Thursday, March 5, 2015

March update and Nightbreak

The bad news is that this post is overdue.

The good news is that I wrote music for at least 30 minutes a day EVERY day in February. I would post my exact stats, but I write this post as I am traveling and left my log behind. At any rate, I am pleased with meeting my goal for February. In the month, I finished writing a new choral piece. So far, I don't have any plans for a performance (yet!), but it feels good to have a second piece completed for 2015. Wouldn't it be great to complete one piece each month? Then, I'd have TWELVE new pieces by the end of the year. I'll make this my "stretch" goal for 2015.

So now I have begun sketching ideas for a wind ensemble. I am thinking it would be fun to write a short suite for wind ensemble. We'll see where my new ideas take me. . . .

And more good news: Just last week I received a package in the mail from Benjamin Locke, the conductor of the Kenyon College Chamber Singers (who are currently on tour--check their schedule here), with their latest CD, which contains a high-quality recording of a piece I composed called Nightbreak. It is a setting of poetry by Adrienne Rich. I'm really grateful for the recording. I share it with you here:

Monday, February 2, 2015

Wrapping up January, and Abnegation for bass clarinet and harp

February is already upon us! In spite of increasing demands at work, I managed to write music for 27 of 31 days in January. I'd love to say I had 31 for 31, but alas, no. Still, I am honoring the idea of GREATER THAN ZERO (thanks, Kate!) so 27 of 31 isn't bad at all. On average, I spent 43.4 minutes per day writing music. Cool! I hit one roadblock--I am so very close to finishing this song cycle, Chansons Innocentes, but I need to finish writing a piano accompaniment for one of the songs, and it isn't going particularly well at all. On the other hand, when I was frustrated with that project, I had been reading some poetry and ended up writing a sketch for a brand new choral piece, and I like it a bunch! Awesome! It's over half written, so I'll probably be wrapping that up in February. In the meantime, I need to write to the copyright holder of the poetry and hope I am able to get permission to use the text!

Since I don't have any recordings of my newest music to share at this time, here is a recording of a live performance of Abnegation from a few years ago. I originally wrote the piece for contrabassoon and harp in 2000, and later arranged it for bass clarinet and harp. Jeanné Inc. published it in 2009. This performance took place at Kenyon College in 2010 (Bob Milnikel, bass clarinet, and Holly Bacon, harp). Enjoy!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Another Ecstatic Opening Out, and the beginning of 2015

The New Year is off to a good start for me. I have worked on my current music project--a song cycle for soprano, clarinet, and piano--every day, and plan to work on it daily until it is finished. And I already have three ideas for new composition projects, but more on those later.

For 2015, to date I have averaged spending 70 minutes per day on the project, which exceeds my daily minimum goal of 30 minutes per day. Things may change as my work schedule picks up, but I am glad to have gotten the New Year off to the right start. And I am committed to writing EVERY DAY of 2015. It helps having already established a daily writing practice with NaMuWriMo back in November!

What's more is that I am regaining my confidence in my own creative abilities, and good things are happening. I recently learned that a piece I'd written for flute, violin, cello, and harp was recently selected for the Locrian Chamber Players' 2015 Season. It is called Another Ecstatic Opening Out, and I wrote it back in 2009 when I was on sabbatical leave at my last job. Here's a recording of the piece performed by a different ensemble in 2010. The piece starts very softly so turn up your volume and be patient for the gradual dynamic increase that takes place over the next nine minutes. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vestiges, mvt. 3, and wrapping up 2014

Hello friends!

The year is coming to an end, and as promised I am checking in to post about my progress this past month. I have worked on my song cycle for 29 of the 31 days of this month, and I am really enjoying my daily music writing practice. I hope to keep up daily writing in the new year.

As for the song cycle I am writing, it now has a name: Chansons Innocentes, after the set of five poems written by E. E. Cummings, which I am setting for soprano, clarinet, and piano. I am very excited about this work. I am not quite finished with the first complete draft of the entire cycle, but I am pleased with the progress I have made toward its completion in the past two months. In December, I wrote most of the remaining song called "little tree," which will be the third of five songs in the cycle. I am eager to share my sketches with Emma Rose Lynn, for whom I am writing these songs.

Finally, before I sign off for 2014, I received in my email inbox today a link to an audio recording of Vestiges, third movement, which was performed back in October by the Saint Helens String Quartet. I was delighted with the musicianship of the performance, which I was unable to attend in person. I uploaded the audio to youtube so I could share it with you:

This movement is the third of four, which I wrote for Robert Lombardo, in memory of his late wife, poet and playwright, Kathleen Lombardo.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Checking in: Weeks 3–4 of NaMuWriMo

It is the last day of the month, as well as the last day of NaMuWriMo, the challenge I set for myself to write music EVERY DAY for at least 30 minutes. Traveling around the Thanksgiving holiday threw me off more than anticipated, and I must report that I have written music 28 days out of the possible 30--missing two days. Still not bad--and certainly GREATER THAN ZERO!

So I now have sketches for the following parts of the song cycle I have been writing:

Prelude (partial sketch)
I. "in just" (about 2/3 completed)
II. "hist whist" (complete)
IV. "why did you go (little kittens)" (complete)
V. "tumbling-hair" (complete)

So to complete the cycle, I have to finish composing the prelude and first song ("in just") and write the entirety of the third song of the cycle ("little tree"). This is not a bad level of productivity for just one month of composing, almost every day for short periods of time. In fact, I surprised myself in being able to write as much as I did. Cool!

Other lessons I have learned through this challenge:
  • Writing something is better than writing nothing. GREATER THAN ZERO!
  • Sitting at the piano and writing nothing is better than not trying at all.
  • I had very few days that felt entirely uninspired, and even on those days I managed to scribble down a couple of half-hearted measures. I never wrote NOTHING (how's that for a nice double negative?).
  • I do best when I write in the morning before I go to work.
  • I really do enjoy writing music. 
  • I shouldn't let fear of criticism prevent me from writing music.
So what is next now that this challenge (and month) is done? Well, for starters, I still need to finish writing this song cycle. I have set a reasonable goal for December to finish my rough sketch of the remaining movements, put the entire cycle into music notation software, and revise it a bit. Then I will send it to the soprano for whom I wrote the piece and see what she thinks. Hopefully, she'll like it, and we will be able to make some plans for a future performance. I'll post again before the end of the year to make good on my goal and STAY ACCOUNTABLE. And who knows what challenges the new year will hold!?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Checking in: Week 2 of NaMuWriMo

So far, so good, my friends. I am 16 for 16! So far this month I have written music for at least 30 minutes per day, which is the goal I set for myself. Cool!

At this stage, I have written almost three complete songs. At the rate I am going, I may actually be able to finish the entire song cycle I am writing (settings of five poems by E. E. Cummings for soprano, clarinet, and piano) before the month is over! Awesome!

I have been keeping track of my daily progress. Here is my log for the past week:

Date Minutes Measures
10-Nov 32 7
11-Nov 30 7
12-Nov 30 8
13-Nov 31 5
14-Nov 32 4
15-Nov 32 12
16-Nov 41 9
TOTAL: 228 52

So it seems I have increased my productivity since I last posted. I am averaging fewer than five minutes for each measure I write, as opposed to my last post when I averaged closer to six minutes per measure. (Granted the song I was writing then had more intricate counterpoint than the songs I wrote this week, but still . . . whatever!)

Thanks for reading my post. I appreciate your support!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Checking In: Week 1 of NaMuWriMo

As of November 9, I am nine for nine out of days in which I composed for a least 30 minutes/day. Cool! So far, I am meeting my goal. I don't quite write five measures a day every day (some days I write as few as three partial measures, but other days I have written as many as 14 measures!) But--whatever--it isn't about the number of measures I write, it is about writing something, anything, each day.

And the best news is that I finished my first of five songs for the song cycle project. Awesome! I am going to wait until next month to put it all into the computer notation program (right now it exists as handwritten pencil on manuscript paper, but it is A COMPLETE SONG MANUSCRIPT). And now I can move on to the next song in the cycle. I already have a partial sketch of ideas for a vocal melody, but at my next session I'll move forward on it.

What I have learned by doing this daily practice so far:

  • I write when I make the time for it in the morning.
  • I started out very slow at first (3 measures, then 4, then just 3), but now that I am in a regular habit, I am more productive (i.e., write more music) with the time I have.
  • It helps to have a supportive partner. Every morning she has walked the dog or given me time and space I need to create. Thank you, Kate!
  • For the first time in awhile, I am REALLY ENJOYING composing and I look forward to each morning session I have.
I'll report again next week, with hopefully similar success!

Statistics for week 1, plus the weekend, if anyone is interested:

Date Minutes Measures
1-Nov 31 3
2-Nov 32 4
3-Nov 31 3
4-Nov 36 3.5
5-Nov 37 6
6-Nov 40 13
7-Nov 31 4
8-Nov 32 5
9-Nov 50 14
TOTAL: 320 55.5