Monday, August 9, 2010

A Brand New Song

I just love the smell of new music on the computer.

Today I received the finished score of "To a Stranger," a piece I commissioned from composer David T. Little.  The commission was made possible by a very generous grant from the Walt Whitman Project (Greg Trupiano, Artistic Director) in Brooklyn, and pianist Tyson Deaton.  It's a unique piece that, I think, captures the meaning of this poem.

The piece came with an interesting note from its composer saying,
In an odd way, this song is as much a stranger to me as the characters it discusses are to
each other. That is, I can’t say that it is recognizably my music, to the same extent that
another piece of mine would be. Still, as I was writing, I had a strange feeling that we
knew each other—this piece and I. That I knew what was to come next, though I didn’t
always know why; that the piece and I knew each other’s secrets, though it still felt slightly
foreign. Though this is nothing like I had ever experienced before, I suppose it’s fitting,
given Whitman’s words.
When I spoke with David this afternoon in a little Lincoln Center cafe in New York, we discussed how the piece captures a "subway moment" of one person seeing another and in an instant the thoughts expressed in the poem shoot through their head.  I'll talk about this more when I discuss the poem in a few days, but that moment was very much on Little's mind while he composed.  I think the music captures the formation of those thoughts and I can't wait to dive into it when I return to Knoxville.

It's a rare treat to begin work on a piece of music days after its completion.  I look forward to continuing the collaboration with David, Tyson and Carol!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Text Discussion #12: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd - Memories of President Lincoln

William Neidlinger only sets the first verse of "Lilacs" in his song "Memories of Lincoln."  Rather than wade through all sixteen verses here, I am only going to discuss the verse Neidlinger set.  Some great criticism of the whole poem can be found here, and the whole text can be found here.

Lilacs at sunset in Ft. Tryon Park, New York.
Photo from berk2804 on flikr.
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in
          the night,
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilacs blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.

A Change in Personnel

A quick little update regarding personnel for one of the performances.  Due to an unforeseen conflict, Carol Zinavage will not be able to perform with me on October 14.  Because of scheduling conflicts with the hall, among other requirements, I was not able to reschedule for a date where we were both free.  So, Tyson Deaton will now play this performance.  Carol will still prepare the program with me and remains a vital part of the team I've assembled for these performances.

A HUGE thank you goes out to Andy Wentzel and the faculty at UT for being flexible with me on this issue!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The First Rehearsal

I mentioned earlier that today was the first rehearsal for the recital with piano.  Well, it happened, and it was good!  It went much better than I had expected.  Those expectations aren't knock against the fantastic Carol Zinavage, I mean it to say that with repertoire like this, one never knows what putting the pieces together is going to be like.

Fortunately, we were both prepared and got through the Rorem, Richard Pearson Thomas AND the Urqhart sets in about an hour and a half.  If you're familiar with the Rorem pieces, you know they are very difficult individually for both the pianist and the singer.  Putting the two parts together is even more difficult due to the way they are sometimes set against each other and the close harmonies that result.  The Thomas pieces are even more problematic with the thick textures and complex rhythms and harmonies.

With "new" music, it's always interesting to go into a first rehearsal like this.  Usually there are few recordings available, if any, or those that are available are not good resources because (speaking generally) one performer is not prepared, the recording used an older edition of the score, or the quality of the recording is so that you can't really get anything from it.  So, you're going in a little blind, which isn't always a bad thing.

With that, I'm happy to provide a positive update and say that I'm very happy with today.  Being much further ahead of where you thought you were is always a pleasant surprise!!