04 October 2023

Ear Buds, Budding Afresh?

Am I the only one to wonder if “All Along the Watchtower” is architecturally confused?
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I defy you to name me one Kubrick film, that you can turn off, once you've started—it’s impossible!

— Steven Spielberg

Well, so an old friend now has an administrative position with a regional orchestra. Last time I saw him in Boston, I asked about getting the Third Symphony in front of the orchestra's M.D.’s eyes. It was my friend’s feedback that the score needed some typographical improvement. I hied me unto FedEx Kinko’s to arrange printing and binding of the score, which I then sent. His thoughtful and detailed reply was illuming. I was desirous of the conductor’s feedback (which is yet to come.) He has, I think, more than one assignment, so I wasn’t necessarily proposing the Op. 175 for this group, though that would of course be wonderful. The gist of the present email is eminently practical: a 25-minute piece by an unknown composer is “a big ask” and so substantial a piece for which the winds all sit out is a further consideration. The reply is not an explicit request for an alternate, but it set me to thinking on those lines. Earlier on the day of his reply (while his reply was a-percolating) he forwarded a call from another organization (one, in fact, with which I have a history of non-success.) I let that call lapse out of consciousness. Yesterday, I saw a different call for scores for (essentially) chamber orchestra, “works between 8 to 30 minutes.” Somehow, I suddenly remembered Ear Buds, a score I haven’t much thought about in a while, and when I was thinking about it, I tended to concentrate on its original form for members of a symphonic band. For the instrumentation of this call, the percussion (suspended cymbal, chimes, tam-tam) needed to be reduced to a single player. I performed this task, and thus had the score ready ... before (reading the fine print, or rather, noting the paler pixels) learning that there is a $35 entry fee. As a rule, aware of how practically routinely my work is snubbed in these calls, I decline from calls which require a coughing-up of valuta, but since I had just invested the effort in prepping Ear Buds, I decided to go on ahead and submit it. It then occurred to me that Ear Buds would both suit well for the call I knew of (and had forgotten about) earlier, and forwhose deadline I was still timely, and be a more immediately practical piece for “my friend’s orchestra,” so to speak. So a piece of which I had lost sight is now out taking its chances, albeit not in its original guise as a band piece.

The initial musical idea for Ear Buds (The dream of a young man in the woods, listening) came to me while I was walking (near the titular woods, in fact) and contemplating a new piece for large ensemble. One of my regular walks passes by a brake of firs, and on this autumnal day I happened to see a youth seated amid the trees listening to something on ear buds. As I proceeded on my walk I thought, “what if I were in that person’s stead?” less the ear buds and portable device. What would I be listening to? This piece is the result.

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