Prayer to Our Lady: A Composer's Journal July 26-August 9, 2005 by classical pianist and composer Laurie Conrad.
Prayer to Our Lady: A Composer’s Journal July 26 - August 9, 2005
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Driving home from Windgarth on Sunday, M. said that Deb had had a disagreement with Larry. I asked what about ... Deb told M. that she had been walking her two dogs, Buddy and Huckleberry down the road to Windgarth yesterday, to water the gardens. Buddy trespassed onto Larry’s porch & Larry had stopped her saying, "I have two cats that are 18 and 20 years old, & they don’t need this." Deb was still outraged. Inwardly, I could see the whole scene: Deb, skinny as a rail in her usual shorts and undershirt with no sleeves, standing defiantly in the road - and Larry, short and trim and compact in his khaki pants, in his front garden.
Sheldrake, the town, is literally one crossroads, with a giant willow tree. If you turn left coming from Route 89, in a short block you are at the lake. If you go straight for a block, you are on the lake. If you turn right it is a short block to Windgarth, with two houses, first Ester’s then Larry’s. Ester & Larry both live alone and like conversation - & they do not seem to talk with each other. Although, they do feed each other’s cats when one of them is away. Beyond us are only two more houses on the cove. Beyond that, the road curves around the lake until the road meets Route 89 again, and the millionaires’ houses are to the right.
You’d think that we could all get along.
I told Deb to use the hand mower from now on, for own lawns. She said that she would rather use her seat mower, but I remained firm. M. said it looked as though a UFO had landed out back, crop circles - except Deb had mowed in whatever direction she wished, it was far to disorganized for crop circles. Some of the grass is still completely sheared off, patches of brown earth here & there. Deb admitted that when she had finished she looked back & it did look a bit odd, something must be wrong with her riding mower. Now the task is to try to stop it all from turning brown, not just the strips that are shorter than the rest ... Since one of my jobs at Windgarth is caring for the grounds, I took the main brunt of Deb’s newest creative fiasco ....
Saturday, July 30
Windgarth 1:45 p.m.
A warm day, some breeze. Our upstairs tenants are clumped together under a locust tree, near the water. They politely made no mention of the state of the lawn. Perhaps they think that is how things are done in Sheldrake, NY.
Alone in town last night, wrote a few pages worth of music. The second Prayer, to Our Lady, for string orchestra & choir. Most of the themes are now done. Now to decide on the overall form & internal forms. The prayer itself is long and beautiful, much longer than the prayer to Saint Michael. And more complicated. I left my musical sketches in town, so that I can study the words of the prayer, its overall & internal structure. For this, I already devoted an hour or so earlier today, copied it out & studied its meaning & rhythms, accents.
If I cannot find a workable form for the melodies & harmonies & various notes I have written -then I might as well keep working in the gardens ... Hopefully, by the time I return to town on Monday night - I will better know what to do.
Monday, August 1
Windgarth. Alone today, M. is at work in town & the upstairs tenants have gone out for some hours. Both little girls were dressed in matching outfits. One was holding a fishing rod. I am again studying the prayer: Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope ... I have said this prayer since childhood, either inwardly or aloud with others. Spoken - it is very beautiful. As I often do, I will let the strings take most of the melodies, & let the voices more intone the prayer, as a countersubject. A countersubject that then, over time, becomes the melody. In this instance, I have written the music first, & will add the words & voice parts later. The ideas come in too fast to be able to separate them out now. I have six pages of themes & motives & notes, & essentially it is all written. Now to make final decisions & write it all down.
Saturday, August 6
Windgarth 5:50 a.m.
Today is Cindy’s Memorial Service. Woken by the sunrise, I immediately went outside. Clouds covered both the new sun & the sky. It was as though I looked at an oil or pastel painting of a sunset, shades of deep reds & pinks blurred together in broad, definite strokes. In spite of our heat wave, I went back inside to wrap myself in a thermal blanket, the sunrise reflected in the many downstairs windows with astonishing clarity. Back near the water, reds & oranges spread out on the lake before me. The underlining of the clouds now deep rose, more like pastels I decided, leaving the upper clouds light grey, as though the artist had blended the colors with fingers or a cloth ... The sun still not visible, yet the source of all that I was seeing ...
As the sun made itself known behind the clouds, the surrounding patches of grey deepened to charcoal black ... The hills across & to the south now more like a photograph than the vibrant strokes & layers of pastels or oils. The sun itself now so small compared to the vast expanse of sky. I am tempted to examine Elise’s work in her mother’s gardens, even though I am still half asleep & also expecting that she has pulled out many flowers, thinking they were weeds. I see many bare spots, even from across the lawn ... She worked so lovingly, I did not have the heart to stop her. And now the sun itself appears, far too bright to look at, throwing its light across the lawn, refracting the silver dollar plants into innumerable small suns... I will clip some of the bushes, while the air is still cold, before the heat of the day arrives.
Sunday, August 7
Thinking back on yesterday - the party for Cindy did not really help. Cindy did not attend, she did not walk in at any point to swim, or to eat a humble sandwich, or to work in the garden with me.
It began at noon & lasted until midnight or so. I watered the gardens beforehand, as Larry set up chairs near the lake; a small table holding a photograph of Cindy smiling and a vase of flowers. A bell that we could ring, with a sign saying "ring the bell to tell Cindy that you love her." Even at 11:30 p.m. very tired children, way past their bedtime, rang the bell. It was a beautiful day, sunny & warm, & I met Cindy’s sister for the first time; she seems to carry Cindy’s Light and quiet gentleness. The children played & laughed; the adults spoke & wandered, hovered near the food tables and sat on the swing. People cried, people sobbed & spoke; I publically said that I would not ring the bell as a "good-bye", but rather as a "hello". Cindy’s presence & Light was there, and brought a magic with it that would be difficult to describe, put into words. But it was there. Cindy was there. The air crystalline, filled with Light, angels - that is all I could say to Larry afterwards. Dear, wonderful Elise & Rusty visited for some days, she & I and Rachel sorted through Cindy’s clothes; Scott & I propped up a fallen Rose of Sharon tree. After dark, fireworks at the dock, stars, a bonfire & roasted marshmallows. Hot dogs, cooked on sticks, over the flames ... Three lone candles set out on the lake, their flames visible almost until the end of the evening, floating down the lake, towards the Point. Singing, the children with sparklers. I was the only one to see a shooting star blaze across the sky ... And yet the day ended, Larry & I talking quietly by the dock ... I wished that it could go on forever ... But, it could not.
Monday, August 8
Lost our computer modem. Called Matt. He will come on Monday. Paper jammed in our printer, we need a new one. Will buy one this weekend & ask Matt to hook it up. Spoke to clarityconnect.com on the phone, trying to figure out the problem. Spoke to the fellow a bit too long & crashed from my injuries. For the rest of the day. Mainly was flat on my back in a semi-coma. Mainly meditated.
Tuesday, August 9
Back in town. Luc in the shrubbery of the back garden, watering ... His real name begins with a "B" and is a many unfamiliar syllables long. He is from Togo. We speak French together. We hired him for August, to water the gardens in town, three times each week. Still not a drop of rain, only very hot, humid heat.
Sat down at the piano while Luc was in the front gardens & wrote a few more pages of music. Began the Intro, working backwards from my first written measures. Decided more spaces were needed - it’s too crammed with melodies. Needs more spaces between and within the themes, in the choir entrances. So that they can float in & out, at least in the beginning, perhaps throughout. Decided to keep the triplet in the harp, at least for the A section, as a motive - more like Elegie. Very tonal, I dropped the row entirely for this prayer - hopefully interesting chord progressions, harmonic changes. I am beginning to glimpse the overview now. At least to section A and the Introduction. As it turns out, my sketch begins mid-section A. Well, when ideas come, we must scribble them down before they disappear. There was no clairvoyant vision to guide me in this prayer, so it is taking longer for the ideas to unfurl. The ideas are there, all knotted up in a ball, like a heavy fruit-nut cake, or a black hole. Sometimes one has to tease the ideas out, from the outer rim. At a certain point, the entire ball of yarn easily unravels ... Haven’t quite gotten to that point, but I feel close.
So far Section B is more chordal, contrapuntal - & no triplets. After I rework Section A - we’ll see.
My inner sketch for the third prayer, to the Holy Spirit, just now is brilliant white Light. I have not yet chosen a text. A few notes have emerged into view, very high & fast, a sweep really - & very ethereal & quiet, in the higher strings. Perhaps harmonics - glittering in the Light. Glittering & crystalline.
Came across an oversized postcard from Laurel Guy in the pile of papers near me on the downstairs couch. She has painted our garden again, & her new masterpiece will be in her show. August 2-31. Oh dear, that’s now. "Hope you can come - there’s one of your garden xo Laurel" is written in one corner, in blue ink. No wonder she has missed meditation classes, all these paintings are new. Impressionistic, very beautiful. On the front side of the card, a gallery with two of her paintings & then an empty frame, with Laurel standing in it, like an elf, arms outstretched, knees bent to the side in plie, second position - smiling her special sprite-like smile. Laurel is one of the most unearthly people I have ever known. Maybe JF & I can go tomorrow, I need to bring Claus more T shirts of the book cover ... A reception on Tuesday, August 30, at 9 p.m.. Must tell M..