Classical Music: Journal entries January 5 & 10, 2005 by composer & pianist Laurie Conrad.
Wednesday, January 5
Myra (the harpist) came by & gave me some of her "Visions" Cds back, because I had run out. She drove me into town & we did some errands together. A bit of snow, although the roads were clear.
Went to see Claus, on the Commons, to ask if we could hold a Cd signing at his shop. He wasn’t there & the woman behind the counter suggested that I wait a few days to call him. "I just called him about a few other things, & he’s a bit overwhelmed", she said. (I love Claus. He’s a sensitive stocky Swede, a bit disheveled & very kind.) I said that I would wait.
I told Myra that once the piece for St. Michael was done, I would begin writing the rest of the Images for flute, harp & viola - & then we will record them. Myra is in many ways my muse, & with her curly hair & chubby figure she very much resembles a cherub while playing her harp. I must work on finishing up the tv show we recorded at the studio some months ago ... I wouldn’t say that sometimes I feel like a rat in a maze, but for lack of better words, sometimes I feel like a rat in a maze. A most enjoyable, beautiful maze, & I am a happy rat - but being a composer is an endless task. Those ideas never end & they endlessly unfold into more music ... & projects.
Louise’s sister Jude called today. She received the Early Songs Cd that I posted last week. She wants to choreograph a number of the songs, some 12 tone & a few of the tonal songs. I wish Jude would dance to them, but she has already chosen the dancers. I called Carolyn to tell her, & Carolyn said : "I know. My great-grandmother told me. I dreamt about it. I saw it. I could tell you what the dancer was wearing. It was so real that when I woke up I thought it was a real memory, not a dream. She was wearing a white, long-sleeved leotard with white scarves attached, floating as she moved." (I’m not sure if these were Carolyn’s exact words.) "And one backdrop was a watery blue, & another had oranges, reds, like a sunset. The dream was so real I was going to call Jude & ask her if she had already choreographed it." I told her to call Jude.
It snowed for a few hours but has stopped. Silence & the warmth of the fire as I sit here writing in this little book. The floodlight is on in the back garden, set off by the falling snow I suppose - & the topiary fir trees stand so innocently & serenely in the garden, lit from beyond - & the grape arbor covered in snow now more a roof, a balcony than an empty arbor ... The roads untouched, one can imagine the world before automobiles, before paved roads.
Bought a new yearly calendar in town today, & am now going through the old one to make sure I don’t throw anything useful out - like phone numbers. Even I am astonished at some of my notes: A.B. - very sick, send healing; L. pulled back not R. yes*; find lantern, nuts, carport; get piano polish out & orange; Millie sick, Myra have good concert/arrived safely; 5:45 dinner/allergy; missing the boat/pt; rye bread bring notebook; tree near shed. Still, it is a sort of scrapbook, photo album of the year.
2:30 a.m. Shoveled all the walkways - already four or five inches of wet, heavy snow. A few cat prints, probably Shaun’s cat Chester. No human feet & one lone car. I had wanted to work on "The Prayer to St. Michael", the fortissimo sections - but the calm silence of the night prevented it. Perhaps tomorrow.
Went to the studio & watered the plants, which were quite dry. Turned on the stained glass lamp & watched the snow fall, through the glass doors that overlook the back garden. I studied E’s drawing of Ian asleep & the icon over my wooden writing desk. Built-in wooden shelves line the entire back wall; my music scores are carefully stacked on them & some books. The grand piano, handsome & black & silent tonight. One geranium & one impatien are in bloom. The large stuffed bear still wore his woolen cap was seated at the piano bench, facing the keyboard - probably left there by Elisabeth. Diana & I did our interviews here, last summer, for the new books - & our thoughts & her cheerful, spritelike way of being still lingered in the room. We always leave our thoughts behind us, like a transparent veil. As a clairvoyant, I can say that mankind must learn to guard thoughts as well as actions. And we should always bless a room before we enter it. If everyone saw what I see - there would be many rooms people would never enter. And many streets we would never wish to walk down. Thus, shoveling the snow alone at 2 a.m., in my pajamas with my winter jacket thrown over me; the world safely asleep & resting in the spiritual Heart as I pray a simple prayer & move the wet, heavy snow from one place to another.
Monday, January 10
4 a.m. Worked a bit on St. Michael today. Filled in a few more vocal lines & wrote more of the instrumental interlude which crescendos to fff . I woke up sick today, chest, throat, head. Slept a few hours earlier tonight, while M. was at a meeting, so now I am wide awake. Will meditate & then try to sleep. Although, from where I now sit, I can almost read the score of St. Michael on the music rack - & it is most inviting, tempting. To sit in that familiar chair & write a few more lines of score ... Generally, I quietly sing when I add voice parts - the sore throat makes that difficult now, but not impossible. My pen is running out of ink, a good time to close this book & meditate. First more coal, the fire is getting low.
Tuesday, January 11
Sicker today. Outside, a gesture of snow for some hours. Worked on St. Michael , voice parts & the orchestral interlude. Without a timpani - in the string octet version - it will not have the same power or sound.
Working on the voice parts, filling in more lines, feels like putting up the shower curtains - in itself, a small task, not difficult conceptually certainly or needing great strength - but frustrating none-the-less. The score at this point is visually a total mess. I am trying to write all the text in, & there is no room for it all. This sketch turned into the final version overnight, & there are not enough staves on each page to hold it all. I might have to begin copying it out soon, into its final scoring, just to provide enough space on the page ...
(NB:Remember to record all the piano pieces, including ‘For Two Pianos’.)
I kept to the decision of running the full text through the f & ff sections - with some text fragments at the very end of the piece. Now that the Prayer to St. Michael is done, I would now like to hear it outside myself, performed. In reality, it might be a year or more before I hear it in concert. By then I will have written many other pieces & might barely remember or even recognize this one. I had better score this for both Bob’s string octet & for orchestra before I go on to another project ... Or it might not get done.
Writing out, copying the score, will take longer than the writing itself. This has always struck me as odd - there is much about this earth reality that I do not understand. Yet there seems to be a certain heroism needed for life here on earth that I do not think is found in other realms. Well, for now Eden is in my music & in my scores - & I am very fortunate to have an Eden on this earthly trek.
2:30 a.m. Continuing with St. Michael, here & there, when I can. Always amazing how one note - if the writing is clear, lucid - can change everything. Now I am merely filling in voice & instrumental lines - but even then, one note added or subtracted can change not only the texture but the direction & meaning of a passage, a phrase. I suppose the painters feel the same way about an added dab of color on their canvas. A tremendous responsibility really. More decisions. I have decided to begin simply, almost Renaissance in clarity - & then will add more lines as the piece progresses. I don’t want the score to get all muddied up, but I don’t want it to sound like a cat caught out in the rain either, its fur matted down to the skeleton. Although, there is such Beauty in that simplicity, the empty monastery, the lone icon. What I saw manifest on the ms pages that day was bare boned, simple. All too tempting, to keep adding on sound. That more complex sound will come later in the piece, then I will allow the voices & instrumental lines to intertwine & add on. No, the beginning shall stay simple, & that is that.
A good life, when one’s most pressing decision is whether to add a tenor line or not.
Diana’s new graphics for the ‘Visions" Cd came in the post today. Her letter, in her beautiful calligraphy & sepia ink, is here by me, opened & face up nearby. The coloured string she wrapped her package in draped gracefully atop it. Her letter a work of art in itself, a memory of a past age when letters were special & artful, prepared carefully & presented as a gift, a token.