea.  That is, I have begun composition of The Nerves in earnest,

Another task was, I sent an mp3 of MIDI realization of the flute/violin accompaniment to my 2015 arrangement of the Basque Carol to the instrumentalists involved.

Also, I broke out the individual tracks from my Tascam-recorded audio of the cracking Triad concert of last night.  (Soon, really.)

And sent Mr Gregory Brown, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at our Saturday program at Harvard-Epworth Chapel, the sound file of last night’s performance of his men’s choir arrangement of The Dying Californian.

And, mostly for fun (I have my doubts that it will be taken up) I am half done with a setting of Hodie Christus natus est, for choir SATB, three percussionists and piano, which is an adaptation of a passage from Intermezzo II from White Nights.

You know:  just because.

19 November 2017

Well, not yet

Last night's Triad concert was excellent, and I shall write more about that, only not just yet.
One of the uses to which I put this blog, Gentle Reader, is as a kind of remembrancer. I've formed an idea today, and I want to make note of it now, while it's fresh in mind—because holiday season is upon us, and this composer is liable to distraction.

So...I had a musical idea today for the first movement of a symphony for band. First, there was simply this abstract musical germ. Then, because (a) I do not at all mind extramusical suggestion, and (b) in the band world, it may help, I christened this movement The Nerves.
Not to make a tedious diagram of the process, I'll jump to the end.

The piece to be grandiosely titled Karl's Big (But Happily Incomplete) Map to the Body (Symphony N° 2 for band). In four movements:

1. The Nerves
2. The Heart
3. The Eyes
4. The Arms

Durations? Still mulling.

17 November 2017

henningmusick: Scheming the Avocado [17.xi.2014]

henningmusick: Scheming the Avocado:

AREA 3 of Illustration #2 I drew up on the flight from Atlanta back to Boston.  Well, AREA 2, as well, only I had gotten AREA 2 right, where I found that I had gotten realization of the viola part (i.e., the game of applying the rhythmic value series to the pitch series) wrong.  And though I discovered that I had gone wrong, and made an attempt to fix it ... I found it something of a visual mess.  So I inscribed it RE-DO (as you may see), and realized that I could simplify the matter with a sheet of graph paper.  (This graph paper was in my three-ring binder from the time that I was working out the rhythmic profile of the Thelonious Monk tune "Evidence.")
The result is the apparently not musical, but refreshingly clear and reliable, Illustration #3....
Three years since, then, I had lately returned from Atlanta, and even laid in some Avocado work on the flight home to Boston.

Last night, we had a most enjoyable choir rehearsal at Holy Trinity Church.  It is that time of year when we face the (most welcome) Thanksgiving hiatus, and must take thought for afterwards, as the Christmas concert loometh.  Still a number of decisions, covering details which may not be musical, may not be great, but which want to be attended to.

I also rehearsed my Prelude on « Kremser » with (while the ongoing appointment is not yet quite official, it is already apt to call her) our new organist.  Just the fact that I can play some of my music with the organist, is already a refreshing (and not at all unreasonably asked for) change.

The voice, you ask?  Well, better and better.  I doubt I can sing the entire Triad concerts this weekend, but perhaps I can do a reasonable job playing the Dying Californian. (There is a double meaning in that.)

16 November 2017

Cracking wise

The first thing that needs saying is, Beethoven never did me any injury. I cannot remember a time when I did not find his music inspiring.

It is many years, too, since I first heard Wendy Carlos's electronic realizations of and elaborations upon "the glorious Ninth" of "Ludwig van." It would be foolish of me to pretend that some molecules in the present formula do not owe something to that wicked clever example.

Most immediately, I suppose, is the remix I created of a handbell choir rehearsal take of Charles Turner's arrangement of The Hebrew Children. The idea-question formed, What if I applied this method to an object of The Literature?

As with the Turner, I gravitated intuitively to an example which I like. In hindsight, affection for the source material is probably a prerequisite for the musical success of the result.

Without further ado, my repurposing of a stone-cold classic:

15 November 2017

The music of resisting forgetfulness

Through the miracle of finding, in a drawer, my card, which I wasn't looking for, today I learn that I have been a member of ASCAP since 2001.  The lesson is: you can learn things about yourself, all the time, each day (perhaps) if you only allow yourself the freedom of non-remembrance.

This Sunday just past, at the choir rehearsal prior to the service, the Pastor enthusiastically shared with me a suggestion for improving the flow of the service (a general suggestion, not something requiring action that morning) by having the choir sing a short response before the Invitation to the Offertory.  From time to time I have considered, not for any specific purpose but only as a general matter) adding such a choral response—by which I do not mean at all to rob the Pastor of his thunder, I only mean that I was predisposed to receive such a suggestion favorably.  Another fine idea on his part was, that it not necessarily be a single fixed number.

Remembering the regular use which the late Bill Goodwin made of the Dresden Amen at First Congo in Woburn, I looked for that in a hymnal, found also the classic Danish Amen . . . and my inner ear generated a monophonic three-fold Amen in Eb.  I took some mental time to compose it out.

I did not have pencil and paper to hand (not that it would have required great effort to scare them up) so I made the decision not to worry about recording it then, but trusted either that I would remember (notwithstanding rather a distracted busy day-to-day experience, Gentle Reader) or that it is not worth remembering.  That last is admittedly too harsh a notion:  music relies on the favorable inclination of the recipient.  And there are many pieces which we hated the first time we heard it, but which afterward become especial favorites.

In any event, yesterday evening I did recall both the Project, and this not-as-yet-notated Amen of my own.  Now, I am not saying that it is anything especially memorable;  only that with very slight mental effort, I ceased to have forgotten it.

On Sunday, our doughty handbell choir rang my modest arrangement of the hymntune Tuolumne.

08 November 2017

What I was working on four years ago [henningmusick: A duo done]

henningmusick: A duo done:
Yesterday, I finished (at long last, we might even say) the clarinet and marimba duet, just what everyone was expecting, five-minute jazz-ish (I have to add that -ish, lest I field accusations of trying to practice jazz without a license) flurry of energy for the two players.  The piece had lain largely finished since mid-September, at which time I needed to concentrate not only on practicing for the October recital at King's Chapel, but on writing a short piece for Peter & myself to play.  As I was writing that piece (Zen on the Wing) I formed the idea of a trio (title yet to be settled upon), concluding a set of three subset duos, the four pieces all together to comprise the Op.114.
So (you see where this is going), if four notes be a start, I have started a flute/marimba duet, Feeling the Burn, a piece with as yet no home.
Ah, Feeling the Burn (Bicycling Into the Sun) . . .  I do not think it has gotten past those four notes, and I shall probably discard those, and start afresh.

I mean, when I do start afresh.

07 November 2017

Another arrow

Although it feels a bit like Charlie Brown imagining that he actually gets to kick the football, at last, this time . . . I have sent The Mystic Trumpeter to a call for chamber scores.  Take it, Gentle Reader, as read that I have reviewed the score and even the first performance, and I continue to stand by my work.

Very good Triad rehearsal last night.  In a good place, so to speak, with our Preview Performance this Sunday, and then a final rehearsal a week from last night, before the official concerts.

I mean, a good place, with the expectation that my singing voice will be ready to take part this Sunday.

04 November 2017

Poised for recovery

Largely over the laryngitis;  the vocal folds are not yet equal to the demands of singing.  Which must mean that even plain speech could, if overdone, be a strain.  Which is why I am less voluble than is quite my wont these days.

Per yesterday’s post (which I had actually pretty much composed on Thursday) I did draw up the harp part for Rise Up Early;  most of the work, indeed, I did up in Burlington while waiting on the oil change for the Civic.

This may mean that my work for the Christmas concert is done means that probably the only other composition-ish work to do for the Christmas concert, is the instrumental interludes for Torches.

The combination of (only a little prematurely) feeling at renewed liberty, and having met fellow composer Aaron Jay Myers for a cup of coffee yesterday evening, set me to beginning a fanciful trio for clarinet, electric guitar and violin, Mysterious Irritants.

And I am thinking of submitting The Mystic Trumpeter to a call for scores, only I must learn if Clarinet in Bb truly means that it must not be Clarinet in A.

03 November 2017

Those Ships Three

Wednesday night, I wrapped up the cl/hp arrangement of I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day, a brief (if colorful) two-minute piece to serve as an intermezzo for our Christmas concert programs. Against the apparent ‘stasis’ of the piece remaining in A (and at about a forte) throughout, there is the rhythmic device of switching from 6/8 to a sort of Double in 2/4. Will report when the harpist & I have a chance to read together.

That accomplished, I then addressed what I somehow felt was the most nearly challenging task on the What Our Harpist Needs to-do list.

Last year, one of the successful novelties in our Christmas concert was a cheerful Carolyn Jennings octavo, Sing Merrily a Song. The choir is unison for most of it, the last few pages have the choir in two parts, with an optional third.  Apart from the piano accompaniment, the octavo has indications for a flute (but no separate flute part appears to be provided, or available) and for “bells or glockenspiel (very light). Last year, then, I created the flute part (so that our enthusiastic young flutist would not wrestle with reading from score, no, no, no) and I added (what I consider) a proper handbell choir complement, 9 ringers.

Well, my idea this year was to add the harp. Im not saying that this task was absolutely ‘more work’ than my own arrangement of I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day, but it has to fit properly into an already-existing octavo.

This is feeling like just about work enough for our doughty harpist ... will add harp to one more of the choirs pieces, an arrangement of a Slovak carol, Rise Up Early, and that will do it. This work, I'll see to early-ish Saturday.

01 November 2017

henningmusick: Quiet Beginnings—Ninth Anniversary

henningmusick: Quiet Beginnings

November the first, 2008, saw the dawn of this here blog.  The composer cannot claim to have been the most consistent of bloggueurs, but when he blogs, he means it.

The purpose of the blog, you ask? Gentle Reader, I suppose the primary purpose is to chronicle new compositions and fresh performances. Even in this, it must be conceded, the composer has not always posted when there has (in fact) been news.

Not at all certain that I can promise, as any steady thing, to undertake to do better.  But the blog does go on.

The really important item to note, of course, is that I continue to compose; that is, both that I continue in the practice of composition, and that my work waxes better and better. The larger Environment of the Music Industry does not suffer me any particular encouragement;  this is nothing new.  The composer has found spiritual means to pursue his work for his own reasons, and upon his own terms.

So let us cheerfully affirm:  Damn the Industry!

Full steam ahead.