18 June 2018

From the Archive :: June 2008

18 June 2008

In rehearsing The Mousetrap, Pete and I have found that it runs a bit longer than I’d expected earlier on. And it’s a lunchtime recital, and quite a few fellow workers here at the office will turn out . . . so we can’t have the concert running long.  Regrettably, then, I’ll strike Blue Shamrock from today’s program, and figure on including it in a program later in the year.

20 June 2008

Now it can be told: I had a blast on Wednesday.  Pete is such a damned good player!  The performance of The Mousetrap, notwithstanding its distance from Strict Perfection, amply justified my speculation in writing such a behemoth of a chamber

I hadn’t thought about it in a while;  yet when I was asked the inevitable question, yesterday, about what tie-in the title has with the piece, my former thoughts had settled into something approaching coherence.

The title comes from Hamlet.  The play-within-the-play is The Murder of Gonzago, and yet when Claudius asks, Hamlet tells him the name is The Mousetrap.  Generally, in the background of the composition, were thoughts of how Shakespeare on one level, drew frankly from existing dramatic sources, but created something of excellence which is all his own;  and on another level, has a distinct dramatic event which is an organic piece of the whole.  Part of my thinking in the piece was, a new (for myself) approach to including ‘found objects’, and also variation in representing the object.

Now, I started writing a piece for Pete and me to play together almost exactly a year ago.  Originally it was going to be a relatively brief piece . . . and sparse and atmospheric.  But there wasn’t the time to wrap up composition and get even an easy piece rehearsed in time for the recital, so I set the MS. down.

By the time I took it back up, I had decided on a somewhat grander plan.  Part of this may simply have been, that in my mind, it was a slow-sustained piece for a long time now, and compositionally I wanted to write a burst of activity to contrast.  Even in the early stages of the composition, I had included an ‘organic quotation’, though something pretty obscure and with sentimental value here at home, to make Maria and Irina smile . . . an allusion (though not, in The Mousetrap, in waltz-time) to a waltz used in the Gary Cooper / Audrey Hepburn movie Love in the Afternoon, called “Fascination.”  Soon I was not only broadening the compositional scope, but making a game of composing an environment whose ‘orbit’ might capture various bits from the literature.  Part of what was going on, too, was likely the fact that in writing for viola, I had in mind Shostakovich’s references elsewhere in both the Viola Sonata and the Fifteenth Symphony.  And my own fascination (!) with enlarging the piece was partly a matter of building on the Studies in Impermanence . . . thinking that, having managed a block of 20 minutes with a solo wind instrument, it must after all be an even easier accomplishment with two instruments.

Imperfections of execution notwithstanding, response to the piece was warm, from listeners with a variety of musical background.  A friend of mine has served as a recording engineer intern at Symphony Hall this past season (and she is going to go back to school for more studies this fall).  She very graciously fetched in her gear and recorded the recital; she sounds confident in the quality of the resulting production.  Before I actually get my own hands on the recording, she is going to clean up such things as, the rumble of the Red Line trains regularly passing underneath the Cathedral . . . .

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