Saturday evening I finished work on echoes. The final days/week of the compositional process saw quite a few significant changes to the work. First, I decided to swap the first and last songs, so now “conspiracy” opens the piece, and “Kenneth’s death” closes it. It’s quite a marked difference from Mark’s manuscript, where the reverse is true. The effect is interesting. Now, the cycle starts with a pseudo-blues (with a rather delightfully shocking opening, I think) and ends with what I’ve come to think of as the “Sweet Briar Sound” – a particular song style that I first used in my Valdata songs (namely, “Fall Semester: First Frost”), and have used in every cycle since then with texts by poets I met at the VCCA (Starfish at Pescadero: “And the hills”; echoes: “Kenneth’s death”).

I also made the painful decision to cut “from the dead”. The song had been giving me grief, and I had started writing some things I didn’t entirely believe in. It’s an incredibly beautiful poem, and I hope to reinsert it into the work. For the moment, though, the piece needed to be finished, and I refuse to allow something I don’t believe in to go out into the world.

I really look forward to the premiere on Aug 19. Soprano Julia Turnbull and pianist Matthew Stephens will be the performers. Mark and his family, by a wonderful coincidence, were going to be in the area, so they’ll be at the performance. I’m meeting with Mark later this week, and look forward to seeing/hearing his reactions to the MIDI playback in Sibelius.

It’s been a very interesting process, writing this cycle. Not since my early days of composing have I written a piece almost exclusively at the computer. My piano situation (the upright in my apartment needs serious repairs and is unplayable at the moment, and my grand is currently living in NJ with a friend who has the room for it) prevents me from using a piano regularly, and I don’t have regular access to pianos elsewhere (my boyfriend’s piano is in regular use because he’s also writing for the Staunton Festival, and the City College practice rooms are where pianos go to die). As a result, I’ve been forced to rely on composing directly into Sibelius, which isn’t too much of a problem for me. In fact, I think that my non-reliance on a piano ultimately freed up a lot of my piano writing. The cycle was composed almost exclusively at various branches of the New York Public Library (Performing Arts and Hamilton Grange), and a handful of Starbucks and Cosi locations (a shout-out: the former: 86th and Columbus, and 71st & Broadway; the latter: 77th & Broadway).

Aside from a few more potential edits, this baby is ready to take its first steps out into the world.  I think it’s ready.