I’m currently embroiled in two new works: a 15-minute piece for piccolo trumpet and string quartet, and a short cycle for soprano and piano.
The piccolo trumpet and string quartet, commissioned by David Glukh, is as yet untitled, but has settled around the extra-musical idea of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I started writing the piece nearly a month ago, opening with a fanfare, but I quickly got stuck. I couldn’t make the fanfare ‘right’, so I sat on it for a week or so. When I brought it in for a lesson, DDT made an off-hand remark about a choral piece of mine that he’d heard, asking why couldn’t I make this piece more like the choral one. My brain immediately took hold of the idea and ran with it. In an hour, I had restructured my plan for the piece – rather than starting with a Fanfare, why not start with a Chorale? Then have the Fanfare come out of the end of the Chorale. So, the piece is now structured:
1. Chorale Trio (Prayer to Prospero)
5. Theme & Variations
The Chorale Trio is for the piccolo trumpet, viola, and cello only. It’s a three-voice chorale, meditating on the idea of Prospero-as-god, a theme explored in Dan Simmons’ novels Ilium and Olympos. So, the piece is a little closer in inspiration to Dan Simmons than it is to Shakespeare. (Does that make the second movement Fanfare for the Little Green Man? Oh, the temptation….) I’ve scrapped the Fanfare that I started with, and am in the middle of rethinking my approach to it.
The song cycle is set to be premiered the first weekend of June (I’d better hurry!) during the Virginia Woolf Conference at the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University. The cycle’s texts are by Idris Anderson, who I collaborated with on Starfish at Pescadero in 2007, and uses the same title as Idris’ set of poems: The Long Barn. These are three meditations on the diaries and correspondence of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. The first poem I’ve divided up into 5 very, very, very short songs, each beginning with a spoken phrase (used in Idris’ poetry) from VW’s writings.
1a. …and there I lay in Swansdown and recovered
1b. My dearest donkey West
1c. You my Dark my Dusky Beauty
1d. Honey, dearest, for whom I would do anything
1e. Dearest Kentish Creature
2. What we do today
3. Vita’s Sonnet
Last Friday afternoon, after in the morning having come up with a wonderful opening to picc-tpt/str 4tet Fanfare in the morning and then having promptly forgotten it, I went for a walk down Riverside Drive to relieve some of the stress of having to write so much so quickly, and also to have left my apartment at least once before dark, I managed in about 20 minutes (I hadn’t even reached the Grant Memorial, walking from my apartment in the 140s) to write the entire first songlet. By the time I reached 110th St, I had written 1a, and mapped out 1b, 1c, and 1d.
This afternoon I sat down again and managed to hammer out all of 1b, and start in on 1c before calling it a day. Tomorrow will be spent engraving 1a and 1b. I’m hoping by Monday to have 1c and maybe 1d written.