29 January 2018

(The dream of a young man in the woods, listening)

It works in both directions (if there are “directions”).  That is, when I walk again into those woods, and feel my feet cushioned by the fallen needles, I remember again the walk I took, on which I conceived the musical germ for Ear Buds.  But also, when I listen in my inner ear (as yet, the only way to hear the piece) my spirit is transported to those woods, even if I am seated in a cubicle on the 31st floor of an office building in Boston.

And why am I thinking of the piece?

Two or three years ago, a conductor I know suggested that, if there is room, Ear Buds might have a reading at an annual internal conservatory event.  It all depends on there being capacity, and there has turned out to be none the two previous years.  But it is again that time of year when (as I have been made cordially welcome) I might ping him and see how the slate for the present year’s reading may look.

You may recall also, Gentle Reader, that Ear Buds now exists in a scoring for orchestra.  And you are right:  it may be time for an equally discreet inquiry there.

28 January 2018

Food Cinema Marquee

Bun After Reading

Raisin Arizona

The Fig Lebowski

2001: A Spice Odyssey

Berry Lyndon

A Clockwork Orange

Dr Strangeolive

The Silence of the Clams

A Family Pluot

Raiders of the Lost Okra

Citizen Kale

Midnight in the Garden of Food and Evil

Feeding John Malkovich

I Am Ham

Die Chard

The Fifth Condiment

Earth Girls Are Greasy

Mustard and Commander

Grosse Pointe Blancmange

From Here to Edamame

When Harry Et Salty

The Adventures of Bacon Munchausen

Twelve Mangoes

The Jerky

The Man With Two Grains

Driving Miss Dairy

Flan's Labyrinth

Kill Dill

The Good, the Bad, and the Arugula

Asparagus Now!

27 January 2018

All for one, and Nun for two

Today, I followed through on the thought, and refined the cl/pf arrangement of Nun of the Above. (Probably, I should follow through further, with a fl/pf version for PHB.)

Why spend so much effort, on so slight a piece?

I like it. I look forward to playing it myself. To repeat, although it is a modest work, I own every note of it.

And, per a friend's query on another head, because—although I wrote the piece on the traditional model of performance before an audience—perhaps I should build a parallel body of work, which "performs" in an environment other than a concert space.

More on this hereafter. For now, rest.

25 January 2018

The Fourth Nun

Originally, I composed Nun of the Above for a planned concert of The 9th Ear. The plans ran aground, and when the next concert of the group-in-waiting may take place, no mortal soul knows.

But my equivocal Nun, it is (though I, Gentle Reader, be he that says so) a winsome little number which of a hearing strongly deserveth. She has already assumed a variety of shapes, both in fact (the flute version for Peter H. Bloom) and in fancy (cl/pf). And here I have already finally conceived a spatially displaced version, an electronic mix wherein will meet a bassist half the world away, and mine own clarinet in multiple takes.

This last is a most frankly whimsical thought which has sprung from the happy accident striking an acquaintance through Facebook with a writer and bassist of Bangalore. Is not the world become yet more wonderful, even than before?

Why, oh why should I take such trouble over a bagatelle?  Because I own it, every note, not a whit less than I own the obviously more substantial Symphony.

Because I don't record a note, unless I feel certain that it is the right note.

24 January 2018

Carrying on, as ever

This morning – at last, we might nearly say – I began to address the cl/pf adaptation of Nun of the Above.  I do believe I should make some registral adjustments, so that the right hand is not so nearly thoroughly underneath middle C;  and I can see some modest enhancements to etch in.  But overall, I want not to ‘over-engineer’ the piano adaptation.   The result will be a piano part on rather the simple side;  but of course, not all 21st-c. piano music need aspire to Finnissy (e.g.).

Will I ever play the piece as originally scored?  No knowing, no knowing.

Has the noble endeavor of Triad at last splintered upon the shoals of public indifference?  Let us hope not.

And in other reading today:

Spotify, from what I have found online, pays between $0.006 and $0.008 per play to the label and artist. 1500 plays works out to about $10.50.

All the indicators, then, are that if ever Henningmusick becomes a streaming commodity, it won’t exactly the composer’s fortune make.

A Nervous Romance. I was never crazy about Annie Hall, I quibbled with it here, there ... most substantially, I felt that the ending, the flashbacks to the good times with Annie, was a non-ending.

Revisiting it today, I wonder if the viewings of the past, when I thought poorly of it, I was too nervous.  Watching it now, less artistically wound up, I see the ending as the open-ended, wistful tribute of Alvy's. I permitted the movie to be itself, and I permitted myself to receive it on its own terms. There is much music, over the years, which likewise, I had to learn to leave be.

23 January 2018

Why, Oh, Why?

While first pointing out two harsh truths –

  1. There are many, many – I don’t say innumerable, but I cannot number them – other composers out there;  and quite a few of them, quite a few of even the as-yet-unknown (ahem), do exceptionally excellent work.
  2. You, Karl, have been at it for quite a few years by now, but have not managed to make a name for yourself;  chances are slender that the situation will change, this side of the grave.

. . . so, with these two prefatory articles on the whiteboard behind us, people sometimes ask me:  Why, Karl, do you still do it?  Why do you persist in composing music, for which there is apparently no call?

Saturday, in testing out an upright piano, I had a go at playing both The Bronze Girl’s Spilt Milk and To Melt From a Distance.  I didn’t know what to expect (except that, of course, I knew not to expect anything like Perfection in my, erm, performance).  I had not played them at all since about the time when I had composed them (in Petersburg and Tallinn, respectively).  And I have not much played any piano in a decade or so.

It was, unsurprisingly, on the lurching side.  I suppose I should take it as encouraging, that I feel I should make more regular time to plink at the piano.

15 January 2018

On Inactivity

It’s a big wheel, and it’s big as the world, and there’s no use in wishing the wheel were other than it is. So the first consideration is: don’t pour water into the sand—use your energies so that you achieve results.

There are the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s), and there is the seasonally driven spike in church music activity. And (to be clear) I am completely glad in it; it is gratifying to serve as a church music director whose efforts are appreciated by the choir and the parish.

And there can follow a recuperative lull after the rush of the holidays, and if there is a sharp frost, a tendency to nap rather than to push oneself to additional labors.

Then, too, in this recuperative period, the creative batteries are recharging.  And there is needed only the slight push of starting to get work done, to prime the pump.  Not to be daunted by the need to get Something Big done right away;  but the knowledge that gradual work each day, gets the job laid in.

Now, that fact is that I started composing this blog post on January the 9th, and almost a week has passed before even taking the blogging back up.  On the 9thI made a start on a quartet for two trumpets and two trombones, not for any urgent need (for sometime in the summer, I think).  And today, I made a formal start (created the Sibelius file, for instance) on A Heart So White, for King’s Chapel in April.

So:  quiet beginnings, again.

08 January 2018

With apologies to Laurie Anderson

So my sister and I were watching a movie on DVD, and over the opening credits and establishing shot we listened to music which I thought might be Danny Elfman re-tread, which in fact it turned out to be.

And I thought, Oh, boy:  right – again.

06 January 2018

Why need it mean anything?

In the car behind me were a couple of men whom I've known practically all my life, but who no longer communicate with me. Driving was my dad, now deceased for some years, rest his soul. He talked over his shoulder to one of my brothers in the back, speaking in atypically tender, supplicatory accents. Out of the car, there was an oblong wooden box (no, much too short to serve as a coffin), and on the top two parallel rows of broad discs to be tightened with a Phillips head screwdriver. The tool I was using was awkward, as the head was worn and pitted. Someone said, "Perhaps your dad has a better," and someone else agreed, "He must." As my dad handed me a fresh screwdriver, I told him the Russian proverb, A bad workman blames his tools, and he chuckled lightly. Somewhere there was a label with a pseudo-Italian name, with two impossible diacritic marks.

Last night I revisited Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, through which one motif is a haunting vision of an armored demon who threatens first the martial artist, and at the end, his son Brandon. My dream last night was nothing so dire, of course. It was gentle, pastoral, familial. Even the irresolvable elements were not at all elements of tension.

The score was written by Randy Edelman (born in Paterson, NJ), and the article in Wikipedia suggests that the "Bruce and Linda love theme" has been recycled and echoed numerous times in other films. I've not seen the other films mentioned, so I cannot confirm. But in the character of the music — I could see it.

02 January 2018

On parts of speech

Robie: I only regret one thing.

Danielle: That you never asked me to marry you?

Robie: No. That I ever took the time to teach you English.

Danielle: You only taught me the nouns. I learned the adjectives myself.

Robie: The word cat is a noun.

Danielle: Not the way you use it. For you it means excitement, danger, affluence.

(All three of which words, by the bye, are nouns.)

01 January 2018

Then, and Now, and What Next?

In the week leading up to New Year's Day 2017, I was keen—if at all possible—to complete the second movement of the (three-movement) Symphony. And, that done, a year ago today I set to work on the third and final movement. This year, the week between Christmas and New Year's was a restful time of hanging out with family. And in fact, even today I decided to nap at will, rather than drive myself to get work done.

Tomorrow is soon enough.

There are (as ever) several musical tasks to be resumed—White Nights, The Nerves, Sleepyheads, Wake Up!—and, in due season, resume them I shall.

The priority at present, however, is naturally the set piece for the April concert at King's Chapel, for two voices, three instrumentalists and fixed media: Heart So White. For which, before today, I had not yet got so far as a folder and Opus number.

How to set about it? For much of this time, I have been thinking of setting the text for the voices, and seeing to the fixed media afterwards. But today (and I suppose this may just qualify as getting to work after all) I am forming the design for the fixed media, and so, I expect that I am about to compose the several layers more or less in tandem. Which is undoubtedly an artistic approach.

And so, the ice has been broken.

The ghost of Microblogging Past

“She smells like parole officers ought to smell.”

(Not really in the script.)

“That dweam within a dweam ....”

The lady motorist with the license plate frame assuring us that Happiness Is Knowing Christ, certainly drives as if keen on meeting Him at the earliest opportunity.

Dick van Dyke, making love to his wife (Mary Tyler Moore) over the phone with a disguised voice. This cannot end well. Strike that: it’s a comedy, and shall end well.

You may think it a nuisance, but we all need the overachievers . . . .

“… planning arcane procedures.”

“It all started at lunch. Wolfe splashed a drop of sauce from the spare ribs right on his tie ....”

[Karl] found half an inch of tea gone cold in the bottom of the cup, and he’s going to DO something about it!

Keep Calm and Choir On

The stare of the chap across the aisle, directed at his smartphone, can only be described as harsh.

No; I don’t wish to know.

(All these on some 31 December or other.)