09 July 2022

Symphony № 3 Done

Should I worry about back-end Russian troll interference if, when I say “symphonies are,” my phone’s speech-to-text utility gives me “Symphony Czar?”
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

As the Symphony № 2 (which, with the long-awaited typographical clean-up of the score for the third movement, is now at last a fully completed project—though I guess that is not really true until there may be an actual performance) was for symphonic band, I decided early on that the third would be for strings (there was the fleeting thought of making it a piece for brass and strings, but I dismissed that sonically attractive thought, considering that the addition of brass would only make it harder to find a prospective performance—and since I already had two as-yet-unperformed symphonies, I didn't want to start this new piece off at a disadvantage.)

I decided, too, that it would be a single movement, and about 20 minutes in length. The death, a year ago, of Louis Andriessen, whom I knew from his time as a visiting composer at the University at Buffalo while I pursued my doctorate there, determined the symphony’s largely elegiac character. By 4 October, I had the piece at about the ten-minute mark, at which point it had absorbed Marginalia, the brief imitative chorale (a character which made its incorporation musically organic) in the middle of a suite of short pieces, the Opus 96, one of any number of works I wrote with a specific colleague in mind (and, indeed, on invitation in this case) but which went nowhere. After a brief period of going back and forth on the question, I decided that I would go ahead and allow the Symphony № 3 to cannibalize all three pieces of the Op. 96, the first of which was itself an adaptation of the Opus 25 toccata, Lutosławski’s Lullaby, which has only been performed twice as a piano piece. In January, I composed the brief conclusion of the Symphony, and over the past two weeks, I have completed the process, and so now the Symphony № 3 for strings in memoriam Louis Andriessen is finished.

I seem to have reached a place in my substantially-unrequited journey (it cannot be called a career) as a composer, where completing yet another piece on spec gives me scarcely any joy. I feel, in rather a cold way, that it is good to have finished the piece. Normally in the past, I should then be eager to set to writing another piece. At this point, I might finish the Opus 169 organ pieces, but almost none of the dedicatees of the pieces already finished have even acknowledged the piece I've sent to them. So here is a project where (I thought) at least the people for whom I've written them will have use for them, but I find I was (perhaps quite pathetically) apparently mistaken, and I think I need to ask myself, why write music which no one needs? So maybe the Opus 169 is complete at seven pieces.

There are many respects in which Life is very much different than I had imagined and hoped when I was young and fresh. I have to admit that the Universe's sustained indifference to my work may be starting to wear upon me.

So, I simply do not know.


Anonymous said...

It is tougher than tragedy to be a composer. Musically, it’s the hardest thing to do and is the most difficult in which to gain recognition or financial stability. That’s why I don’t write more. But alternatively, despite my skill at it, maybe I’m not a composer. However, you are because you MUST compose. Ernst Toch famously said “I do not write; I am written.” Those who are compelled to write no matter what, they are true composers. And that’s you.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Can you provide a link to your composition? I’m curious what you’ve been up to. Maybe some listener feedback would give you a lift.