A Composer's Journal: February 16-24 by classical composer Laurie Conrad.
A Composer’s Journal February 16-24, 2006
Thursday, February 16
Sick for weeks. No writing, words or music. Yesterday, I walked into town for the first time in many weeks. Unusually warm and sunny, above fifty degrees. Picked up a nice check from the Bookery, which is closing, and two CDs that had not sold as yet. Checked Klaus’ shop, need to bring him a few more ‘Early Songs’ CDs. Business has not been good, and he cannot afford to pay me yet. Another shop closed and my unsold books and T shirts are in boxes, in his basement. He will continue to look for them. I told him to keep the money for all those sold, and give it to the local SPCA. He said that he would.
Wrote Bob an e-mail and told him not to despair. I will arrange for the recording of Quintet II., hopefully late this spring.
When I fully recover from this long lasting flu, I will revise the Piano/string piece for Cornell and continue with the Prayers for the Earth. I met the painter Mary Ann Loveland on my way back from town, and she asked me what I was working on. I told her about the pieces for choir and orchestra: that the first movement was so St. Michael the Archangel, for protection of the earth; the second to Our Lady, asking for Her Intercession and Peace; the third to the Holy Spirit, for Enlightenment and Healing of all the beings of earth. She said it gave her chills. I decided that whether it is performed or not, does not really matter. It should be written in any case.
Went downstairs and looked at the score to the second movement to Prayers for the Earth. Made a few small changes, a note added or changed here and there. Now I must decide who to score it for. In the end, it is a good thing that I waited to copy it out & make the final corrections. Since Spear’s string group has at least temporarily disbanded, I might score this for either stringed orchestra or full orchestra & harp, instead of for his string octet. I must decide before I copy it out, although the choir parts will remain the same. I had originally heard full orchestra for the first movement - but one cannot always just add lines or instruments to an existing piece. I will need to review that movement & see if my writing can support such a change. More work for an already sad chore. I had wanted to hear it with Spear’s new instruments. I might finally decide to have three different versions: for Spear’s strings, for traditional string orchestra and another for full orchestra. In these other scorings, I will lose much of the low bass Spear’s instruments could provide... What a pity. Still, if scored for full orchestra, much will be added.
9 p.m. I think I will proceed with full orchestra & choir, for the next two movements.
Friday, February 17
Woke up today & took out some sheets of blank manuscript paper. A quandary. Should I score Movement II first for full orchestra, stringed orchestra or Spear’s string octet (& choir & harp).
I thought of writing Spear, but he would not know the answer. At the moment he does not know his own future. Which would be easier: to take a score for full orchestra and convert it to stringed orchestra or his group - or start with his group, or a traditional scoring for strings ... Spear’s instruments use different clefs and ranges than the traditional orchestra. No matter how I do this, it will be a difficult task to convert the scoring. Then again, only a few players in the world will ever play Spear’s instruments. I decided to first score it first for traditional string orchestra, harp and choir. Later I will score it also for full orchestra; if Spear wants to use this piece in the future, he can type it into his computer & rescore it for his group, with my help, fairly easily I think - from the string orchestra version. I will write him today. Yesterday, I wrote him a short message & told him not to despair. There are other ways to raise money for projects, other than grants. Brave words, & I hope they are true . Again I think of Mozart, going door to door, to sell tickets for his concerts ...
Saturday, February 18
Copied out some pages of score yesterday. Hit a snag in the original writing, the same snag I hit when first writing it. My decision, in August, was to keep going to the end. So now I must rewrite that section. Took out a black sheet of white computer paper, wrote down the words & put rhythms to them. Still in 2/2 meter, with one 3/2 measure. I might continue the harp triplet motive, or begin to change that motive to something more dissonant & powerful, to lead into the next section. My original ideas clarify themselves again on p. 4 of the original sketch. I have many ideas now, almost too many - & I am happy that I waited to rewrite this passage until the rest of the score was written. Now that I know where I am going, it will be a lot easier to get there. The decision now is whether to throw this original section out entirely, or work from it. Best to put it all aside for now.
M. is working on our taxes. In a way, I would rather be working on our taxes.
This piece is not 12 tone, nor even in a strict tonal system - I am bending rules wherever I go. Sometimes, it is just easier to follow rules.
For now, I stare at my new pencil sketch - which at the moment looks more like a scribbled percussion score. No pitches: just stems, rhythms. With the words to the prayer written above the bare rhythms. Yet, this hastily scribbled diagram holds the answer. As I stare at the sheet, many thoughts and pitches and sounds and images swirl in my mind, filling in the blanks. It is always better to start with less on the page - that way the mind & heart can more easily fill in the rest ...
M.’s niece arrives tomorrow afternoon, and will stay until Friday morning. A long awaited visit, & I will continue to compose and copy out the score when I can.
Friday, February 24
M. drove our guest to the airport earlier & is now trying to get some sleep before work. Had little time for composing these past few days. Mainly have been pondering triplets - whether to use them, change them to duplets in some sections - or keep the score very simple. All these possibilities, open Doors to walk through, each a new universe - stars, comets, planets. Now to chose which universe to stand in. Dawn. I had better get some sleep.
Decided to keep all that I had sketched out in August.