23 April 2020

After the Ballet

There seems to loom the possibility of a performance of Snootful of Hooch.  The singers of Triad have begun sending me sound files for Best Get the Ax. I have made a start on The Heart, movement 2 of the Symphony for Band. I have revisited the conference-room-environment piece I devised this past September, and I rather like it, now to be dubbed A New York State of Mend. My organist-composer friend David Bohn has issued a playful call for 20-second pieces for melodica, so my submission bears the title Illegible Jubilation. And, although my submission to the 2018 Rapido! cycle went nowhere fast, I shall give it another shot this year.

15 April 2020

About the Opus 28 organ pieces

I composed the Small Ricercar and Meditation in 1994 for the late William A. Goodwin, organist at Woburn, Massachusetts’ First Congregational Church, whose Sixth Meeting House is home to a beautiful 1865 E & GG Hook organ. Bill made me welcome to compose anything I liked, though in his self-effacing way he joked that I could write anything provided it was in C Major, Common Time, and marked Largo. Although these two pieces fail to comply with those strictures, he did indeed play them as part of worship services. I composed these while riding the MBTA buses in my daily commute to Boston.

In 2003, while serving in the choir of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Paul on Boston’s Tremont Street. I frequently collaborated both as clarinetist and composer with the Music Director at that time, Mark T. Engelhardt, an organist of such accomplishment that I was shy of offering him most of the organ music I had written theretofore, as too simple for him to find musically gratifying. Thus I set to writing (we might say) the toothy organ Toccata of my musical fancy. I composed most of the piece while on retreat at Most Holy Trinity Monastery in Petersham, Mass. Although Mark assured me more than once (when I offered) that there was no musical need to change anything in the Toccata, I do not believe he has yet had occasion to perform it. Atlanta organist Albert Ahlstrom eventually gave the piece its première

The score leaves the matter of dynamics to the discretion of the performer, guided by the requirements of the space and the registral characteristics of the given instrument.

Karl Henning (April 2020)

11 April 2020

And about the Opus 167

Best Get the Ax (Variation on a doggerel), Op.167

About the music:

There is no full score
Taking my experience with various fixed media mixes as a point d'appui,
I composed a setting of the text; and then shook and shuffled things around to create 6 voice parts (SSATTB).
Each singer selects a part to suit his or her voice. In preparing and recording the part,
The singer is welcome to any artistic liberty which to him or her feels true to the piece,
and then sends the sound file to me for assembly/treatment. The piece is thus somewhere in the midst of improv, composition-mixage
and Renaissance partbooks

About the text:

An old friend of mine (in fact, the person who helped me figure out how to go to college, decades ago)
to help amuse his friends in these dour days, sent the text of a song he used to sing at camp as a boy.
I enjoyed the playful reckless imagery, and felt it would be a good text to set and a fun text to sing (well, it's a camp song, so it must be).
Although my friend is sure the song is P.D., I felt that I should create what is clearly my own variant.

10 April 2020

Comes the Dawn

God in heaven! A whole moment of bliss!
Is that not sufficient even for a man’s entire life?...

Comes the dawn—A Beginner’s Guide to Henning’s White Nights

I began work in 2003 on a full evening’s ballet after the Dostoyevsky novella
whose title I need not repeat in this paragraph. I began by re-reading
my source, drawing up a fairly extensive outline, and composing the Overture.
As I had no collaborative organization or ensemble, and was pursuing
the project for my own artistic benefit; I periodically set the ballet aside
to compose music for which there was a more immediate prospect of
performance. Nevertheless the finished portions
of the ballet steadily accumulated over time until, more than a decade later,
the end was in sight.  I did indeed revisit the work at intervals,
so I assured myself that there was musical continuity in spite of the prolonged
production. At last, I completed my White Nights, Ballet in Four Nights
and a Morning on 5 April 2020

Karl Henning (10 Apr 2020)

09 April 2020

Best Get the Ax

With thanks to Matt Sharp.

Variation on a Doggerel

Peering at the beach through the knothole in Grampa’s wooden leg,
Who parked the shore so hard against the ocean, the ocean?
Best get the ax, there’s a hair on Baby’s chest.
And my sweetheart’s gone for I cannot say how long. 
The cows made a sound, four feet upon the ground.
Honey, it’s too late to wind your wristwatch.
Oh! Who will milk my cows when I'm gone, I’m gone?
Feed the baby garlic, to find him in the dark. Will Grandma's false teeth soon fit Lizzie, fit Lizzie? 
While walking in the moonlight, the bright and sunny moonlight She kissed me in the eye with a kiwi, a kiwi.
A snake has no hips, so he wears no belt,
Nor shoulders, so no braces, neither,
 No wonder, no wonder that he knots his cravat ‘round his middle, his middle.
Leaning out a window, a second-story window, I slipped and sprained my eyebrow on the postman, the postman. Go get the mouthwash, sister’s got a beau, and a kiwi, a kiwi.That meddlesome boy’s let the snake’s wristwatch run down.
Best get the ax.

08 April 2020

Minor Afterthought

As I happened to have Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33a in my kitchen CD player, the thought occurred to me to bundle the Four Intermezzi from White Nights as my Op. 75a.  I think I like the idea.

07 April 2020

Once more unto the Alien abyss

T'other night, I watched Alien Resurrection, which is but a woful down-draught of the promise of Ridley Scott's 1979 introduction of the "Star Beast," and easily my least favorite of the franchise, for (to start with) the following reasons:

A. Supreme Script Stupidity # 1 soldiers check the crew of the Betty for weapons, supposedly they will not allow weapons, but they let them board the Auriga with their weapons.

B. The underwater swim through the kitchen was impossible, Vriess in particular drowned;  and those making the film should have known it was impossible from the challenges to the cast in filming the sequence.

C.  Related to that, discharging those weapons underwater had to have been one super-dumb idea.

D.  Supreme Script Stupidity # 2  As Call is a machine, I just don't believe that the gunshot to her chest rendered her "unconscious."

E.  Related to that, Call being a droid, I do not believe she needed trial-and-error when spritzing breath samples in her attempt to gain access to Ripley 8.

F. No, I don't believe the "false start" by the alien hosted inside Purvis, when the latter shrugs it off and says, "I'm okay."

G.  The ridiculously miraculous pool-shot carom gunplay by whichever member of the Betty crew that is.

H. Supreme Script Stupidity # 3 The Baby getting sucked/blown out into space through a pinhole in a window

Is there anything I like about the movie?

Although it's bad Junk Science, I do rather like Ripley 8 as a character (I'll suspend my disbelief in that case.

Related to that, although the 1-7 holding lab is another of those "looking is difficult" experiences, I really like Weaver's performance there (as 8, I mean)

The Ripley 8/Call relationship is one of the highlights of the script.

Also, Ripley's explanation to Purvis. "Any questions?"

05 April 2020

The Grand Landmark

Very early in the 'life' of this blog, Gentle Reader, I disclosed that I had started, but was some distance from finishing White Nights. The happy business of today's post is the fruit of determination and patient application. Comprising 20 discrete numbers and two hours and a quarter of music, White Nights, a ballet in Four Nights and a Morning, is done!

A further thought

A virtual neighbor expressed interest in my thoughts on Thoreau in Concord Jail . . . so:

What I thought (and I understand that Thoreau was of a somewhat irascible character, so I realize that I engage in some emotional poetic license) was, here is a chap imprisoned out of principle, so he is there because he has reason, in which he is firm.  In a sense, a man comfortable in his own skin, so that although his body is confined, his soul is free, and he declines to regard the cell as a "punishment," and this spiritual liberty is indeed a victory over his captors.

I conceived of my piece as an exhalation from that plane of the unfettered spirit.

02 April 2020

Incredibly, at the threshold

Partly because it is a designedly brief number, and partly because, when I resumed work on White Nights in July of last year, I had a perfectly clear concept for the piece, I completed Intermezzo IV today.  19 of the 20 numbers of the ballet are therefore done, and only the 6-minute final Scene remains to be composed, and I already have it in clear view.