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

22 February 2021

Work and all

Excavations, Incarnations and Vexatious Vaccinations
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

When a good day turns around, you must whip it
You will never live it down, unless you whip it.

— Devo

Hot off the virtual press: Review: Danish String Quartet serves up Nordic treats along with Mozart.

I got the ear of a pianist friend today, and I have reminded him of my Visions fugitives de nouveau, Op.131.

I made a fair start today on the Op. 169 № 4, Come unto me and live, but then, there intruded the latest Sibelius licensing rannygazoo, so I have had to give the day up.  Spent more time puttering with playlists so that it is practical to listen to more of my library on Amazon Music. I have now at last unlocked Bart van Oort’s Mozart sonatas.

This week I finished my third viewing of the three seasons of the original Star Trek. It is not surprising, given that several writers were engaged to write scripts, and in spite of the oversight of Gene Roddenberry and DC Fontana, to find what may arguably be inconsistencies or contradictions.  And there may well be inc. and cont. for other reasons.  In “Requiem for Methusaleh,” Kirk falls like a ton of [insert gratuitous and quite possibly invented space locale adjective here] bricks for a “woman” whom he inevitably discovers to be an android. He begs her to go with him in spite of A. the question of just where “they” would go together, and B. the fact that she is Flint’s long-term companion, But that isn’t the contradiction that really bothers me, which is something which compares with another episode:  McCoy is sympathetic (of course) with Kirk in his inconsolable loss.

Compare this with McCoy in “All Our Yesterdays” (one of the best of Season 3, I think) Because Bones and Spock are transferred for a while to an epoch predating the Vulcans’ saving embrace of logic, it is Spock who is deeply smitten, by an exiled woman for whom escape is impossible.  Of course, I get that there is something of an edge in the friendship between Bones and Spock.  But far from expressing any sympathy, McCoy needles Spock.

So, one may be tempted to excuse this on McCoy’s part because (well) he is human.  But I think that in fact it reflects horribly on McCoy — who has twitted Spock a hundred times for being an unfeeling machine. Well, if he is such the emotionally superior Earth man, this would have been the perfect occasion for it.

21 February 2021

The Joy of the Recently Cleared Desk

Moloch's Maalox (Iconic colonic)
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Smell Your harmonica: Go on, smell it, son!
— Johnny “Guitar” Watson, in Frank Zappa’s “In France”

Two years ago today, I reported my first post-stroke composing activity, work on the toy piano piece, Penny Candy. With the completion (announced yesterday) of both the Op.169 № 3 and the Op. 171, I thought I would start work on the Op.169 № 4, but I learnt that I must somehow have deleted the Sibelius file of the Op.169 № 1, so actually I took some time to rebuild it last night.

18 February 2021

Two in the Bag

Unnecessary earliness.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

Tallinn is a city big enough, that if you’re trying to find somebody, you can’t; and a town small enough, that if you’re trying to avoid somebody, you can’t either.
— Estonian Aphorism

I went from Mildly annoyed at myself for neglecting to work on a pieceI Dreamt of Reconciliation and Harmony, Op. 171) which I like very much to The piece is done in the space of three days.  The piece is a duet for flute and alto saxophone, dedicated to Paul Gardner and Greg Weber, and is six minutes or so in duration.

As the k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble are thinking of re-entering public performance (when possible) in outdoor settings I shall add horn and violin, to make Op.171a an outdoorsy quartet.

Also finished today: the Op.169 № 3, Love is come again like wheat that springeth green, organ solo, dedicated to Carson Cooman, and running three minutes and a half.

17 February 2021

Dreaming On

Jesu, Toy of Man’s Conspiring.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I replied—"This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its sibyllic splendor is beaming
With hope and in beauty to-night:
See, it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright:
We safely may trust to a gleaming
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night

— Edgar Allan Poe “Ulalume”

Another review which I don’t believe I’ve posted here—Review: Emory Streams All-Star Trio concert, reduced to Duo for on-demand viewing.

I began work on the new duet for flute and alto saxophone, I dreamt of reconciliation and harmony, Op. 171 on 11 Dec. I worked on it next (a little) on 3 Jan. Yesterday (at last!) I resumed [or began] proper work and brought the piece just past the three-minute mark. I’ve worked more today, and the piece is ten seconds shy of four minutes now. I’m aiming for a five-minute piece, may or may not do a little more work on it this evening.  Will try to have it “in the can” Friday, so that the work is done before I need my post-therapy nap.  I reached a listening milestone today, having at last listened to the whole of the Dennis Russell Davies/Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra box of the complete Haydn symphonies, absolutely all of which are masterful, and many of them are brilliant.
I don't believe I have yet posted Carson Cooman’s realization of the Opus 169 № 1, Where bright angel feet have trod.

16 February 2021

Back at Last to the Opus 169

Grand Theft Typo
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte
— Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain”

You know, I think Carly Simon really meant one eye on the mirror ....

I see that I last mentioned the Op. 169 last summer. At first I thought I would write four pieces, but happily I have more friends/colleagues to thank, so we are now looking at 9 pieces. Op. 169 № 1, Where bright angel feet have trod I wrote for Barbara Otto, my collaborator here at Holy Trinity United Methodist Church. Op. 169 № 2, While the dew is still on the roses is for my friend David Bohn in Wisconsin. I prepped the Sibelius file for Op. 169 № 3, Love is come again like wheat that springeth green (for my friend Carson Cooman) back in November, but I was a while deciding just how I wanted to set the piece in motion. The only musical decision (apart from the source hymn (a French carol) I baked into the piece then was a Gavotte-like start (on beat 2 alla breve)

I have at last begun composition in earnest, and tomorrow is wide open, too.

Yes, I blogged yesterday about The Heart, but I want to get Love is come again (and the flute/alto sax duet) wrapped up first, i.e. complete two smaller-scale pieces before rolling up the sleeves for a 12-minute symphonic movement.

Amon other things for which I have David Bohn to thank, is this recording of Remembering Jacquie Levy, which I submitted for his clavietta call, “20 Seconds of 2020.” Thanks, David! If, as I did not, you don’t know what a clavietta is: watch the video.

15 February 2021

Whither Now the Heart?

Squid Pro Quo.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

We inhabitants of the north feel differently. Life’s experiences touch us either not at all or sink deep into our souls. With us, it is either mad boisterousness or or bitter tears. Even love, that wondrous emotion which brightens the entire universe [Not Vulcan, corrects Mr Spock] is always bound up in us with a certain sadness. There is no doubt that our melancholy Russian songs are children from the north that we have, perhaps, taken over from the east. The songs of the orientals are just as melancholy, even in carefree Andalusia.
— Mikhail Glinka

A review I neglected to share here: Spektral Quartet plays into the juxtapositions with Experiments in Living.

Lieutenant Columbo appeared in my dream last night.  “Well, this is all interesting, Mr Henning, but since this is a dream of yours, it’s not going to be of much use in my case, I’m afraid. Thanks all the same.”  It did not occur to me until I had awakened, that he might perhaps have considered me a suspect.

In June of 2018, I finished the first movement, The Nerves of a Symphony for Band.  In November, I would suffer a severe stroke.  As I was in rehab, and mentally wishing to return to composing, I had a wisp of an idea for the second movement, The Heart.

In the spring of 2020, for a call for scores, I prepared a different scoring of The Nerves (no, my submission went nowhere—but then, the original scoring is specific to a local ensemble who have not acknowledged the piece in any way. so we might well say it has gone nowhere. period.)

That bootless arrangement done, I began composing The Heart, and yet in a way not at all reflecting my February 2019 thoughts. I have not yet resumed work, but am fixin’ to. My listening of late has included Rued Langgaard’s Sfærernes Musik, Hovhaness’ Symphony № 20, Op.223 « Three Journeys to a Holy Mountain » and Weinberg’s Symphony № 20, Op. 150. These have inspired me to return to The Heart, and indeed to take up properly my original musical idea.

As yet unknown is whether I keep my May 2020 material or jettison it.

14 February 2021

The Odd Reflection

Be fearless. But be good.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I had a serious talk with Strauss in Berlin and tried to show him the blind alley he had got into [with Salome] Unfortunately, he could not quite follow what I meant. He’s a charming fellow, and I’m touched by his attitude toward me. And yet I can mean nothing to him—for whereas I see over his head, he sees only up to my knees.

— Gustav Mahler, in a letter to his Alma (Dresden, 19 Dec 1901)

My first reflection on reading this, was a mild revulsion at what might appear Mahler’s self-absorbed hauteur.

Then I thought of a later encounter of Strauss’s:

Strauss: Why do you compose atonal music? You have talent.

Hindemith: You compose your music, Herr Professor Doktor, and I’ll compose mine.

One of the things I miss at present, but which I am working to restore, is being able to hold and read a book and turn its pages normally.

Latest review: Chilean Music for viola and piano.

I’m suffering (mildly) doubts of whether I may be inconsistent.  I do not, as a rule, care much for the Shostakovich Chamber Symphonies (which I almost cast in quotes, but I forbear for reasons presently to emerge) which are simply arrangements for string choir/orchestra of a few of the quartets. Why? Is it because (although I still need to get to know many of the quartets better still) I really enjoy and admire the quartets as quartets? Yet, while I clearly prefer the original sextet version of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, I love the “big band” string orchestra version very well.

The reason for this ultimately inconsiderable micro-episode of self-doubt is Weinberg, I have even more work cut out in getting to know his quartets than Shostakovich’s ( at present, I have done little more than complete my initial survey of all the seventeen) and possibly because they are for me at present an additional means of getting to know the quartets better, possibly (as well) because of the excellence of Kremerata Baltica, I find the Weinberg Chamber Symphonies immediately and unqualifiedly enjoyable. Maybe the lesson for me is: just give the Shostakovich Chamber Symphonies a chance.

Ive also been listening to the Holmboe Chamber Symphonies, which are another thing entirely.

02 February 2021

Henningmusick Performances in the Offing

The lucky contestant, the winner of our discontent!
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

The very active composer is always a thief—he makes use of every single thing he can put his hands on.
— Pierre Boulez

I do not as yet know any dates.  Both Verb-Blur and The Last Invocation will receive their live-performance première down in Jacksonville, Florida in February or April.  The University of Indiana has purchased a performance set of Out in the Sun. And a graduate conducting student at the University of Michigan informs me that she is doing me the fine service of leading what will be the third performance of Out in the Sun in Ann Arbor.