Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One step closer

I am sitting at my desk on another very cold night listening to the friendly geriatric whirr of my faithful printer. It's printing out the 64 page draft of my piece.

Now, before anyone gets too excited (least of all, me), there are still a few gaps that need filling. The piano reduction is half-done, which is a blessing. Man-o-man what a tedious job that is! Although cut-and-paste with Finale 08 is a beautiful thing when doing a piano reduction, so it's made that job slightly less onerous than a friend told me it would be.

The harp part is mostly complete, a few more passages to wrangle. I just love writing for the orchestral harp. I remember the little pnemonic that an Eastman harpist friend told me, in order to remember the pedals, three on the left and four on the right: Did Columbus Bring Enough Food Going (to) America? Thank you to the wonderful Genevieve Lang, TSO harpist, who is happy to answer emails with comprehensive instructions - I love that in a harpist! (And a guitarist... those stringy instruments that I don't play are a little tricky.) Much more useful than being crabby at the composer during rehearsals - believe me I've had that before... not from a harpist, I might add.

There are occasional flashes of articulation and the odd dynamic appears in certain specific passages that I was obviously thinking about somewhat lucidly at the time. Sadly the timpani and percussion parts haven't featured all that prominently in my thinking about this piece. I think that's because it's obviously a choral piece, so I have really been focused on the text and how to harmonise it appropriately. So I need to have a good think about percussion next.

Pens not quite down yet, but the end is in sight. I find it easier at this stage to be able to see all the lines of the stave at one time, something a computer screen doesn't manage unless your monitor is as big as a plasma-screen television. Which mine isn't. But I'll be able to do my best Villa-Lobos impersonation tomorrow while I have two children at home, doing some composing at the dining table with the children playing around me. That is, until one falls over like the sitting skittle she is, and the other badgers me for food every twenty minutes. Ah well, one can dream of getting things accomplished.

And in case anyone is wondering, no we are still not getting enough sleep.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Title tittle

So Richard Mills's new TSO piece was called Night Poems.

My new TSO piece is called Night Songs. Well, it was until I heard Richard's piece last night.

Hmn. Should I change it?

They're both vastly different pieces: mine has a chorus in it. No theremins.

Maybe it doesn't matter. Ai.

Northern Lights

Last night I went to hear the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra play Richard Mills, Shostakovich, and Sibelius, conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing, the TSO's chief conductor and artistic director.

Richard Mills's work Night Poems opened the concert. It was an imaginative piece with a particularly attractive second movement. The novelty factor in his piece was the use of the theremin, an instrument invented by a wily Russian in 1919 and which came into popular culture particularly by its use in the Beach Boys song Good Vibrations. Anyhoo, I didn't quite understand why the theremin part was present in Richard's piece; I actually found it somewhat distracting and irrelevant, but perhaps I should have read the programme notes.

The second work on the programme was Shostakovich Cello Concerto no. 1, a spectacular piece as are most works by this amazing composer. A second dimension of spectacle was the performance by German cellist Alban Gerhardt. He appeared on stage refreshingly wearing a dark red open-necked untucked shirt with black pants and floppy blonde surfer hair. That minor detail aside, his playing was quite remarkable and there were several curtain calls at the end, encouraging him to play some Bach during which you could hear nothing except the music. It was truly breathtaking.

To complete the concert, the orchestra roared its way through Sibelius Symphony no. 1. I must admit here that I have been a devotee of this wonderful composer since my undergraduate days, when I played Symphony no. 5 in the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and it changed my life. Sibelius's music is, for me, characterised by an incredible degree of motivic development, as well as beautiful and striking harmonic language and clear clean lines of timbre. I gave the pre-concert talk for the TSO when they played Symphony no. 6 a couple of years ago - a rare performance of that stunning work - so I was looking forward to hearing another of the symphonies in concert. This early work of Sibelius had most of the hallmarks of his emerging musical voice, and although much more overblown in its orchestration than his subsequent six symphonies it was exciting to hear it in performance and follow the train of thought from the start of the piece to the end. Lang-Lessing's interpretation was intelligent, intense and musical as always.

A wonderful concert.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Perfect Fifth

Thank you Sara. This always makes me laugh out loud. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Our munchkins

That face, those eyes. A little melancholy but I do like this photo.

Alexander has decided that Lillian would make a good wrestling partner. She's always gung-ho for a bit of rough and tumble. Meanwhile Mummy hovers and tries not to shout, "Careful!" too frequently.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

And so we're well on the way, then...


Still the house of no sleep. Largely due to Miss Lillian developing a rather yucky cold. But progress is being made with reducing night feeds. And she has also very kindly shared her cold with me, so I'm sleepless and sneezy.

Trying to orchestrate and so far so good except it's so dull! I'm waiting for some flash of inspiration to imbue this piece with some flair and colour. Just kidding - sort of. Maybe you only get "dull" when you're so exhausted you can't think more creatively. But I keep thinking seconda prattica so that the text speaks more than the music.

Quite honestly I'm too tired to get all philosophical about it, I just need to make the deadline. That's all.