23 October 2021

Tectonic Shift?

But, is now the time for rhetorical questions?
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Ah, well! We live and learn, or, anyway, we live.

— Will Cuppy


I’ve been mulling of late, partly in response to a virtual acquaintance’s recent

enthusiasm for composer N. Composer N. is perhaps a year older than I. She’s an internationally

celebrated composer. In fact, I met her at Symphony Hall after a

Boston performance of a piece of hers. The Boston Symphony may

never play any of my music. There is no benefit to the idle

speculation that it is possible they may play my music after my death.

When Composer N. is commissioned to write a piece, the sum of money

is considerable.

If I and Composer N. sat down in conversation, and I told her the sum I was

paid for my recent commission, she might perhaps laugh, if she were not

such a nice person, as all reports suggest. None of this is composer N.’s fault,

and it’s not a zero-sum game. While I do not believe I hold any of it against

Composer N.,

I did not enjoy nor think much of the piece that night at Symphony. I do

consider in hindsight that I may simply have been resentful, but neither do I

feel that I owe anything to composer N.

It also doesn’t help, that the artistic director of a choir dedicated

to performing new music, turned a piece of mine down (a piece

of which many colleagues

think highly) with the ‘explanation’ that my music is not like that of

Composer N. upon whom they lavish their musical love. But enough of

Composer N. whom I wish no ill whatever, and who I hope will continue

to enjoy success and prosperity.


Today, I debate which better describes my state: low motivation or nil

motivation. My thoughts of late have not (despite the theme of the first

paragraph) dwelt upon either resentment of successful living composers, nor

self-pity. I am wondering what my goal should be, or even if having a goal is

of any use to me. For instance, up to now (let’s say) I have had

the ambition that the Boston Symphony Orchestra should play music

of mine. But it is plain to me that this is a foolish ambition, as there is

nothing I can do to make such a thing happen. Today, I wonder if

having that as an ambition (or even as a hope) is not merely pointless

but self-deceiving.


So, what?

An old friend of mine composes only when commissioned to do so, and

has enjoyed some performance opportunities of which I can only dream.

I certainly do not resent him, nor feel envious of him. In a general way,

I might wish that I were in a similar position, but if I composed only

on commission, I should not have written White Nights,nor either of my two symphonies. It is pointless for me to wish that

I had been commissioned to write these, I am practically a musical

nobody and I have certainly been

treated so by musical somebodies. I am not going to be the next

John Williams. Setting aside the speculative q. of whether I could

successfully score a film, the universe has not afforded me any such

opportunity. Nor am I going to be the next John Adams, Philip

Glass or Joan Tower. I observe merely factually, with neither

envy nor resentment, that the universe has not afforded me

even such opportunity.


Then there is the clarinet, from which I have been perforce separated

by my stroke. I pursue my therapy and do my homework. My

determination remains staunch. Yet with the impaired sensation

in my fingers, it is simply impossible to know, today, when I shall

be able to play again. But I ain’t stoppin’.

Perhaps this week I am asking myself, why should I still compose? For most of my composing life, notwithstanding my negligible

level of success, I never needed to ask myself such a question. When

I was in rehab after my stroke, I did not

ask myself any such question, it was simply that I wanted to compose.

For only one thing, I

was determined to complete White Nights. If I don’t write my music,

no one will, I recall saying even as I lay in hospital.

As I write today, the latest of the Op. 169 organ pieces I composed was 31 May, and I don’t know whether I’ll finish

the set as conceived. The last I worked on the string symphony was 4 Oct.

I make no claim or promise as to

the future. I can only say, I don’t feel like writing today.




09 October 2021

Satori in Lowell

There is a specific class of conditioning—we might say that one has been “Pythonized”— typified (to give but one example) by the involuntary chuckle which is the subject’s nearly immediate response upon hearing the phrase
“I am the Bishop of East Anglia.”
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I hope my recordings of my own works won’t inhibit other people’s performances. The brutal fact is that one doesn’t always get the exact tempo one wants, although one improves with experience.

— Aaron Copland

Back in June when Orlando first invited me to be part of the Setting Kerouac event, I formed a mental image/scenario of the night, which was this past Thursday. but the night itself was all I might have hoped—and more:  a piece which I am proud to have written, and well pleased that it should represent my work, was superbly performed to the largest-yet audience for Henningmusick, who all received the piece warmly. I wrote The Orpheus of Lowell as a showcase for the soprano, and composed it expecting that the singer would be fearless. But of course, Rose Hegele was not merely fearless (which criterion was but the threshold, to be sure) she made agile, playful, nervy music—which is to say, her performance was utterly faithful to the piece, and ravishing. It was a miraculously good night for this composer.



06 October 2021

About the Op. 172

Ask your Veterinarian if Ivermectin is Right for you!
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

This would be a better world for children if the parents had to eat the spinach.

— Groucho Marx

The inspirations for the piece all relate to the text. The bulk of the text I have set is five choruses from Mexico City Blues. I was taken with the conceit of the poem, the idea of a singer/poet fronting a bop ensemble and extemporizing. The two albums my ear was “marinating” in while I was contemplating writing my piece were firstly, Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart because the complete freedom and fearlessness of the music (and especially the vocalization) is just exhilarating, and secondly Money Jungle with Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus & Max Roach, an evergreen and indeed iconic album. These musical influences are transmuted through my own accumulated musical sensibilities and experience, so one should not expect my piece necessarily to “sound like” Beefheart or Ellington. I have played a lot of clarinet myself, and have written a great deal of chamber music including clarinet and flute, so one of my guiding principles in writing the piece was, I wrote music which I thought I should have fun playing. I was free to select my own text(s) and in leafing through Mexico City Blues, I was like a kid in a candy store, and at first I chose too much text to be practical for a piece of the desired scale, so the greatest challenge I faced was in striking the right balance between the "volume" of text and the duration I was aiming for. Discovering my musical material was in large part easy, as Kerouac's words are so musically suggestive and by turns electrifying and lyrical. What I think will engage and perhaps surprise the audience is how the piece offers flute, clarinet and cello (on the face of it, not a “jazz combo”) together with the piano as vehicles of stylized “bop.”

My initial idea was to assemble a text from sentences here and there from a number of books (On the Road, The Dharma Bums) I had begun this process (highlighting sentences on my Kindle) when I added Mexico City Blues as an additional source, but then, in leafing through, it became evident to me that I ought instead to select a number of choruses from this last, which was new to me. Each of the choruses I chose had simply grabbed me for one reason or another in that first pass-through. A vestige of my first thought for “assembling” a text is the final line of the piece, which is the curtain line of the first chapter of The Dharma Bums. I am highly gratified to have learnt that both the pianist and the soprano like the piece very well.


  

23 September 2021

This and That

She pressed her hands into an armful of winter coats on the store rack. The coats gave as she pressed in. “I'm feeling down,” she explained.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

We would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois's Law Enforcement community who have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel ballroom at this time.

— Dan Aykroyd, in The Blues Brothers

I gave my brain an extended break after completing the Op. 172. Indeed, I did no composing as such at all until yesterday.

I did a little adapting/arranging for my church choir (we are back on weekly duty. Sometimes I comb through the filing cabinets, and I'll find an SATB which I think would be a good musical fit, save for the fact that we cannot do four-part music, which very likely (at this point) is part of a bygone musical past at the church. So I pulled two octavos to the end of arranging them so that our SAB choir can manage them. We started rehearsing one of these last week, and I have not yet finished the second (an arrangement of Christ the Apple Tree) I knew this week that I was not yet going to have the Apple Tree ready for tonight's rehearsal. Yesterday I got to work on a new Alleluia for the choir, suitable both for before Advent, and then for use at Christmastide.

I kept in mind that I have in the past composed a piece, with the idea that it should be easy enough to put together in short order, and yet, as I pursue the composerly aims of the piece, it becomes music which it is neither practical nor fair to expect my dear choristers to own in so short a time. So, while I did in fact finish the Alleluia in E-flat, Op. 174 last night, and we will begin rehearsing it tonight, I have also remembered a short piece which we know well and which therefore we can warm back up easily for this Sunday.

Chances are that the Symphony № 3 will thus be Op. 175.

Also on the theme of a dearth of tenors, we of Triad have determined that we must reconsider our upcoming program, and a further decision was to bump the concert from November to January (when hopefully we can have an actual audience in the space.) The good news is that we agree that When will work with our present personnel, so now the question is what are the dates in January? ... so that we make sure flutist Peter Bloom is available.

More good news is that the lunchtime concerts have resumed at King's Chapel, and I have reached out to The Band to pin down (or up) a date. I already have pieces for that program, Pam's Labyrinth and Moose on the Loose.




10 September 2021

September Already?

We were of the earnest opinion that the Crocodile Rock would endure.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Being in tune with every molecule in the universe requires a great deal of concentration.

— Robin Williams as King of the Moon

We had our first choir rehearsal of the new church year last night. Turnout was on the light side, but we had music to read with the numbers we had. It was a good rehearsal.

What with not only the expenditure of energy in rehearsal, but the not-a-straight-line trip home, I was rather wiped out by the time I got home at 10 pm or so. I took my sweet time getting up this morning. At one point I considered upbraiding myself for want of motivation, but instead realized that today must be a day of recovery, and I must factor that in, going forward.

I know I posted in the past—what I believe I genuinely felt—that I would have written the Op. 172 simply for the promise of a performance, and that any money for a new piece is a plus. And I should be ashamed to voice anything like a complaint, since Maria paints museum-quality canvases which by rights ought to sell for tens of thousands of dollars, whereas she has never received anything on the order of artistically reasonable compensation. So I note simply that my subconscious had (without authorization) dreamt of a certain sum, which the reality has, I now know, failed to measure up to.


Nevertheless, this was an opportunity to write a crackling piece of chamber music which should make one hell of an impression. Remember, Karl, this is what matters.



02 September 2021

An Interlude Featuring Apparent Optimism

Massachusetts: Scientists at the Saugus Doo Wop Research Institute today announced the discovery of something which can stop the Duke of Earl.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I always suspected that once we started working together, we’d be working together for the rest of our lives, for the reason that we seem to have such a unique chemistry. I didn’t find that with anybody else, and I never have. There’s other people I like working with, but there’s nothing like working with the other Firesigns, when we come together as an ensemble.

— The late, great Peter Bergman

My Triad task of late has been to coordinate conducting assignments, and it is coming along nicely. I am close to having a rehearsal schedule for our first rehearsal on the 13th. Even though I am still waiting on some material and some responses, I want to broadcast a rehearsal schedule Saturday morning, to give folks time to prep.

There’s a Rhode Island chamber ensemble who periodically call for scores. They’ve never selected music of mine yet, so the smart money is on its being wasted effort ... but ... I got a [probably automated] e-mail today saying that the call is still open, even though they [probably] have already received 500 other submissions.

But, heck, I do have new pieces which have not yet been performed, and if the effort be wasted, it is only minimal effort. So I have submitted both The Mask I Wore Before (which went nowhere with the competition for which I originally wrote it, and an all-strings arrangement of Pam’s Labyrinth, which I almost wish that I had retitled I Was a Teenage Lesbian Supremacist for this process.



31 August 2021

As to What's Next

A perjurer in Persia.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

— Groucho Mark


I probably shan’t, but some composer with a penchant for dance might could write the Cthulhu Toodle-oo.

But enough of what I shan’t do. What shall I? Firstly there is prep for our rehearsals (beginning in less than two weeks) for Triad’s November concerts. There is a case to be made, that I ought to have done some of that work today, but I am giving my brain a post-Opus 172 breather.
On 7 Oct there is the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac do. Happily, others are doing most of the work there.
In November, Ensemble Aubade will bring the Oxygen Footprint on tour to the Southlands.
Almost certainly not until the Triad concerts are done, I need to clean up the layout of The Lungs. If in the meanwhile I do feel I have any composition capacity, I can work on the next Opus 169 organ piece. We shall see if as early as Christmas I may be able to work on the Opus 174, the Symphony № 3 for strings in memoriam Louis Andriessen.

For now, though, I’m taking the evening off.


30 August 2021

Soliloquy in the form of a Blog Post

Anyone who relies on Andrew Lloyd Webber for theological guidance, is born unto unrelievable suffering.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Give us something else; give us something new; for Heavens sake give us something bad, so long as we feel we are alive and active and not just passive admirers of tradition!

— Carl Nielsen

So, the Kerouac piece is done and delivered. I dig it and believe it will represent me well. It’s a piece which (honestly) I would have written simply with the promise of a performance, but in equal honesty it’s a piece I feel comfortable being paid for. I don’t know just how much, still. I’m not saying that I haven’t been curious.

I didn’t ask earlier. Why? If in the back of my mind I somehow posit a sum, what if the actual sum is much less? I felt that for the time being ignorance was preferable to possible disappointment. And I did not want, while I was at work on the piece, for such a disappointment to serve as impedance against my compositional electricity. And now, whatever the sum, I shall be pleased with it.



29 August 2021

The Opus 172 Finished

elite tile risqué squire scarecrow in escrow.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

There were some really funny people out there on the air [in Cleveland, Ohio], and I just loved the idea that they were having fun. I’ve always thought the thing I’ve missed most in life is being in a community where people can have fun doing what they’re doing. Things are so serious that I just wonder sometimes why people even do what they do, if they’re not having fun. I know that sounds naïve, but I mean it sometimes.

— the late, great Peter Bergman

Gentle Reader, I have completed the piece, and in good time. For a while there I wondered if the deadline would best me. On the 17th, I had reached a point when I thought the goal was in easy sight. I had what seemed a good idea for proceeding, but I couldn't shape it to my satisfaction. I was visited by a second idea which also seemed a good ’un, and which seemed to possess the additional virtue of helping me to get on with the first idea. But it was all rubbish. With a 1 September deadline looming, I knew I had to roll up my sleeves this weekend.  None of my work Saturday morning or early afternoon was worthy of the piece—and I remembered: the eraser is your friend, Karl. I knew I had to excise everything I had been throwing at the score since the 17th, and start fresh, sketching something completely different to the ideas which, for all their seeming so good in the abstract, were a dead end. I set to the fresh work this morning, and that was all I needed. The piece is done and now I have a couple of days to prep the parts. The piece is still going to need a soprano who knows no fear ....




15 August 2021

Coming Into the Home Stretch

Gnarly lasagne with putative pepperoni.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

‘... I've hardly any possessions, almost no friends.’
‘I’m a friend,’ said Russell cheerfully.
‘No, Russell, you aren’t a friend. You have an interesting mind, despite being English, but I wouldn’t say that you were my friend. On the whole I find you vain and frivolous.’ Russell reminded himself quietly that candour was a virtue.

— Terry Eagleton, from “Saints and Scholars”

I think I am now finished with the fifth chorus (90) of the Op. 172. Almost at the seven-minute mark, which is just right to pace out the rest. And, speaking of rest, yes, I think I should, thanks.



11 August 2021

Chilling As I May

Sorry I was unclear what the Nebula Award is for.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

It takes a long time to grow young.

— Pablo Picasso

Not leaps or bounds, to be sure, but I have indeed made some slight progress on the Op. 172

This afternoon I watched Ladyhawke for the first in a long time, and indeed for the very first time in its entirety. I would not say on the whole that the Alan Parsons score is bad, only that when the music used was by A. P. it was sonically obvious.

I then watched Conspiracy Theory again. Julia Roberts co-stars with Mel Gibson, and I could not remember her name. There I was, watching a scene with the two of them, and I drew a complete blank on her name. I got the answer from Alexa, and I admit that I quite enjoy the fact that I had forgotten her name, in kind of a counter-cultural way.



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.