31 July 2021

Jack (Kerouac) in July

Read on the Interwebs:
“... she’s probably got a good feel for Stylus phantasticus and I intend to get hold of her Buxtehude.”
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I asked Hitler about it.
He has no interest in anything other than the Sudetenland.
I believe him.

— Neville Chamberlain

Having made the necessary textual decisions, I have been able to get on with composing the piece—I cannot call them tough decisions, but I was hesitant to ‘cut’ text. It’s funny how just selecting text beforehand can make one feel proprietary.

The fact is, though, that when I got to four minutes and a half with the piece, my pleasure at the landmark was confused by a kind of anxiety over ‘how much text remained’ an obligation which was actually a chimæra.  With today’s work, the piece is nearing the six-minute mark. We shall see how much progress tomorrow may bring.

28 July 2021

Satori in Woburn

Amen, an Omen! Eased meets West.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

I’ve started out for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there

— Tom Petty, “Learning to Fly”

There is no denying, as I look back on Monday through today, that I did not do all the composing which I perhaps might have done. But I accomplished a great deal today: Gentle Reader, I have eased myself of an unnecessary self-imposed burden. Even having discarded’ one chorus, as I reported on Monday, I felt too much like Procrustes as I considered four more choruses against the fact that I can really compose only four minutes more music to fulfill my charge. All that discomfort fell off my shoulders this evening as it dawned upon me—the text for the piece is mine to select, and I am not obliged to set each chorus in its entirety. Pretty simple, but it was just out of my sight until I rounded some kind of corner today.  Between that realization and composing a few measures of the vocal line, I am thoroughly pleased with the day’s work, and can down tools with a clear conscience.

26 July 2021

With a nod to Tom Godwin

Start smaller: carpe meridiem.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

When I saw the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night in England, that’s when I decided that I too would form a four-man group [The Firesign Theatre] but I didn’t want us to dress alike. Those were my very thoughts.

— Peter Bergman

In August of 1954, Tom Godwin published “The Cold Equations,” a story whose dramatic springhead is a stowaway on a space ship, and the logistical problems resulting from the additional weight. I had read the story while yet a teenager, and more recently I found it was adapted for the 80’s “reboot” of The Twilight Zone. a show I consider a success, overall. But I digress.

I selected texts for the Op. 172 having (of course) no definite idea of how much musical time would be needed to deliver all the words. Well, the piece is now at the 4:30 mark and I have set three of the seven choruses I chose from Mexico City Blues. I am charged with writing a 8-9' piece, so the simple fact is that—with abundant regret—I must needs jettison one of the remaining four choruses. Work to resume tomorrow.

25 July 2021

Midway Point

From the floorboard of his florid Ford, Lord Peter torpedoed the torpid and bored.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

These concertos lie somewhere between too easy and too difficult; they are brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural without being shallow. There are passages here and there that only a true connoisseur can truly appreciate, but that a layperson also can enjoy without even knowing why.

— Mozart writing to his dad, 28 Dec 1782

I am very happy, both with the Opus 172 so far, and that I am well ahead of the calendar. I have reached the end of “my” third chorus (Kerouac’s 226th). The soprano will need to be fearless, to be sure. The question of whether I need to drop a chorus will be settled by how much time this next chorus occupies. My present impression is that no chorus will need to be dropped. Tomorrow is another “therapy doubleheader,” so any work composing will be minimal. Something tells me, though that this next chorus will be done in a week, so the Moment of Truth is not distant.

24 July 2021

Op. 172 Progress Report

So what does Hollywood do with all the busted blocks?
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Margaret Dumont: This is a gala day for you.
Groucho: Well, a gal a day is enough for me, I don't think I could handle any more.

four-five days have elapsed since my last relevant blog post.

I have indeed made steady progress, and am well ahead of the minimal-target “production schedule” which I have scrawled onto the wall calendar in the kitchen. The piece is nearly half-done, in fact.

When I finished my second chorus, for which I relaxed the tempo, the question crossed my mind whether perhaps I selected more text than a piece running eight minutes and a half could aptly handle. When I leaf through the text to see if a chorus should be dropped, though, I feel that the pacing will work out fine, and I should leave my text selection as is.  If I find otherwise, Gentle Reader, you will learn of it here first.

The “hard deadline” for the piece is 1 September. The pianist (entirely understandably) would like the piece earlier. As half of the piece will be done by July’s end, I think it likely we can accommodate that wish.

19 July 2021

Bopping Along

“Literally” is such a perfectly useful word, what an awful shame that it has devolved into yakfill!
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Margaret Dumont: This is a gala day for you.
Groucho: Well, a gal a day is enough for me, I don't think I could handle any more.

July dawned (as it were) but I still needed to settle on the text for the Op. 172. I discarded my original idea as too time-consuming and then (that decision made) I assembled my text fairly efficiently.  The first line of the piece was set on 6 July. The sands of Time ran while I quite dithered about what to set up in the piano. I made my mind up as to that at last just yesterday, as a matter of fact. Today, I have the first chorus (43) finished and I have started the second (226) — the numbers are as the choruses appear in Mexico City Blues. 242 Choruses. The ice is broken now. For today, that is all.

18 July 2021

The Game Is Afoot (Kerouac Edition)

Love is the means of repairing broken people.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour.

— H. P. Lovecraft

The Opus 173 done, it was time today to roll my sleeves up for Opus 172. Unusual for me—and undoubtedly allied to the fact that this is a paid commission with a deadline—I sat down with my calendar and calculated that I need to compose a minute and a quarter each week, to have the piece done by 1 September. The pianist would like the piece earlier if possible, and indeed there’s a good chance that once I get cooking, actual production will run ahead of my weekly guideposts. I got good work in today: The first 40 mm. are not yet finished, but I have composed the voice out to the chorus’s end.

17 July 2021

Op. 173 Done

Breakfast of fear: Dreaded Wheat.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Where a man can stand by another man without an ego flying.

— Captain Beefheart (Don van Vliet) “Frownland”

Even though it’s exactly what I was banking on—to minimize disruption of work on the Op.172—I finished When, Op.173 for choir and alto flute in the space of three days. It runs four minutes and change, and is a setting of a charmingly simple poem by my “virtual acquaintance” Jayaprakash Satyamurthy of Bengaluru:

When in a late year

Late in an early decade

I could hear your mouth

Finding my ear

Across the city

Your eyes finding mine

Atop the sky

When in a late year

We walked with time

And listened to the sky

My eyes found yours

Your ears sought me

Our mouths met

When an early sky

Sought us

And we were found to say

This is an early year

This is the first decade.

And, after this afternoon’s reading of the Op.119 № 2 with Janet and Peter, it’s back to Kerouac!

15 July 2021

The Juggling Act Today

Man holding the leash: C’mon, boy!
Dog: It’s the journey, not the destination.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

— Pablo Picasso

I recall talking with Robert when he was writing this piece, but I only chanced on it this week.

My intention earlier was to write the Kerouac piece first, and then the piece for Triad. (indeed, that is how I cast the Opus numbers, which are now going to be chronologically misleading—Too Bad!) In my new role as AVP of Triad, though, my mind is in the thick of planning rep for the November program, so I decided I would go ahead and chop out that piece (When) first. My (not at all strict) model is my earlier Hodie Christus natus est for choir and clarinet. I am close to finishing When, but there will be no working on it after tomorrow’s PT (an observation, not a complaint) so my confident expectation is to finish it Saturday, around our initial reading of the Op.119 № 2 with Peter and Janet.

As I mull on the Kerouac piece, what should I be listening to? Somehow the chief reply from the Universe seems to be: Trout Mask Replica

My dear friend Peter Czipott has written back enthusiastically about the Opus 148 in spite of (as he put it) the depradations of MIDI.

And the Rasa Quartet wrote back most graciously, permitting me to send them It’s all in your head (not that that’s a bad place for everything to be). Quoth the great Fats Waller: One never knows, do one?

12 July 2021

Four Years Ago Today

To end this call, simply hang up.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

To save man from the morass of propaganda is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

— Martin Luther King, Jr

The pen is for scale. This was the score to White Nights, on 12 July 2017 (Nos. 1 through 12). Wrote I then: With the paper pressed flat (just normally, no hydraulics) it's a ¾" sheaf. The piece is ⅔ done, by playing time; i.e., I don't necessarily expect the rest of the score to be half again this volume of paper. (But ... maybe.) “I don't always compose a score measured in quarters of an inch, but when I do, classic Russian lit is involved....”

10 July 2021

Prepping, prepping

Andy says of voices,
And their characteristic noises,
That he can take Axl Rose’s
Only in moderate doses.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

All the world is birthday cake.
— Geo. Harrison

The Harrison quote I borrowed from a virtual acquaintance’s signature, and I was indeed wondering where from. As the Universe would have it, I watched Yellow Submarine again last night, so now I know.

I have not as yet done any more actual composing of the Op. 172, but I now have an overall Plan and even some specifics for bits within the grand blueprint. Chances are, after I take off again/still this evening, I shall roll up my sleeves tomorrow.

06 July 2021

Just a start—But a Start

Art: understanding “the rules” so that you have the power to break them and make the result work.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

6 months ago, our Capitol was stormed by violent insurrectionists. I will never forget, and as long as I have my voice, I will do whatever small part I can to make sure we as a people never forget what took place, who was responsible, and the threat it represents for our nation.
— Dan Rather

Today I composed the first five measures of the Op. 172. A couple of days ago, I had no idea just what the opening phrase of the soprano would be, but I knew I wanted the soprano to kickstart the piece. Last night, as I laid my head on the pillow I heard in my inner ear just what the soprano would sing. My arguably slight work today was settling the entirety of the soprano’s incipit, and composing the cumulative ‘answers’ by the bass clarinet and flute. Strange to say (possibly the changing weather had a say) that felt like work enough for today. Indeed, as it is a beginning which I like, good work it was Will sleep on it tonight, and see what I hear in the morning. (so to speak)

05 July 2021

Plans, Mostly

Echoes of Agent 86: “I can play the Widor Toccata on the E.G.G. Hook 3-manual while reciting Moby-Dick. Can you believe it? Moby-Dick.”
—“I find that hard to believe.”
“How about ‘You Are My Sunshine’ on a toy piano while reading Li’l Abner?”
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.

— William Carlos Williams

Found a text by my friend Jayaprakash Satyamurthy for the next piece in the Op. 119. That will likely be my project following completion of the Opp. 172/173. Way-ish down the road, it seems clear that my third symphony must be in Louis’s memory, and I plan on a symphony for strings.

04 July 2021

Ready to Start Composing Tomorrow

I’ve got no car, and it’s breakin’ my heart,
but I found a driver and that’s a start.

— John Lennon, “Drive My Car”
My Maserati does 185,
I lost my licence, now I don’t drive.

— Joe Walsh, “Life’s Been Good”

Today, I settled at last on the text for the Kerouac piece: 

The Orpheus of Lowell Op. 172

Seven Choruses and a Sleepy Afterthought for Soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Cello & Piano

The seven choruses come from Mexico City Blues, which struck me as a natural source. The “Afterthought” is the curtain line (!!) from Chapter 1 of The Dharma Bums.

Tomorrow, I shall get to work.

I’ve also settled on a text for the Triad piece for November, a poem, “My Dear Friend,” which Leo Schulte sent me last August, whose simplicity strikes me as perfect for the task.  That piece will be:

Light and Truth, Op. 173 for choir and flute

The photo is from 14 years ago today, when I inaugurated work on White Nights, Op. 75

03 July 2021

Resting and Listening

I typed “Widor Toccata,” but my wiseacre phone decided I really wanted the Wider Toccata.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

A cat can crawl into the oven to have her kittens, but that don't make ’em muffins.

— Maine proverb

One of my weekly rituals is First-Listen Fridays, and my listening list today included Sergei Taneyev’s 1911 Violin Sonata in A, and Op.20 Piano Quartet, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach’s Piano Trio in a minor, Op. 150 (when I was an undergrad she was still referred to as “Mrs H.H.A. Beach” and (what seems to me mildly strange as an inaugural listen) Schubert’s Adagio and Rondo concertante in F, D. 487.

this is how First-Listen Fridays came about: A prominent and successful composer was serving as Composer-in-Residence for a major US orchestra, and a friend introduced the two of us in hopes that that the p. and s. composer might be able to help me (an unknown and obscure composer) by perhaps promoting my work. This was gracious, kindly and thoughtful of my friend—also, more than a little sanguine, as it turned out. So, I sent my Overture to White Nights to the p. and s. composer, as a finished composition of which I was rather proud, and a piece which will certainly require a professional orchestra.

What is probably not any surprise: nothing came of it. The money line from the response sent to me by the p. and s. composer? The suggestion that I listen to more new music. Of course, my new listening today would not have met with the p. and s. composer’s approval, for the implication was that if I listened to ‘the right music,’ i.e. the approved new music, (as if I do not, mind you) I would necessarily write music in a style more to the liking of the p. and s. composer.  I had already learnt this lesson from the time I served at the University at Buffalo: There is no snob quite like a New Musicoid snob.

01 July 2021

Catching My Breath

Should I worry about the intelligence of a search engine which suggests: “You may have meant to search for Minty Python”?
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

So we have reached a place in the proud history of our republic when the topic of the day is whether the president reads. When, really, I think deep down don’t we all know the answer?

— Dan Rather

I didn’t get any work done today: Needed rest. Fact is, my OT taxed my brain a great deal as I try to tie a shoelace into even a simple knot. And when I got home, rather than napping, I drove myself to finish the Sibelius file for Square Dance. Note to self: The grey matter needs recuperation time.

30 June 2021

Squared Away

Dreamt I went to a Lebanese bistro in a strip mall called The Shopping Off-Center, and the house specialty was “lamb chowder.”
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I sit on a man’s back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back.

— Tolstoy

I finished the Sibelius file of the Square Dance, Op. 72 today. I need still to review the parts before I can send them to Bruce.  Clarinet I certainly needs proper page turns. But that drudgery can wait. As it is, I am pleased that my desk is now ready for the Kerouac piece. For which, really I need to start with settling the text. That task is on the docket for 1 July.

29 June 2021

From the Ministry of Antiquities

Q: When is your wardrobe exhausted?
A: When you wear fatigues.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Baby’s on fire: better throw her in the water.
— Brian Eno

In 2003 I composed the clarinet quartet (3 soprano & bass) Square Dance, my Opus 72. At that time I was still using Finale. In combing through the electronic files, I did not find any Finale file, nor PDFs of the parts. I was rather relieved to find a PDF of the score, lest the piece be lost. I have been recreating the score in Sibelius, and planning to have it done by month's end. I had best get a move on.

28 June 2021

Belated Report

Any affinity for Nefertiti, Tintin?
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Shall we take ourselves seriously? Shall we think we are so mature?
— Frank Zappa

Well, I actually finished The Lungs on Friday the 25th.
That is, I finished composing it. The layout of the score needs rather a bit of work, for which I doubt I shall have time this side of the Triad concerts in November. And of course, I anticipate no need for the score before then.

I need at some point this summer to compose a piece for Triad plus flute as a collaboration with my colleague (soon to be our colleague) Peter H. Bloom.

15 June 2021

Pulmonary Progress


Too early for twirly?
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

I think it doesn’t matter to him anyway. He’s just satisfied to wander around and forget things.

— Jack Kerouac. The Dharma Bums

There have been four phases of my work on the third movement of Karl’s Big (But Happily Incomplete) Map of The Body:

Phase 1: In which I earnestly intended to start writing it. This phase began pretty much on the point when I wrapped up The Heart, at which point I thought I was dubbing Movement 3 The Noggin, and I already knew the initial anacrustic gesture with which to set it in motion. This phase lasted months. I knew it would not last forever, but for a while that was all I knew for a certainty.

Phase 2: In which I at last set up the Sibelius file, plugged in the snare drum anacrusis, and learnt that (at first, anyway, the movement would be in a brisk 5/4.  This phase lasted perhaps 3-4 days.

Phase 3: In which I built out the percussion intro to the movement. This phase lasted two days, by the end of which the movement did not quite run 40 seconds.

Phase 2: In which I finally find that I have well primed the pump, and work began in enthusiastic and positively-reinforced earnest.

Per my musing here (on April Fool’s Day),  I am aiming for six minutes for The Lungs. With today’s work done, the movement is just shy of half-complete.

11 June 2021

Trending back towards normal

L’enfer, c’est les autres (Hell is other people)
— Jean-Paul Sartre, Huis clos (No Exit)
’Cuz there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
— America “A Horse With No Name”

Last night, my church choir had their (our) first rehearsal since March of last year. Just want to report how great that feels.

Separately, here is the Jacksonville University Choral Union’s February 2021 performance of the Op. 170 № 1

06 June 2021

Centimetering Along


It isn’t talking to yourself,
if you address your parakeet, right?
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Nobody knows whether we were catalysts or invented something, or just the froth riding on a wave of its own. We were all three, I suppose.

— Allen Ginsberg

There is now 35" of the third movement.  Progress too inconsiderable to bother reporting? Maybe. Fact is that between the oppressive heat, and my ‘recovering’ from Friday’s PT, I am happy that the piece is advancing, even if it only outpaces the glacier.

04 June 2021

Erm, at Last


I think I could never grill a gorilla.
But, a few questions, I might ask politely.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.

— T.S. Eliot

As I finished The Heart at the end of March, I have been “meaning to start” work on the third movement for months. Friday is PT day, so I perforce spent the afternoon resting. Upon re-verticalizing, I have managed at last to set up the Sibelius file for The Lungs (I shan’t say that I got started on the composing, although I have indeed input what in my mind was always the opening gesture of the movement.) I only discovered today that the movement begins in 5/4. Now shall I resume taking the remains of the day easy: Proper work tomorrow, and the determination to have the movement—and therefore the Symphony—finished by July.

03 June 2021

Today’s Modest Work


Wreckage & unbeknownstage.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.

— Juan Ramón Jiménez

This afternoon I finished my arrangement of “O Waly Waly” for the HTUMC choir for use this month (It will also serve, warmed up, for All Saint’s Day.

This evening I rather amused myself. I learnt today of a call for orchestral scores. As the call said they would consider pieces for string orchestra as well, I felt that I wanted to submit the string choir version of Misapprehension. Why not, right?  The call specifies that the piece should be 6 - 12 minutes in length.  The mp3 of Misapprehension runs 5:58.  Not wanting to submit the piece such that it was just possible they'd disqualify a piece whose MIDI realization falls just shy of 6' (which would be stupid. Because any actual performance would “breathe” and run longer (but when you may not be counting on a colleague’s consideration, and one can rely on the lack of imagination in bureaucrats)— I inserted three mm. in the middle, so that the new running time of the mp3 is 6:06.  The insertion is not merely unobtrusive, it is positively organic.

31 May 2021

A little sheepish

End the beguine!
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

The sparrow hops along the veranda, with wet feet.

— Shiki

On April the 23rd, as I neglected to note here, I made a start on Till Love create a place, the Op. 169 № 7 piece for Michael Joseph. I then neglected it until Saturday.  I have finished it today.

In parakeet news, Richie likes Paul McCartney's “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” partly because the telephone ring-tone is a kind of trilling sound, partly because another sound effect is a bird.

Another piece I have neglected is the third movement of the Second Symphony. My first title for it was A Piece of My Mind, but dissatisfaction with this did not take long to emerge. I then softened this to The Noggin, removing the title from the audience’s face (as we might say) At first I thought I did not mind the neural overlap with Movement 1, The Nerves. However, when my friend and fellow clarintetist Bruce Gelin remarked on the systemic redundancy, I saw light, and knew I should change it.  Now going with what I belatedly realize was the obvious choice for a band piece, The Lungs.

First, though (and quickly) as our church choir will present anthems at last for two services in June, I must chop out an easy arrangement of “O Waly Waly.”

I am very excited that I have been commissioned to write a piece for a Jack Kerouac festival in October, on the eve (as it were) of his centenary, so I have been combing for a text, or assembling one, really. My instrumentation will be pf/fl/cl/vc & soprano.

04 April 2021

A Kind of Resurrection

Why mimic a cynic?
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Found them? In Mercia?! The coconut’s tropical!

“Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

In an exchange with a clarinetist friend last week, I came to remember a piece I had long forgotten about: Square Dance, Op. 72 for clarinet quartet (three soprano and one bass) which I had originally composed for a group at Cornell, the Ezra Quartet (after, IIRC, Ezra Cornell.  I composed the Opus 72 back when I was still using Finale, and so I have no electronic file, per se, but at least I have a PDF file. I have set to rebuilding the score in Sibelius, before either resuming the organ pieces, or starting on The Noggin.

01 April 2021

Crown Laid Aside

The Silence of the Clams, the Justice of the Peas.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Tomorrow is a busy day,
we got things to do and eggs to lay.

— Alex Kramer & Joan Whitney “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” (ca. 1946)

Yesterday evening I chopped out To lay aside his crown for my soul, Op. 169 № 6 for Gigi Mitchell-Velasco. I know what tunes I mean to use (abuse?) for Nos. 7 through 9. I may just get № 7 set up before setting to work on Movement 3 of the Op. 148.

In Dec 2018, which is to say, early in my recovery, as I was still pretty much just in a state of eagerness to get back to composing, I reported that Mvt 3 would be A Piece of My Mind, but I think that, in the interests of paralellism, it shall instead be headed The Noggin.

The Nerves clocks in at seven minutes, and The Heart at fourteen. Let me aim for a six-minute Noggin to wrap the Symphony up.

30 March 2021

The Tweaking of Movement 2, or, Cardio Tune-up

The cows and chickens are goin’ to the dickens.

— Frank Loesser “A Bushel and a Peck” (1950)

As reported, or at least alluded to here, my mind went back and forth as to whether I should make modifications, and the pendulum soon came to rest.

So, At [L] I inserted a new start to the fanfare. “Robin’s Ordination

At m. 423, I made an insertion before the trumpet/soprano sax duo.

M. 441ff., I modified the retransition.

M. 451ff., new material for the recap. “Recirculation

And from [O] changes both minor and significant for the ending.

I am now thoroughly pleased.  I know the opening gesture for movement 3, but first, let me finish the Op. 169 № 6 for Gigi.

26 March 2021

Movement 2 Done (?)

I sometimes wonder if we need fortune cookies with an expiry date on the fortune.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

You tore a big hole in the convertible top,
What will you tell your mom and pop?

— Zappa “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here”

Yesterday, I made it to the final double-bar of The Heart. Did I perhaps rush my way thither?

In anticipating my schedule today, which included both a trip to MGH for my first dose of the vaccine, and physical therapy (which always requires a nap afterward) I may have been too eager for the taste of accomplishment.  Nearly from the moment that I first reviewed the MIDI mp3 of the movement, I have half-wondered if the pace of the ending needs tweaking.

I’m of a mind both that I ought to fashion a dynamic insert after [N] to shake up the recap, and that the ending (while I like the passage) is too much of a “question mark” (cf. Dyagilev’s comment to Stravinsky on the closing of Petrushka) for a movement with such a robust opening theme.  I do already have ideas for a new coda (to follow, not replace, the “question mark”) a third question I pose myself is whether the fanfare at [L] may need a “clarifying” extension.

I guess I find myself in the curious situation of on the one hand, substantial contentment with the piece as is, and an engaged willingness to build upon it, subtly, selectively.

And in another curious situation of my physical therapist teaching me, a right-hander, to throw with my left hand.

25 March 2021

Give and Take

 On Monday I made a start on the Op. 169 № 6, To lay aside his crown for my soul, for Gigi Mitchell-Velasco. I wrote up to a key and meter change, and having reached a kind of question mark (for the composer, not in the music) I resumed work on The Heart, yesterday. Will continue later today.

21 March 2021

Op. 169 № 5 done.

 Today I finished (or, rather, quite composed in its entirety) the fifth of the Opus 169 organ solo pieces, Be thou our guide while life shall last, for Heinrich Christensen.  I am inclined to go ahead and start #6, not much minding the break from determining how to bring The Heart to a close.

The photo must be four or five years old, when serving as an auxiliary percussionist for the Arlington Philharmonic

13 March 2021

Working Interlude (Brief—I Hope)

One fish
two fish
dork fish
shrew fish.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

“and what is the use of a book, thought Alice, without pictures or conversation?”
— Lewis Carroll

While I let the question of how to move on with The Heart rattle around the back of my brain, I shall write up the next of the Op. 169 pieces, this one for Heinrich Christensen at King’s Chapel: Be thou our guide while life shall last, based on Ein’ feste Burg.

11 March 2021

Mild Pussyfooting

Alfred Hitchcock famously advised, “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible,” but while this may work in the Cinema, in the realm of Music, the composer may wish to reconsider that tack.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?

— Coldplay “Clocks”

The Coldplay song (2002) predates the pandemic, yet it poses a question upon which perhaps every adult on the planet might well reflect, in our day.

I have only nudged The Heart along, these past few days, amid various non-musical demands.

The Contrarian Playlist

10. Boston: “Less Than a Feeling”

9. Queen: “Slender-Hipped Girls”

8. Bachman-Turner Overdrive: “ You’ve Seen This Already”

7. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: “You’ve Got to Live Like a Refugee”

6. Carly Simon: “You’re So Modest”

5. Jim Croce: “Sure, Go On, Mess Around With Jim”

4. Joe Jackson: “It’s About the Same for Girls”

3. The Bee-Gees: “Buyin’ the Farm”

2. The Talking Heads: “Death During Peacetime”

1. U2: “Found It”

07 March 2021

Nigh Unto the Home Stretch

The Toblerone Rebellion
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

People explode all the time: Natural Causes!

— Agent Rogersz in Repo Man (1984)

As of this evening, The Heart runs ten minutes (all right, so the timing of the mp3 is 9:59) I am ready to let it rest overnight.

06 March 2021

State of the Heart

What’s the use, Dr Seuss?
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

My heart-core went Boom-Boom-Boom!

— Peter Gabriel “Solsbury Hill”

My work yesterday and today has brought The Heart just to the nine-minute mark, so I can almost taste the end.  The unfolding episodes of the movement are:

The Mighty Pump

Distant Loved Ones

Morning Walk

Her Dancing Heart

Journey to Sacro Cuore

Neva Wedding Palace


Zhenya and the Icon

Robin’s Ordination


The movement looks to keep true to the 12-minute plan; we shall see.

04 March 2021

Ya Gotta Have Heart

 With today’s work, the movement runs to five and three-quarters minutes.


03 March 2021

About the Opus 88

  I had known New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble director Charles Peltz some years before, when we were both in Buffalo (where I did my doctoral work). After my years abroad (in Tallinn and St Petersburg) when I found myself living in the Boston area and I learnt that Charles was at NEC, I called, and we got together to talk. I brought with me the score for I Sang to the Sky, and Day Broke for orchestral winds and harp (which I had composed for Andrew Levin, director of the Clemson University orchestra.) The Boston Chapter of the American Composer’s Forum (I think it’s now the New England Chapter) together with the NEC Wind Ensemble had an annual call for scores for a reading. They would select the best pieces from among those submitted, and the composers would come to Jordan Hall, and the ensemble (who had all been given parts to look at ahead of time) would read through the pieces. Charles suggested to me that I submit the piece for that reading.

Some years later, my submission to this call was the trunk of a piece I had begun a many months earlier, five minutes of the start of a piece for six saxophones and four low brass. I wrote that opening paragraph of the piece in a New England April, when winter had at last released its grasp, and I simply reflected on how good it felt at last to be out in the sun. It was a chunk of music I liked a great deal, and which I had not meant to leave unfinished so long. But one of the reasons I don’t like writing music “for the shelf” is, I don’t have a performance to motivate me to finish it, and then, if there is demand for another piece which will be performed – I find that instantly more attractive. That was why Out in the Sun lay unfinished (and in the shade) so long: there were other pieces which wanted writing.

And so, when in 2005 (probably) I saw the latest annual call for scores co-sponsored by the American Composers Forum and NEC, I felt that perhaps this was the occasion to dust off Out in the Sun. I was not yet setting myself to finish it; I thought I would just submit that (self-contained) opening of the piece, which was in essence already composed. All that needed doing at the time was, I had to modify the scoring to suit the call: six saxophones were too many. I reacquainted myself with this old sketch, and found that I could recast some of the writing, so that I could substitute clarinets for two of the saxophones, which would bring my score into compliance with the specs of the call.

So: yet again (I am pleased to say) my piece was among those selected; and this time the piece made such an impression on Charles, that he spoke to me about a performance. The piece was unfinished as it was, but I could readily complete it. That trunk of the piece was about five minutes long, and I was planning on about a 15-minute piece.  Charles encouraged me to finish it, and then gave the complete Op.88 its première performance.  Indeed, he thought (and thinks still) so highly of the piece, that he spread the word among his conducting colleagues.

Brief Interlude

Sometimes you take the hiatus, sometimes the hiatus takes you.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

We are our own slaves, not of the British. This should be engraved on our minds. The whites cannot remain if we do not want them. If the idea is to drive them out with firearms, let every Indian consider what precious little profit Europe has found in these.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Work on The Heart was briefly interrupted by the mechanical work of re-building the score for my Op. 42, a two-part choral setting of Ps. 34 which I wrote for use at First Congo in Woburn 22 years ago. That was back when I was still using Finale ... so that by now, I had no soft copy of it. But, I needed a Sibelius file to send to Lux Nova Press, as my old friend Houston Dunleavy plans to have his choir sing it. It is a great feeling, to revisit a piece you wrote 22 years before, and to find that you still own it entirely. Houston and I were graduate composers together at the University at Buffalo (that dark, dark place) and we were participants in the generally neglected new music ensemble, The Fires of Tonawanda. In the unlikely and sonically hostile venue of The Calumet Club, Houston sang what was then a setting of Oscar Wilde’s “The Dole of the King’s Daughter” — a piece which has since morphed into the vn/cl/pf trio, Night of the Weeping Crocodiles. The impossibility of presenting that piece to a club full of people jealously reserving their attentions for their cocktails, nachos and Molson Golden ale is actually one of the more pleasant stories I could tell you about our Buffalo experience

01 March 2021

Still working

 Close to 5 minutes done on The Heart.

28 February 2021

Berlioz Interlude

 Without (I think) beating a dead horse, I have made no secret in this blog of my general dissatisfaction with the fact that CRB (Boston’s primary classical music radio station) plays a ‘sub-library’ of (say) 200 musical items with appalling repetitive frequency. (It isn’t as if the literature is not much, much richer, and ought to be sensibly curated)

Well, earlier today they played Berlioz’s Le Carnaval romain (mind you, I still enjoy this, and notably better than both Rob Roy and Le Corsaire, which receive disproportionate programming love—YMMV)

Thought I, “This is nice, and of course, Berlioz is good and safe for you. Still, too bad you never play a substantial B. piece”

No sooner had my thought finished forming itself as a sentence, than I made mental allowance for the Symphonie fantastique. And lo! now, at 10 PM, what should they play, but the Op. 14.

And, be fair. How should I complain?

The Erroneous Cinema List

 Landmines at the Box Office:

  1. One Flaw Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  2. Mistake Pizza
  3. Ferris Bueller's Data Off
  4. Rosemary’s Boo-boo
  5. The Goof, the Bad and the Ugly
  6. Jane Err
  7. Into the Whoops
  8. Starship Bloopers
  9. Flub, Actually
  10. Wrong Day’s Journey Into Night
  11. The 39 Missteps
  12. The Legend of Sleepy Bollix
  13. Snafu Private Ryan
  14. Schindler’s Slips
  15. The Lion, the Glitch and the Wardrobe
  16. A Quantum of Solecism
  17. RoboFlop
  18. The Grapes of Gaffe
  19. La Cage au Fault

Separately, I reached the four-minute mark in The Heart today, and I am mighty pleased.

27 February 2021

Still Hearty

Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Trust in God, but row to shore.
— Russian Proverb

Continued composing The Heart today, a new section titled “Her Dancing Heart.” Work goes quite smoothly ... We’ve broken three and a half minutes, now,

I stole the photo

26 February 2021

Day of Rest

 At physical therapy today, I told my therapist that I have gotten back to doing quite a bit of composing.  As he took his reading of my musculature, he said, “Your brain likes composing, everything feels great.” “I take that as a medical imperative to keep at it, then.”

As we worked, we finished listening to Uncle Meat (1968)

I told my occupational therapist yesterday that when I started returning to composing (and using the computer) At first I found it very frustrating, at times when I need to depress the Control or Shift key with my left hand while doing something else with my right—frustrating, because I would have to work very hard to try to get my left index finger to perform even this simple operation, and even when I would bend all my attention upon it. So I was very pleased to tell my OT that this week I have observed that my left index finger has been more useful and cooperative than it had been in some time.

Said I to a neighbor who was walking up my sidewalk this morning, “Beautiful day!” “Any day we don’t have to shovel [snow] is a good day!

More Cardio

I sometimes wonder, Is there any point to asking myself rhetorical questions?
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.

— Khalil Gibran “The Prophet”

Yesterday, I added a bit more than a minute’s music to Wednesday’s work on The Heart. The piece is unfolding as something of a novelty in my work: as I discover it, it feels similar to Schoenberg’s idea of “developing variation.” Just how I got there, I could not say, but it’s certainly an engaging place to be.

At 7:30PM (Florida time) on Saturday the 27th (i.e. tomorrow) the Choral Union and the University Singers of Jacksonville University will sing a program under the direction of my friend (and Triad founding member) Julian Bryson, which will include my piece, The Last Invocation. The concert will be livestreamed via YouTube.

24 February 2021

I Found My Heart (so to speak)

Anemic Iceman Cinema
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Be composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt Whitman, liberal and lusty as Nature,
Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you,
Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you and the leaves to rustle for you,
do my words refuse to glisten and rustle for you....

— Walt Whitman “To a Common Prostitute”

While I was in sub-acute rehab (recovering from stroke) and my mind was raring to return to composition, one idea I had was for The Heart (the second movement of my Symphony № 2 (for band) I have a 30-second soundfile for The Heart from 1 May, 2020.  That is all I can really say, today, about the start of actual work, except that it was entirely unrelated to those first thoughts which turned in my inner ear, in February of 2019.  Did that fact annoy the back of my mind, and is that why I have been slow to return to work? Perhaps I did, in fact, want to return to my original idea, but was still waiting for the right notes. I wrote nine days ago about the recent listening which instilled in me new confidence in my original thoughts. I also hinted at my openness, in principle, to pitching the May 2020 material, and starting from scratch.

Well, I revisited that “errant” composition today, and I find it good.  Nevertheless, in deference to my original “plan” we shan’t have that rogue music open the movement.  I had aurally envisioned the movement opening with a strong unison, and 'I suppose I did not know until last night, just what shape that opening melody would take.  It is not at all related to my recent piece for flute and organ, Come unto me and live (which has been very graciously received by Dolores and Robert), but it seems to have come to quickly, once my mind was clear from that work. There it is: I have now (out of order) composed the opening of the second movement as I always wanted it, and made some minor tweaks to what used to be the opening (the darned interloper)—most importantly, I got out of the way of an alto flute solo, which would have had to struggle against a too-busy accompaniment.” The second movement, as I down tools for the day, runs to one minute and three-quarters, and I am excited to see just where the music may take us tomorrow.

A very kind “virtual friend” (i. e. someone I have as yet only “met” online, but with whom I expect I should be great friends if/when geographic distance might be overcome) Dan Cazazza, as a very kind gift to spur me on to recovery, wrote for me a cracking and lively Clarinet Sonata, which piece is yet another reason why I am keen to be able to return to the clarinet.

23 February 2021

Oh, and another thing (Star Trek Edition)

James and the Giant Leach
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

you've got a collapse of confidence in the currency—people are gonna panic—there's gonna be gold riots, atonal music, political chaos, mass suicide!...

— Peter Falk as Vince Ricardo in The In-Laws

On the theme of inconsistencies/contradictions where no man has gone before, In the first Star Trek pilot (how wonderful that they were afforded the chance of a second) “The Cage” (and of course in the episode they creatively cobbled therefrom, “The Menagerie”) Captain Pike is captured by the inhabitants of Talos IV, humanoids with incredibly powerful mental capabilities who can thoroughly deceive the human sense of sight (especially) and who communicate with their charge by direct mental transference. Indeed, they can probe Pike's inmost mental recesses. They have lured Pike there to serve as the mate of Vina, a voluptuously beautiful (as Pike beholds her) earth woman who is the sole crash survivor of the survey ship Columbia. At the end, in order to convince Pike that Vina’s desire to remain on Talos is sincere, the Talosians show her to Pike as she really is.  The Talosians had pulled her out of the wreckage of the Columbia and “put her back together” — everything works, Vina explains to Pike — but they had never seen a human, and had no model to guide their reconstruction.

So these creatures with such extraordinary mental powers (they selected (through the vast distance of space) Pike because, Vina told us, he looks just like her ideal man.  Why, then, the Talosians could not have had their visual model of what humans (in general) and Vina (in pointed particular) look like (from the mind of Vina) is, I submit, one of the great gaffes in Star Trek scriptdom.

Just finished Come Unto Me and Live, Opus 169 № 4 for flute and organ, for Dolores and Robert Jan August