30 September 2023

New Piece Performed, Newer Piece Written

Twitter freezes when I try Liking the Dalai Lama’s tweet about International Peace Day. That is all.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Oscar Levant, Once I was going over the speed limit and a cop stopped me and gave me a ticket and told me what mileage I was doing. I said, “But I was humming the last movement of the Beethoven Seventh Symphony,” and I sang it to him, in its furious tempo. Then I said, "You can’t possibly hum the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and go slow.” He agreed. I didn’t get a ticket.

— Oscar Levant, Memoirs of an Amnesiac

In April, my friend David Bohn initiated a fresh Fifteen Minutes of Fame call, this time: “Fifteen Minutes of Meditation and Contemplation,” for a Japanese instrument, the taishogoto (or Nagoya harp.) I wrote The Welcome Silence Which Means He Will Soon Be Gone. Today was the streamed event. During the after-performance chat, one of the composers asked about future calls. Robert Voisey mentioned a call for scores for saxophone quartet whose deadline is today. As a result, I spent the afternoon drawing up Thinking of Rahsaan for submission. We shall see. In the past, where there has not been a personal connection, I have not had any success with the Fifteen Minutes of Fame calls. But you never know.

27 September 2023

Lighter Heavy Metal? Nylon Maiden

No one will make you smile in quite the way a younger brother does when he writes, “I have a knack for making the women in my life angry with me, but I’ve reached new heights.”
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Flatulence was “part of our discovering the true West.”

— Mel Brooks, on a famous scene from Blazing Saddles

Whether wuthering or windy, in the wake of the remnants of the recent hurricane, I’ve been randomly revisiting the DVDs from the Genesis boxes: It’s not that Wind and Wuthering is my least favorite Genesis album, exactly. It’s not an album I generally think, “Gee, I want to listen to that one.” Let’s say that it's an album with nine tracks, three of which are among my least favorite Genesis tracks. If that means that I owe Tony Banks an apology, I shall certainly consider it. This sub-conscious consideration seems really to work to the album’s disadvantage. The pity of that is that the tracks which I do like on the album, I really like. And what is more, I’ve just discovered that I like “Blood on the Rooftops” and “Wot, Gorilla?” much better than I remembered them.

25 September 2023

Flutish afterthoughts

For the record (not that this will surprise any who know me) I reject the Can You Top This? model of Music History.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

It is well that war is so terrible; we should grow too fond of it.

— Robert E. Lee

In January of 2020, I wrote a wee flute/harp lullaby for my friends’ newborn: Pour la petite Joséphine. I reached out to a guitarist friend as to the feasibility of adapting it for the guitar. Also, when I showed the piece to Peter Bloom, he suggested substituting bass flute. Three years later, here I have finally made an attempt at the guitar adaptation, and I await the guitarist’s feedback.

24 September 2023

Airier Than Ever

Not sure just which is odder: that Amazon thinks that “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Wedding Collection” is classical music; or that there is a group of the name Vitamin String Quartet.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Don’t you fret, don’t you fear:
I will give you good cheer .

— Jethro Tull, “Life’s a Long Song”

Last night it was my very rich pleasure to hear Peter Bloom play the Airy Distillates, Op. 110, this time on bass flute at the Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church in Somerville. This must be at least the third time Peter has performed the piece, having previously played it variously on C flute and alto flute, so it is additionally a rich gratification that he likes the piece so well. I really enjoy the additional resonance of the bass flute, so this may indeed be my favorite performance of the lot.

20 September 2023

The September Fluteworks

“Look, Hamlet! There’s the rub!”—The contrarian in me asserts that Philip K. Dick ought to have titled the novel, When They Can't Doze Off, Do Androids Count Electric Sheep?
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

You have no fireside? How do you listen to the President's speeches?

— Groucho Marx in Room Service

Peter H. Bloom is playing a solo concert of all spanking-new music this Saturday at the Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church in Somerville, Mass. The creatively curated program is titled Sound, Spirit, and Séance – Excursions in New Music, and Peter’s array of sound sources includes flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, baroque flute, piano, voice, crotale, and kick drum, with but himself the solo executant. Included in the program is the Henning Op. 110 and I have provided the following program note:

Before my stroke when I was a ‘working Joe,’ I did quite a bit of my composing while commuting to and from Boston, whether by bus or train. I always took with me a three-ring binder with sheets of ready MS. paper. In August of 2012 I was finishing up a set of clarinet duos called These Unlikely Events. There were also two or three sheets in the notebook on which I’d scrawled several musical ideas, some of them for use in now-finished pieces, and some for which I had not yet found a home. At some point the idea came to me to write a piece for flute unaccompanied, for which I freely drew on motifs thus ‘available’ in the sketch book; so this quirky bagatelle is a kind of annotated commentary on a couple of other pieces. As a result, the title is Airy Distillatesairy for the flute, distillates for the derivation of materials.

I should note that Peter asked my permission to perform the Distillates on bass flute, which I felt was a truly inspired idea,

Christmas is a-coming and although the goose is not yet getting fat, yesterday I prepared an arrangement of one of the tunes for A Virgin Most Pure, for flute and piano, with an eye to the approaching Yuletide at HTUMC. My recent prep work for the choir has been in the Opus 159 folder, the current ‘Minor Sacred Music’ catch-all, but perceiving immediately that the piece has publishing potential, I reassigned it a distinct Opus № (182) Pursuant to this, I recalled a 2017 arrangement of I Saw Three Ships for clarinet and harp which I performed with harpist Rocío Rodríguez (since moved out to San Diego, and also with my friend Barbara Otto on piano. So, an adaptation for flute and piano (similarly with an eye to marketability) seemed in order. Hence the Opus 183. The A clarinet/harp original was in thje Opus 146 bucket, and now designated Op. 183a.

19 September 2023

An Accidental Contrast

Sometimes I think it’s a sin, when I feel I’m Norwegian and I’m really a Finn.
Sundown, you’d better take care if I find you’ve been sweepin’ up the barbers’ hair.
Sometimes I think it’s a shame when I’m heading for Portugal but put down in Spain.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

A painting is not a picture of an experience, it is an experience.

— Mark Rothko

I had forgotten that Alan Arkin was in the cast, so last night I started to watch Edward Scissorhands again. I could not help an aggravated sensation that Danny Elfman’s music is facile and saccharine. The saccharine character is perforce in support of the narrative, I get and grant that. I stopped roughly halfway through; I’ll probably finish up this evening. Arkin plays Dad straight, which (a) is why I later forgot that he was in the cast as he (suitably) calls no attention to himself, and also thus (b) is a bit contrarian to the cartoonishness. On one hand, Wiest is commonsense helpful to Edward, but sometimes annoyingly oblivious (why doesn’t anyone just help Edward eat his peas?!) So I’m remembering all over that this flick is an uneasy balance between witty and nuisance. Maybe my annoyance at Elfman was a spate of grumpiness, or maybe it was just the inevitable clarity of perception after my spending some of the day with Webern. Dianne Wiest entering the castle with “Avon calling!” is a nice moment, and of course its great to see Vincent Price in so apt a cameo.

Ive always liked Webern’s music (if my recollection has not gone wildly astray, the first piece I heard was the Symphony, Op. 21.) Yet, over the years I have rarely listened to his music. At one point I must have fetched in Boulez’s recording on Sony of his complete œuvre, and probably made the freshman mistake of half-listening to the lot, straight through. This week, at last, the scales have fallen from my eyes. One of the errors I committed was a degree of subconscious wishing that the scale were larger than it is. Now I’m listening Opus number by Opus number, attentively, and (it ain’t Rocket Science!) what a difference. So what is illuming and mildly bemusing is, how substantial (in comparison) are, e.g. das Augenlicht, Op. 26, and the first movement, Mäßig, of the string quartet, Op. 28.

12 September 2023

Probably, They're Just Not That Into My Work

I also dreamt that intoxicating someone so that his testimony in court would be compromised, was a practice known as “loading the witness.”
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I would like to point out that stores are running out of ivermectin so that cows and horses and sheep are going to suffer because the so-called higher species can be stupid.

— Chas. Pierce

Art is both an object created with skill but also a medium of connection. As a composer, when I finish a composition, I am pleased, yet there is a sense in which it is not actually music, until an audience has heard it. The finished score is as yet but the promise of music. When a performer creates the piece, and an audience hears it, that promise is fulfilled. There is thus a predicate connection before the music can reach the audience: the composer’s connection to prospective executants. As a clarinetist with various musician friends over the years, I have enjoyed the privilege of hearing quite a bit of my chamber and choral music performed. As a local composer with no name, the challenge has been to expand my audience so that it is a circle larger than those whom I happen to know personally. Imagine if the music of John Williams or John Adams were listened to only by people they know personally. That requires a stretch of the imagination because they are both celebrity composers. Whatever my virtues may be, I am no celebrity. If you are reading this blog post, I am grateful to you for your time and kind attention. As noted earlier on this blog, I am making an effort to send my music out to divers calls, and it remains to be seen if anything will come of them at all. I’ve also reached out via “cold calls” (e-mail messages, really) and two colleagues have responded, which is of course better than no one has responded. Here again, it remains to be seen &c. This summer two dedicatees of organ solo pieces have written to say they plan to perform their respective pieces, which is gratifying. Three people of mild acquaintance initially expressed an interest in seeing/hearing my work, but I hear figurative crickets. The negative response from “cold media” is disappointing enough. It stings a little more when you thought there was a connection. Of course, the flagship of such disappointment is the Opus 148 Band Symphony.

10 September 2023

Thinking Ahead

Walt Disney being cryogenically, erm, frozen seems to have been an urban legend all along. He was cremated, and his ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I’m both glad and sorry to learn this.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

...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 supposition, id est, in the hope that the new roster of the k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble has “legs,” I have been thinking about rep for a projected October 2024 King’s Chapel concert, and I am adapting both Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road and Jazz for Nostalgic Squirrels for C flute, alto flute, bass clarinet and double-bass: Opp. 149a & 117a. What else? Well, if by then Orlando Cela and Wei Zhao have given its première performance, Music for the Un-Hip Hop. There’s room for a fourth piece in the program, but let me not get way ahead of myself, and I’ll wait to see how Dave Zox (especially) feels about the demands of the April 2024 program prep. I have a chance to show the Third Symphony to the conductor of a regional orchestra. Of course, I’ve no way of knowing that anything will actually come of it, but the opportunity of having a conductor’s eyes pass over the score is too good to ignore. The major effort necessary was to have the score typographically cleaned up. I feel I’ve managed to do this (ideally, I should wish that a friend give me feedback first, but I don’t believe I should dawdle any more. This morning I saw to the two lesser requisites, a bio and a list of works (of course, the bio was pretty much ready off the shelf, and no, I’m not sure why I don’t have a “legacy” works list from some prior endeavor.)

Brief List of Works (10 Sep 23)

Opus 179 For You, Fuchsia, chamber orchestra (2023), 7:00.

Opus 173 When, mixed choir SATB and alto flute (2021), written for Triad: Boston’s Choral Collective  5:00. On YouTube.

Opus 172 The Orpheus of Lowell, soprano and four instrumentalists (2021), commissioned by the Lowell Chamber Orchestra for the Jack Kerouac Centenary. 16:00. On YouTube.

Opus 171 I Dreamt of Reconciliation and Harmony, flute and alto saxophone (2014), 8:00. On YouTube.

Opus 169 № 8 Sorrow and Love flow mingled down, organ solo (2023), 4:00. On YouTube.

Opus 156 It Might Happen Today, men’s choir TTB (2018), written for Triad: Boston’s Choral Collective  6:00. On YouTube.

Opus 148 Karl’s Big (But Happily Incomplete) Map to the Body, Symphony № 2 for Band (completed 2018), 24:00.

Opus 143 Symphony № 1 large orchestra (completed 2017), 25:00.

Opus 130 The Young Lady Holding a Phone in Her Teeth, double wind quintet (2016), commissioned by Kammerwerke 16:00. On YouTube.

Opus 116 Plotting (y is the new x), violin and harpsichord (2013), commissioned by Dr Paul Cienniwa, 12:00. On YouTube.

Opus 102 Sonata for Viola and Piano (2010), commissioned by Dana Huyge for his Graduate Recital at the Eastman School, 30:00. On Soundcloud.

Opus 109 Thoreau in Concord Jail, clarinet unaccompanied (2014), 30:00. On YouTube.

Opus 88 Out in the Sun, for ten winds (2006) written for the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble, 15:00

Opus 75 White Nights, ballet after Dostoyevsky large orchestra (completed 2018), 2h:15:00.