Sunday, July 30, 2006

which state has the state bird of the meadowlark?

Pointless trivia or a clue to where I am on my vacation.

I am in a tiny little town visiting relatives, parents to be precise, a town where you probably had best not let the dogs out at nght so that bears don't eat them! Here I am listening to American V and classical guitar music played by a Chinese guitarist. I don't remember her name off-hand but she put out a CD in 2005 through GSP publications that is pretty cool. I do feel that the whole cover-girl art theme is overdone. It's not that she's a bad looking woman or anything but we really only need one mug shot and can afford more space for fun stuff like, um, liner notes. The album is called Si Ji, which I guess means "Four Seasons" and there's some neat stuff on the CD.

I'm really digging "God's Gonna Cut You Down", too. Cash's new album is quiet and sombre and the the most beautiful downer of an album I think I've heard in a long, long time. On the way to where I am now I studied the passacaglia in Hindemith's Op 32 string quartet. Op 32 isn't as awesome as the Op. 22 quartet but then few string quartets in the history of the whole medium are quite as aawesome as the OP. 22 quartet Hindemith wrote. I have a CD which reissued the Amar-Hindemith string quartet's original late 1920s performance of this musical gem and I learned very quickly why hardly any string quartets play this piece!

But Op 32 is the subject of study for that closing passacaglia. See, I'm working on a sonata for tenor trombone and guitar for an associate of mine and I'm dabbling with ways to create a musical arc that caters to the unique sounds and strengths of the pairing. A passacaglia seems like a neat idea for a brass instrument, especially one which shares most of the same written range as the guitar. It's a very natural set up to have a brass instrument take the tune and have the guitar take it over and increase the complexity of variations within the form from there.

In the last month I have begun an internship with a local metropolitan symphony orchestra and it has afforded me the opportunity to see how things work behind the scenes in the orchestra's music library. The work itself is nothing spectacular by itself but it afford me an opportunity to check out the scores of some neat pieces commissioned by aforementioned but un-named symphony orchestra.m I'm talking stuff that has been performed but neithernecessarily published or recorded.

It's tripppy how much music gets published that I've never even heard about and by composers whose names have never before met my eyes. I don't really know who Peter Mennin is or Pierre Jalbert but they have had works published. I have never before seen so many scores by Walter Piston, despite my knowing something vague about who he was. I think I stumbled across the parts for Part's Lamentate once. Mahler is monstrous even when you're just handling part extractions! So this internship is fun even if I am not sure it will necessarily afford a career path as such just being able to see behind the scenes and having a chance to study scores I could literally not see in any other way is cool. I mean there's literally no other orchestra on earth that has one of the pieces I am determined to study in more detail. Other orchestras should eventually play this piece, though, because it's a pretty killer piece and I went t to hear it twice. Twolocal Seattle music journalists and composers writing for weekly papers will probably guess what I mean, working on the rather huge assumption they'd ever have a reason to read my blog. :)

That is one small downside to vacations, not being able to be in two places at once. I had to skip out on the Seattle Composer's Salon in order to make sure I was properly prepared for my trip to the meadowlark state. My music doesn't seem to really fit the new-music vibe of the salon events but I like to hear new music once in a while and even if I don't care for what I hear there's a general principle of wanting to find a way to support new and local music even if I don't quite undeerstand it. The way I see it it's entirely possible people may not understand my music so it's only fair that I try to be supportive in whatever ways I can.

It's peaceful down here, very peaceful. Up in Seattle I have fun with friends but I also don't have the kind of peacefulness I have down here. Who knows? I might even have time to finish a good chunk of Augustine's City of God or John Stott's book The Cross. I might even work up enough nerve to read The Year of Magical Thinking. I had a relative die in the last year and Didion's book might hit just a little too close to home so I keep postponing the book. Didion is one of my favorites from my college days and one of the few people from whom I got an autograph. The other people are as follows

Bruce Campbell
Ana Vidovic

I didn't get his autograph but I shook hands with Bishop N. T. Wright when he came to Seattle last year and gave some talks at Seattle Pacific University. I don't agree with everything he writes but he's one of my favorite living theologians and he's a really friendly guy. He mentioned there's a book in manuscript form by Richard Bauckham that's coming out some time this year or next, perhaps, that I might have to pick up. I still haven't gotten around to reading any D. A. Carson but I suppose I should get to him later. Augustine is quite a bit of work.

Buce Campbell's autograph? Well, I love Army of Darkness.

Ana Vidovic? Well, she's a fantastic guitarist who I saw play in Seattle a year or two ago and to whom I pitched a guitar sonata in f minor. She might never play it but I'm glad she wrote me back herself and at least looked at the piece. And I'll admit that getting the autograph of an adorable Croatian guitarist just seemed like a good idea at the time. One guy at her recital told me he was going to take a master class with her just because she was really cute. I'd like to think learning something about playing the guitar would be a BETTER reason but I've never managed to set up lessons of any kind successfully since college so I don't know. Different people have different motives. :) So, Ana, if you don't play my piece I won't feel bad but if you do, cool. I still hope to pick up your next CD when it comes out.

There's also a new CD in the works by the d'Amore Duo that I'd encourage all you fans of chamber music for the guitar to check out. How I know this CD has been in the works is a matter of personal correspondance I don't feel like elaborating on. If you can find a copy of Simplicity, their first CD, try to get a copy. There aren't that many dedicated oboe and guitar duos out there so I try to keep track of them.

There's a bassoon and guitar duo in Canada I discovered a while back fro whom I hope to finish a sonata for bassoon and guitar.

Yeah, I know, I'm writing a lot about my own music that none of you can hear and considering I've gone to some length to say so little to let you identify me if you don't already know me personally or through correspondance that all this stuff may not be useful. I guess the way I see it I've already given away more than enough information for anyone at all to figure out who I am. Anyhow, if I can work through the sonata for bassoon and guitar soon I'll be happy but I've got this feeling it may take a while.

What takes longer, though, is writing a Mass. Maybe I'm too Protestant to een be bothering with writing a Mass but I get tired of composers setting the text and omitting the Credo. The ony composer who gets away with it in my opinion is Poulenc and even him I'm a little iffy about. PEnderecki wins poits in my book for setting the entire Credo on its own. That was supposed to be part of a Mass but he decided the Credo itself was too big. I sort of see his point and yet I'd love for Penderecki to flesh out the rest of the Mass anyway. Krystof, I'm certain you're NOT reading this blog but PLEASE write a full Mass and I'LL buy it. Pretty please?

SO I have only trudged through the Kyrie and GLoria and the Credo is a pretty scary text to set. I am trying to see if there are any settings that use an altered binary pattern of ABA'B'. My reasoning for using this musical structure are essentially theological and yet I need THEMES to get this structure to work The way it works is the Creed says the Son and Father are one in substance so it seems pertinent to have the Father and Son share the substance of one musical theme. The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection constitute Christ's earthly ministry and therefore require a new and separate theme. Since the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son (unless you don't agree with the Filoque) it seems reasonable that the segment on the Spirit should share a thematic continuity with the musical material describing the Father and Son. Since the Church is the body of Christ and continues Christ's mission here on earth it seems natural that the musical material of the Church, it's mission, and the hope of resurrection to come should be based on the musical material used to describe Christ's mission and His resurrection. Makes sense right?

Except that no composer I can think of has ever used such a format. Maybe Vaughan Williams comes close and an old college associate who's a music director at a Lutheran church said I should check VW's Mass in G minor out. Been working on that. Still, it's tough finding ways to get my proposed musical form to work without sastifying themes. Part of me wants to deploy a conventional incipit to the Credo as a way to spin out material for the persons in the Trinity but the problem there is that the material I'm coming up with so far is a little less than awe-inspiring. Maybe I shouldn't bother with awe-inspiring material and just work like mad to get SOMETHING done. I've got two sketches, one based on a standard incipit which is gloriously public domain and the other based on an original idea that takes up an idea from the GLoria I have written and tweaks it. The trouble is that the second idea is totally jacked up where a reasonable rhuthmic setting of the text is concerned so I'm not sure I can really use it as an introcuctory theme. On the other hand I MIGHT be able to use it as the secondary theme I had been planning to have but don't actually have. The incipit-based idea is in C sharp dorian and the fanfare idea is in E major so the two would work and maintain a tonal architecture already laid out by the Kyrie and Gloria.

I keep having this feeling the best way to text-paint the Sanctus is to cast it in the key of C major. My precedent for this is William Harris' Faire is the Heavene. Heh, how's THAT for digging up an obscure English anthem? Well, maybe it's not that obscure at all and in any case I only learned about it in college as part of a class but it's a neat piece for double choir. The idea of beginning in D flat and progressively notching out the flats to get to C major in describing the highest level of holiness and purity of the beings who worship God is a cool cohnceit. Amazingly abstract but not for nothing did my choir director tell me I'd love the piece. Yep, I'm kinda brainy in my theory that way.

ON the subject of choral music, why didn't Messiaen write more than one unaccompanied choral work besides O Sacrum Convivium? Gorgeous little piece and Messiaen is for a capella choral music the way Hindemith was for guitar, I really wish both composers had done more for that idiom than they actually did.

OKay,I have seriously rambled all over the land here. I had better just sign off. If you've read this far my thanks for sticking with me.