Where was I?

Dogwood Festival in Piedmont Park on Saturday. Beautiful day and beautiful chance to add to our art collection.

Angry Angler Fish, oil on wood by R. L. Alexander, Art by Alexander

Beautiful, jem-like oil painting. Got into discussion on his paintings of one of his greyhounds, Botticelli (who had a black and white face perfectly split down the middle), and his many hedgehogs. Some regret we didn’t buy the one with Botticelli on a small hinged altarpiece that he found used, then cleaned up and made into a shrine for the haloed dog.

Descensitizing, mixed-media on wood by Erin Curry, Erin Curry

The Delinquent, mixed-media on wood by Erin Curry

There is so much to see and read in their backgrounds. Small drawings, pasted images, hatches of paper strips with writing or cut from larger images, and text. The clouds of impressions that surround the subjects act as a blend of the viewer’s and the subjects’ thoughts.

Orchestral Study #4 (allegro)

  1. Orchestral Study #1 (flowing and hymn-like)
  2. Orchestral Study #2 (driving and chaotic)
  3. Orchestral Study #3 (adagio with melisma)
  4. Orchestral Study #4 (allegro)
  5. Orchestral Study #5 (variations)
  6. Orchestral Study #6 (space)
  7. Orchestral Study #7 (dialogue)
  8. Orchestral Study #8 (toccata)
  9. Orchestral Study #9 (seven interludes)
  10. Orchestral Study #10 (rupture, slowed down and from different angles)
  11. Orchestral Study #11 (a crowd, disassembled)
  12. Orchestral Study #12 (thesis)

This was the first one that I felt failure from the start and yet I’m very happy with the outcome. Composing has always been a process starting with impulsive excitement, going to studied focus, then emotional anguish throughout as sections flow or don’t or feel just-not-right, then the polish at then end (the last few day in this instance) and finally almost satisfying achievement. And then–what always happens but has not yet for this piece–a realization that I can never accomplish again what I did then/now. It’s not at all arrogance, just insecurity. Since the rock operas, I had forgotten what a trial these things are. But then I get to the impulse to start again.


I have come up with a few rules: no listening to the previous works and no planning for the next until almost complete. I don’t want to muddy the “whatever” with the impulses of what came before and what will come next. There is a slight overlap though: in the first days of the current I can’t escape the impressions of the last, and at the end of the current I can’t will away the desire for the next. Rules.

I had come into this study wanting to write a rushing vivace. I think I avoided very very fast music for my piano writing because I just could not play that fast, so it was nice to escape the limitations of technical skill. However, there were still mental limitation for this piece based on the rapidity of the ideas that I could hear… if that makes sense? And so for the most part I stuck with a more tonal palette just to sidestep the insecurity around dissonance in compressed time.

The opening melody came out and immediately felt like it needed a canon-like development. I worked from there and I’m not sure how but then decided the piece should be a rondo: A B’ B A B’ C A. The added B’ bridge came just as a halted start of the B theme that I hated to abandon because of the syncopation that ended up getting added, in a way, to the C. That weird and toneless C was intended to be a minimalist perpetuum mobile but that mood/texture started to feel bland as a prelude to the closing A, so I switched gears and went with a mash of syncopated noise.

I was surprise how much music I got out of this. For the first week or so I expected–because fast music equals many notes equals less time–it to be just 2 minutes or so. Right now I feel like this was the most exhausting to compose, but of course that’s until the next one is started.

And so my goals for the next one: a passacaglia, get more comfortable with brass, maybe add sections with the first violin and first cello, and (this is less specific) but have more instrument “swapping.” I heard in Brahms’ 1st how he would throw the melody from one instrument to another or add it to a single measure as harmonic color. I need to think about that.


Notes on Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, The Tale of King Arthur

After finishing the two Medieval novels The Decameron (~1351) and The Canterbury Tales (~1385-1400), I got the itch for more and so found my copy of Le Morte d’Arthur (~1468-1471). My brother gave me this copy long ago, I think just after he left the Army. The stories are dense (one page could fill several movies) and told very plainly, less literary and more just an enumeration of events. This will be slow going. The Tale of King Arthur is the first of eight groups of stories.