18 December 2023

Safe Sax & cetera

Just a note that inserting "Si, Señor, hay llamas" in the Google search engine yields pages of links to Bible verses.
For anyone out there who does not yet feel that these times we live in, are pretty weird times, the following headline: LAMBORGHINI UNVEILS FIRST SUV
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

If ever I have deserved (which has not often been the case, and, I think, never), but if ever I did deserve to be soundly cuffed by a fellow mortal, for secretly putting weight upon some imaginary social advantage, it must have been while I was striving to prove myself ostentatiously his equal and no more. It was while I sat beside him on his cobbler's bench, or clinked my hoe against his own in the cornfield, or broke the same crust of bread, my earth-grimed hand to his, at our noontide lunch.

— Nathaniel Hawthorne, from The Blithedale Romance

Viz. the saxophone: I am not yet “playing” per se, but still at the “sounding tones” stage. Although my embouchure obviously cannot be what it ought, my friend Peter has furnished a plastic reed on which (while I suspect it may not be ideal for any professional player) I have no problem sounding a reasonable tone. When I met Peter at the (51st annual!) Aardvark Jazz Orchestra Holiday Concert, he offered to get together for a kind of lesson, which will be nice. This will be sometime in the New Year, of course. Mike (my physical therapist) helped me adjust my neckstrap, which is a great help. I’m finding that I need to be mindful of my left thumb on the “dead-post,” a button just below the octave key. Even more, I need to be mindful of my other fingers. I stand at a mirror so that I can see what’s going on. The first step is managing the thumb-to-index-finger “pinch,” getting the finger to curve around the instrument so that it reaches the appropriate key. This is going to be the task of a couple of weeks, I expect. This past Friday I went to Lowell to hear the Lowell Chamber Orchestra play (to name but the chief items on the program) Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Chas Ives’ Symphony № 3, « The Camp Meeting It is a mildly funny thing: I had certainly listened to the Ives before, yet there are ways in which attending the performance on Friday was a kind of inaugural hearing. I’ve listened to it twice again since (Eastman-Rochester Orchestra/Howard Hanson and NY Phil/Lenny) and it’s kind of becoming my favorite Ives score. And, of course I was not going to miss the opportunity to hear the Schoenberg Opus 4 live.

My pleasant preoccupation of getting the church choir ready for Christmas had meant that I wasn’t doing any composing on my own account. I’ve now made a start on a new piece, Pocketsful of Uncertainty. Watch This Space.




12 December 2023

Et quoi faire maintenant?

In Art, the opposite of Consistency is not necessarily inconsistency; the opposite (or, Complement) ought to be Variety.
George Harrison’s song for the sovereign of rodent grains, “Mice Wheat Lord”
I don’t think it can be time to procrastinate yet ....
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

A prune isn't really a vegetable. a cabbage is a vegetable.
— Frank Zappa, “Call Any Vegetable”

Now that the church choir’s repertory is settled through Epiphany, in theory I could set to creative work again, but I don’t have any piece I am “burning” to write. I have a libretto written by a friend suitable for a chamber opera, and in the back of my mind this has always been in the “to be written” file. The last I was in touch with my friend Charles Turner, he was working on a piano reduction of an opera. The need for a reduction, for a vocal score, a problematic, labor-intensive whose result (as Charles noted) pleases neither the composer nor the pianist seriously puts me off the prospect of opera. However, when I consider The Orpheus of Lowell, if I keep the instrumentation of the accompaniment compact, the singers can just read the score, perhaps. Separately, the first two “we didn't select your piece” notices have come in, from Voices Up! and Bent Frequency. I hadn’t had much hope for the latter, knowing one of the judges on the panel, who has been less than open to my work historically. And I have sent so many scores to various Calls, that I honestly don’t remember what I sent to Voices Up! In spite of my making note of most of my score submission activity. Exaltabo Te, Deus, perhaps, a piece I like a lot, but like so much of my work, not everybody’s money.



22 November 2023

Thanksgiving Eve Pot-Pourri

The Mirage of Figaro
Are the lemons omens?
Barberous Monk: Crépuscule for Scandal
Now, about that enigmatic song I wrote ....
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Mr. President–if I may speak freely...The Russky talks big, but frankly, we think he’s short of know-how. You just cant expect a bunch of ignorant...peons to understand a machine like some of our boys–and thats not meant as an insult, Mr. Ambassador....

— Geo. C. Scott as Gen. Buck Turgidson in Doctor Strangelove

The blu-ray edition of The Twilight Zone, improving even on the DVD release, is generously appointed with extras. Of these, what I am making a point of enjoying this time around are the isolated scores, particularly the Bernard Herrmann scores. This week I’ve really been digging Jerry Goldsmith’s score to “The Big Tall Wish.” The harmonica is especially sweet. As to Serling’s script, I have a dimmish recollection of feeling mild disappointment in the story on my very first viewing (at least a decade ago), but that’s surely no longer my story. It’s a story which ends on a note of poignant disappointment, and my admiration of Serling for having spun so subtle a yarn. Today I happened to listen to the first couple of sides of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album. Long ago, so of course I have long forgotten the title and author, I read a book about the Beatles. The author remarked on a swath of “Harrissongs” which are ambiguous in that the singer might be addressing either a mortal, or the Eternal. It occurred to me that there is something of that vibe in Harrison’s lovely cover of Bob Dylan’s “If Not for You.” I almost wonder, if Dylan were to hear it in that wise, how he might feel about it. As to my own activity, I paused genuine Henningmusick for a spell as I took thought for what to have the church choir sing out through Epiphany. Almost a month ago, I wrote of adapting The Mask I Wore Before, a piece I originally wrote for submission to the Rapido! Contest a year and a half ago. Although this was yet another instance of a contest flipping my music the bird, it’s actually just the sort of endeavor/challenge I enjoy: The organization sends you the specs (five minutes long, scored for clarinet, violin, viola and cello) and we contestants had ten days (I think it was) to submit our entries. I paced myself, to allow two days for “finishing.” I think I remember genuinely owning the piece as I sent it in, or I imagine that I did.The adaptation is for a call issued by a quintet of reeds. The new scoring is: Soprano Saxophone, B-flat Clarinet, English Horn, Bass Clarinet and Bassoon. One challenge (not at all insurmountable) is that three of the instruments in the original are strings, and there were double-stops to reconsider. I finished a week ago today. At first there was an annoying, small voice I was trying to fend off, which was saying, maybe it’s rubbish? In adapting the original quartet for five reeds, I made occasional rhythmic adjustments, added a fifth voice here and there (as opposed to simple redistribution, which was most of the task) even added a measure here, a chord there ... reviewing the MIDI export once again, after letting it “cure” overnight I’m prepared to dismiss that small voice as a heckler.



08 November 2023

One Minute of Music More

Pedestrians of the Paleozoic
A fossilized beast who feasted on unleavened bread? The Matzo-don. I cannot be the first with that.
Postcards From Red Squirrel Trail

There’s no need for music to make people think. It would be enough if music could make people listen.

— Claude Debussy, 1901

Clavichordist Monica Chew has created a Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame Call. Recently the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra lost one of the captains of its saxophone section, Arni Cheatham. The last I saw Arni was when he appeared, a little by surprise (given his poor health) at the Church of the Covenant during the annual Aardvark Christmas Concert. The piece I wrote today for Monica Chew’s call is therefore a memorial piece: A Sigh for Arni.



06 November 2023

The Latest Iteration of Here Goeth Nothing

The Orchestra of the Age of Endimment.
Thank you for not asking me not to joke.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

Some men, Lieutenant, do not want to look like an unmade bed.

— Susanne Pleshette to Peter Falk

This weekend I sent both the orchestral Ear Buds and the brand-new Cape of Good Nope to a Call. ”[The composer of the selected score will be notified by [Christmas Day.]” I also chanced upon a Call for which the “Pierrot-plus” version of Counting Sheep (a damned good piece which no one outside the composer’s near circle has evinced any appreciation) so I’ve submitted that, substantially ahead of the New Year’s Eve deadline. No idea when notification may come, the selected composer will be commissioned to write a new piece, so it isn't as if we were looking (at last) at a performance of the Opus 58. I had also sent Counting Sheep (as noted here on the blog erewhile) to a Call Down South. So at least Quijote is tilting at more than one windmill.



01 November 2023

Can You Even Believe It?

When zombies roamed the land, and musicologists openly wondered if Schubert was coming back to finish the b minor symphony
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I never met anybody who could sit through the entire Ring of the Nibelung and come out sane. Or even alive, for that matter.
— the immortal Chuck Jones

Gentle Reader, I launched this blog 15 years ago today, so happy Bloggiversary to me.

My schema for The Cape of Good Nope, formed not subconsciously, but with a surprisingly low wattage of conscious effort:
A. Opening (new, proprietary material)
B. Much of Intermezzo I from White Nights
C. the Chorale from The Young Lady Holding a Phone in Her Teeth
D. the Conclusion of Intermezzo I from White Nights
As I chipped away at the arguably “mechanical” task of importing the pre-existing passages, I certainly kept in mind further ad hoc use of the brand-new Nope material. Yesterday I made my way through to the end of C, and I thought the “quilting” went well. Things fit together with what struck me as surprising ease. Today I (1) brought in Section D. (2) modified some A. material as a “join” between C. and D. and (3) made some tactical additions to the scoring of C.

One random Art Fact, supposing it to be genuine (a game app supplied it) which arose yesterday: It took da Vinci twelve years to paint the Mona Lisa’s lips. I can readily credit it, though it does not mean he focused on this task for twelve years, only that from the initial brush stroke to the final satisfactory result there passed 144 months.



29 October 2023

Today's Report

I'm not arguing about the value of studying how we know what know. It's just that these days, I find I am more interested in how we forget what we forget.
A proposal to modify the New Hampshire State Motto to “Live free, but don’t be a jerk.”
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

When a case gets too tough, I’ve gotta talk to my wife.

— Lt Columbo the Wise

The possession and cultivation of talent will not guarantee success “in the marketplace.” Do I even yet hope for such success at this point? I’m not sure, but in any event, I still compose because that is what I love doing. Especially since I am at present separated from the clarinet. One thought which I have had for The Cape has been, to cannibalize another piece or two. Although, I do not propose abandoning/discarding the source pieces. I’ve thought of incorporating both one of the Intermezzi from White Nights, and a passage of The Young Lady Holding a Phone in Her Teeth. After my return from church today, I began by expanding yesterday's Nope through salvaging some material from the initial, abandoned Nope. And I’ve determined that the Intermezzo from the ballet which I had in the back of my mind for incorporation here is the first. I have some creative re-scoring/arrangement ahead of me (both in this, and in the passage from La jeune mademoiselle) but of course that additional creative work is part of how I “justify” to myself the “laziness” of the theft from my portfolio. Interestingly/fortunately, even before my “research” into the White Nights Intermezzi, I managed to bring The Cape to just the right pitch center. Call it Destiny. I seem to have slouched into another survey of The Twilight Zone, and this time (especially when the composer is Bernard Herrman) I’m making a point of enjoying the Isolated Score feature. While I am not literally copping/borrowing any material, the tone of the shows is one factor going into The Cape of Good Nope

I suppose I’m allowing myself to devote the energies to The Cape because I already have a reasonably solid strategy ready for the adaptation of The Mask I Wore Before.

Separately, last night I dreamt that my left fingers were managing the saxophone just fine.