A 365-Day Project
"We Are All Mozart"
A project to create
It's been a busy day here, doing paperwork cleanup. I keep my finances in the old fruit crate, and sort once a year. Sorting time has arrived, so I'm boring and it's best to jump right to the last of the "We Are All Mozart" compositions
Christopher Smith is a bass trombonist from Montréal, and he wanted not only a flute-piano duet for his kids, but also a bass trombone solo. The instrument has such a wonderful sound and a marvelous range, and I've had a fondness for the slightly nasal and narrow sound whose dynamics can whisper, rock or blast. The composition, Curious Crimson Glow is an intense fantasy for the instrument and the player's voice. It moves is swooping argeggios, slow and fast slides, and vocal multiphonics. Yes, it whispers, rocks and blasts -- and is a refreshing compositional shift after so many pieces for piano, strings, and winds, and no brass for five weeks. Here is the score; there's no demo of this complicated piece (the curious crimson glow is, of course, the player's lips).
Eleanor Fisher was a remarkable woman. She and her husband Ed, a minister, ran a print shop in Storrs, Connecticut, had ten children, and moved to Vermont several decades ago ... to a house far into the hills, without power or telephone. He was incredibly studied, a brilliant thinker and polyglot, and Ellie was every bit his match. She kept him and the children even and balanced, and together they worked to put all ten through college. Ed married Stevie and me, and sang bass in the choir I directed for several years. Ellie didn't sing, but loved music. We first met when she came to my door in Roxbury, Vermont, where my small computer business was looking for a secretary. Ellie had the qualifications on a typewriter, but adapted to computer technology in quite literally one day -- plus she was marvelously funny and ironic. The six of us in the company had wonderful times until its demise in 1986. Ellie went on to write the local Historical Society newspaper, living happily in a home finally with phone and electricity. Ed died a few years ago, and Ellie unexpectedly died in September, after she had commissioned a piano piece. In thinking about her music loves, I recalled her favorite hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save, and so created a brief piano prelude on the hymn. Here is the score of Strong to Save and here is a demo.
Jumping in toward the end of the project was brilliant composer Alex Shapiro, whose CD was featured in these commentaries in October. Alex wanted a kind of collaboration -- I was to write her a single minute's worth of music, just one line, and she would take it from there. We'll see what happens, but for now, here is the score to Incanta and a little demo.
Then came December 29. I had accepted a commission from the Living Room Foundation in memory of Randy Hostetler. The front page of this score to 99 Events for the Found, the Made, and the Natural in Memory of Randy Hostetler explains it all:
Creating ninety-nine events in a single day was blindingly exhausting. I fell into bed minutes after finishing them. The events are different and fun, so grab the score and try some.
The next day came a piece for Jeremiah Reilly. He wanted a little duet for cello and guitar -- tonal, melodic, he said, something as a gift for friends. Cello was popular during WAAM, and so my chops had gotten better writing for it. Two melodies and arpeggios -- yes, tonal and melodic. Grab the score to To the Secretary of Good Fortune and listen to this demo.
The end of the year was upon us. Noah Creshevsky had begun it and ended it with bookends of electronic pieces. The first was back on January 1, Graffiti: A New Year's Celebration for Noah., based on his voice. For year's end, it would be electronic as well, and again based on voices -- mine. The text was from the Song of Solomon (5:1-6), in Latin, a language Noah loves to use in his own work. There are six different explorations of the six verses woven in time and space, and from the middle onward, five words rise from the threaded text: suum, meam, suum, fructum and rore (yours, mine, yours, fruit, dew). The sixth word is unspoken. Time and date (18 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, 6 verses, 6 versions, 6 words) are all in threes. This is Voices in My Night.
But that's only ninety-nine compositions. What happened to the one hundredth? What happened was brain freeze on a piece due on November 22. It was to be composed as a recursive conversation among instrumentalists -- string quartet, wind quartet and piano. A nightmare. The piece was complicated because of the recursiveness: each element of the original material had to fold in on itself. It begins as a kind of stretto, and the pace increases. Every fragment from then on is a chip of that original, transformed, placed elsewhere, curling around again and again. The repetitions are always present, but disguised by the pattern of the original, sections nesting inside themselves. It was written in a kind of delirium, I confess, after having germinated for weeks, being completed at 10:24 on New Year's Eve. Here is the score to Horizon (Ocean) and here is a demo. Oh. Who commissioned it? My wife Stevie, in one of her great moments of revelation in conceptualizing how music might be invented outside the normal sonata-box.
And so that was my year. It will turn into a book sometime this fall or winter.
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