And one more thing...

There might be some personal nonsense in here, too...


Saturday, March 25, 2017


It is soooooo necessary to get the basic skills, because by the time you graduate, undergraduate or graduate, that field would have totally changed from your first day of school.

I didn't even go to graduation.

Creation is a drug I can't do without.

Alright, Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my close-up.


Well, I'm done.  Graduating with my Bachelor of Music in Composition 28 years late.  I didn't even finish my piece, and don't feel I've earned it with the music I've written for this class.  But I'm just desperate enough to take it.

This all should have happened in the Fall 2016 semester, but The Universe vetoed it.  A number of things happened to pull me from the work, principally the death of my mother in late September.  I spent a few weeks in Florida handling her affairs, and upon return the "day job" work had piled up and more estate issues needed handling.  My time and energy were sapped, and I feared that my chances were dashed.

But my prof, Dr. Robert Maggio, allowed me to take a "no-grade" for Fall, and to complete my course requirements in the first half of this semester.  He has been continually optimistic, supportive, insightful, and understanding, which made working on music possible when I got back from Florida.  The fact that he's allowed me to graduate without having finished the piece is astounding — I wouldn't have been so generous.

The piece I walked in with (a quintet ostensibly to enter in Third Sound's next Cuba competition) was replaced by something honoring my mother (sacred/poetic text for choir and large ensemble), and this was subsequently replaced by a smaller, more manageable piece (back to the quintet, plus a baritone voice on text from Walden; or, Life in the Woods).  This smallest work would have been a long-ish art song, but has "evolved" (read as "grown out of control") into a 13-14 minute piece in three contrasting sections.  I don't know exactly where or how I lost control of it, but there it is.  So far I've only written 2/3 of section one, 80% of section two, none of section three, and the stuff that's "done" is ... not awesome, IMO.  Moreover, since it's unfinished, I won't be able to get it performed as part of the usual senior end-of-semester recitals.  I deeply appreciate Dr. Maggio's confidence in me, but I don't think the work I've produced for him justifies it.

Ironically, it's only now that I can turn more time and attention to writing.  The estate affairs are largely wrapped up, and I've quit my consulting job.  I've still got to get my house ready for sale, but at least composing can claim more time every week.  And Dr. Maggio is willing to work with me for the remainder of the semester, despite being "finished".  Another reason he rules.

My goal for the remaining sessions is to concentrate on just one section, probably the first, and make it amazing.  This section is meant to feel very loose and arrhythmic, with an increasingly complex texture and dissonance as the singer and piano are overwhelmed by the flute, clarinet, violin, and cello, which represent the birds and other sounds Thoreau describes in Chapter 4, "Sounds".  I think the overall plan and arc are good, and the writing for piano and voice fairly effective for the most part so far.  Some of the material in the other instruments is salvageable, but it's not coming together as a work for ensemble.  I want it to become chaotic, but a "controlled chaos".  Dr. Maggio has very kindly described it as "sophisticated", but I know that my process has been intuitive and haphazard, lacking discretion and a concrete plan of action measure by measure.  It's more literally than figuratively chaos.  Not good.

So ... more hiatus from this blog, and the opera, as I try to get this work finished.