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Afterglow continues...

I keep trying to shift my focus to holiday shopping, and packing for our short trip to NYC for lots of singing around the piano, but find that I'm still hearing my piece in my head off and on, and dreaming about parts of it, and assimilating the rich experience I had attending rehearsals and then multiple performances of Celebration of the Deep.  My head and heart are so full of all that happened I'm finding it hard to write about!

Saturday's performance at the church was glorious, the overall best the piece has sounded; I was so pleased, and my Mom was proud!  My two sisters as well - it was grand to have my family come from Oneonta for the event.  Working out the kinks Friday night and Saturday during the run-through was the sort of fun challenge and on-the-spot problem-solving that I love.  All the musicians were doing all they could to give the music their best, hearing how the acoustics of the church needed to change how they played, assimilating the parts that they h…

performance at Cayuga Ridge nursing home last night

First I've heard the whole program, including Saint-Saens bassoon concerto (orchestrated by Cayenna from sonata for bassoon & piano), lovely Brahms for lower strings & woodwinds, horns, plus tricky Elgar.  I still get a kick out of my piece referred to as "the Boel".  Like "the Brahms".

My piece suffered a bit from missing players - both the pianist and the contrabass players were absent, though we had 4 horns, and a fuller woodwind section (only missing the second bassoonist).  Luckily Cayenna asked Diana Geiger, the assistant conductor to play the bass part on the piano, so the parts with the string accompaniment had the downbeat present.  And overall it is coming together well!

Interesting phenomenon (missing parts) that all the players are doing really well with - and I can just hope that this flexibility can continue - there are parts that will be heard only on Saturday - timpani, xylophone, second bassoon, and I trust that hearing them for the fir…

Second attendance at rehearsal of Celebration of the Deep

The conductor Cayenna led a fun and moving rehearsal of my piece this last Wednesday - for one thing she had the woodwinds sitting in front of the second violins and violas - it was great to hear their parts sounding from ahead of the inner strings.  I like how she changes things up in interesting and educational ways.  Educational for me, at least!

The ICO started playing from the middle of the piece, what I think of as the climactic full section, and proceeded to the end.  When they got to the melody of the deep part that comes in towards the end out of quietness, out of all the commotion that came before, tears came to my eyes!  I hope that other listeners will be moved by this piece as well.

In case you wondered, it is hard for me to feel responsible for any of this beauty.  Yes I remember writing down lots of stuff, working hard on the score, listening inside for inspiration and correction and making the flow of music true to some sort of inner compass.  But the final result?  Th…

Lead-up to first rehearsal...

Apparently I am going in reverse now, from most recent to less recent... 

So I can see that I also neglected to write about the lengthy process of preparing parts for Celebration of the Deep - yikes!  Proof-reading the notes and markings, and then trying to put little musical cues into the parts, so that each instrument might have some idea at the end of a long rest, just where their entrance was supposed to fit into what else is going on... 

Maybe I get too wound up about this part because of coming from two backgrounds:  1) as a singer, it is typical to see all the other parts (in choral music) plus piano accompaniment, and as a violinist, in orchestra we play often ALL the time, so there are NO rests!  No doubt the other instruments get used to counting.  I know I watched a percussionist doing a two-handed counting scheme that made me think of an abacus when he had a VERY LONG break before his next entrance.  Good idea.

As a performer in my string group Water Bear I noticed that in…

Heard The Deep played!

Well it was an exciting evening, a couple of weeks ago - I attended an early rehearsal of the orchestra and heard them play through my piece...  I enjoyed hearing the live instruments SO much!  Plus, finding out that the beginning motif in the strings that I was worried about - it sounds fine!  Although I guess the urge is to make tremolo sound sinister instead of playful waves, but it seems to WORK, and that is the main point.

The horns were all together for the first time playing my piece, and again they sounded good.  Cayenna is having them move to the front of the orchestra like soloists do who are featured, which I hadn't imagined for some reason... maybe I think the instrument is not easy to carry so we shouldn't make them move.  But is is great to be able to see AND hear them play.

Not all parts were represented, I'm not sure when the full personnel will be able to attend rehearsal - and I was musing how it must be tricky to be playing the piece, having no idea how …

Heal Yourself!

Okay, so I actually mean "Heal Myself", but in case you're wondering, this is what I've been working on this summer... my family doctor believes I have fibromyalgia, and I've had constant headaches for years now.  I'm trying many different approaches, including eating a nutrient-rich diet (Dr. Fuhrman), thyroid hormone replacement (which seemed to help but then made me feel worse even though the tests were still in the "normal" range), and probably most important: going gluten-free two years ago.  Exercise also helps, especially in water.

The latest idea I'm trying is to deal more directly with my back-of-head pain, by pursuing bodywork (the always wonderful and nurturing Sondra Hartman) and C1-C2 adjustments to encourage re-alignment of the top of my spinal column...  this is as well as growing muscles between my shoulder blades (mid-trapezius, lats) so that I use my arms with solid backing.  :)

Yes overall I am feeling improvements!  But I'…
Here's some wonderful music I collaborated on with the amazing Chris Weingarten awhile back, finally "finished".  I'm proud of my violin-playing, which is entirely due to how well the music Chris created engaged me.

First Page of Celebration of the Deep

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Friends, I forgot to tell you how I've changed the beginning of Celebration of the Deep!  I was tormented over how busy what I had written might sound, and for what purpose?  Really I wanted the french horn melody to shine over everything else.  And I seem to have a tendency to want to start every piece with a drone, why?  And I heard the opening of the second act of Tristan und Isolde by Wagner, where for what seems like a long time, all we are hearing is solo brass, maybe even one instrument at a time at first.... hm....  and so, I changed The Deep so that it starts with solo french horn, and THEN the strings come in... and I'm having them use tremolo bowing for the waves hitting shore effect (we can only hope...).

The Deep and the Greens

On Friday I sent off the much-improved score of The Deep to Cayenna for her feedback and comments, after making sure that no "bare" notes remained...  dynamic levels EVERYWHERE, lots of dots and dashes and crescendos and decrescendos, and I'm happy to say that she is pleased with it! "This has really developed!! I think the orchestra will enjoy playing this a lot." were the first words in the email.  Yay!  I worked up to this by first sending the score and an mp3 of my computer playing it, to my sister Alice, who is also a composer, and she was very enthusiastic about it, so that built up my confidence...  and I have to say that Cayenna continues to be for me a fantastic collaborator in bringing my music to life in performance.  What a gift she has, and how blessed we are in this community for all her efforts! 

And now today has been filled with washing and chopping up greens for 2 big salads, and chopping and cooking kale & swiss chard stalks without the…

Time Elapsed Composing

In the last 6 weeks I think I've been able to spend only about 10 hours on The Deep, some of that time spent studying the score for flaws (and let me just say what an overwhelmed state of mind THAT little exercise led to!). Mostly issues of No Time for the Winds/Brass To Breathe.  They need some Rests.

But in the second half of April I went away to Harbin Hot Springs Retreat, to soak in the wonderfully relaxing and rejuvenating warm waters, do lots of meditation, eat great food prepared by their capable chefs, sleep & hike & explore & stretch.  I Rested!  And healed - I had a cranio-sacral session with Jim Gilkeson that opened up my own ability to breathe deeply, plus feel grounded and connected.

So I've been worrying about all the work necessary to create Rests for the winds/brasses in The Deep, but while at Harbin I came up with a strategy: Separate out the winds, instead of having one staff for flutes, one for oboes, etc., have Flute 1 and Flute 2, Oboe 1 and O…

the deep part of The Deep, and art vs. technique?

Friends, I got tired of my own procrastination and worrying over who is going to play the deepest notes in my Celebration of the Deep.  Originally written for an altered double bass that is tuned down a fourth so that the lowest pitch was B 3 octaves below middle C, I've struggled with what instruments in a "normal" orchestra can play that low.  Contra Bassoon, Bass Clarinet, and yay, Piano.  The Ithaca Community Orchestra has access to a piano in their rehearsal and performance spaces, so this is a possibility.  No one who has a low reed instrument, would have to be borrowed.  So this morning, very nervously, I went to see if the piano at the performance space has a functioning low B.  It does!  It even sounds pretty good!  So I am one very happy camper.  I will try Cayenna's conductor/director's idea of doubling that low line with the alternating of two bassoons, this should make it simpler than trying to borrow instruments yes?  Simple is good! Yesterday I got…

Present Time

Last week I had an insight into how liberating staying in the present moment can really be, and why that is so.  Especially for a perfectionist.  My husband and I each hate being blamed or criticized for something we did "wrong"; recently we figured out that this is because we are WAY harder on ourselves already, even before the other person has noticed what we've blown.  And we also understood that the best way "out" is to stay in the present, where all the creativity and problem-solving energy exists and can be tapped almost instantly.

Case in point:  Last Friday we went to Oneonta to pick up my child-hood twin bed frame and mattresses in a big ol' rental van that was a challenge to drive, even for a former bus driver like me.  On the way back, we were past the last Oneonta exit when I realized I'd left a vital component to my overnight kit that could not be easily replaced.  I gave myself an instant headache blaming myself for it, started crying righ…

French Horn Choir

Managed to spend a couple of hours yesterday composing new material for french horns for a section that previously was just a repeat.  12 bars I'm working on, 4 part harmony, am aiming for a little bit of polyphony, some brass effects, hope it will be lovely and that it will still lead well into the next section!  I like the uncertainty of it all - the creativity and inspiration and problem-solving when the solution is very unclear at almost all moments.  Heck, the process is FUN!  And then I give it a rest and check back in later to see if what I wrote is any good...  I let my belly be the guide, because when it is not "right" I feel unease and discomfort in my gut.  Interesting, eh?
5 Months To Go...  :Four French Horns -- Three More Brass -- Two Of Every Wind -- And There's One (Me) Composing It All.  :)  [ Sung to the tune of "on the first day of christmas" except I've started with the 5 golden rings part. I know it is not the season! ]

More on Celebration of the Deep

Supposed to be doing some tax work this morning, but instead I stole an hour or so to immerse myself in the orchestral piece.  There's lots to be straightened out/edited, and one approach I was enjoying using is to listen to each section separately: The strings, the brass, the woodwinds.  Amazing what emerges then, including odd note/pitch errors (as well as less-than-ideal choices).  Since I'm learning about orchestration, I've been using the text by George Frederick McKay Creative Orchestration which has lots of practical advice and encouragement. I may even be following some of it!  In particular I worked on a section where the strings are playing a pizzicato accompaniment, and I wanted the chord progression to be more interesting and varied even though the basic chord structure is pretty simple.  I come from the land of folk/rock basically, even power chords with no thirds are prominent in my sound-repertoire.  But with the glories of all these instruments I've bee…

Installed memory

My big accomplishment yesterday was installing 2 gigs more of RAM into my desktop, now my machine is humming along wonderfully!  No time to do anything else, however...  Looking forward to next composing hour to be enjoyed. 

Laundry, cooking/prepping veggies takes precedence today. 

I made a green lemonade juice with my Breton Juicer: One bunch Kale, 1/4 head romaine lettuce, leftover Chard Salad Mix, one whole lemon, one whole apple cut into quarters.  Yummy!  I'm getting better/faster at cleaning the thing, too.  Plus the pulp goes into my compost bucket now, so I don't feel guilty about putting it into the garbage.  Compost bucket gets picked up whenever I need it picked up, by the wonderful Tom Shelley, of Steep Hollow Farm who needs the food scraps to make compost for the chickens being raised to give eggs sustainably.  So I can also get eggs delivered along with the new, fresh compost bucket which comes prepared with shredded newsprint in the bottom.

Happy Spring Day, co…

Yay! Worked on "The Deep"!

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Woke up thinking today might be the day, and then put on Maria Schneider Orchestra with her "Hang Gliding" piece, SO inspiring, and then opened up Sibelius and loaded all the orchestral sounds for Celebration of the Deep, and started work on the string section in the beginning.  The part I want them to sound like the ocean, including a bit of waves breaking on the shore.  Here's what I ended up with for the very beginning, Page One.  The basses have the steady deep underwater level, the cellos have the ocean swells, the violas have the more surface waves before they reach the shore:
And Page Two, the tremolo action in the First and Second Violins - that is my attempt at imitating the sounds of waves breaking on shore::
I'm very excited to hear the orchestra try this out, hopefully sometime this spring.  I'll let you know how it goes when they do.  First I need to straighten out the woodwind and brass parts so I don't have the first bassoon endlessly playing wi…

Actually opened Sibelius today

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I'm still hoping for a composing slot in my day soon, and to whet my appetite and appease it a bit all in the same step, I opened up Sibelius and my Water Flows round, which I recently re-wrote in 5 beats per measure.  It has four parts, and to sing along with it I select the first three parts to play, leaving me to sing the 4th part.  This is a good strategy to check out the reality of trying to sing it, from various vantage points, still being one person with one voice (haven't mastered the tuvan harmonic throat singing totally yet).


Just in case you need help looking at the format of this round, each singer (total of 4 needed) enters at the beginning when the preceding singer reaches the second line, which starts with a quarter-note rest then "runs deep..."  So yes obviously someone has to start!  :)  The two measure ending doesn't make alot of sense in this format, sorry!  It is to be harmonized by all 4 voices, what appears here is only one part.  Yikes.  We…

I need more memory!

Yesterday afternoon I suffered through yet another session of s-l-o-w while trying to work in Sibelius, my music notation software program.  When I'm composing I LIVE in Sibelius.  But it is nice to also be able to check my email, browse a little, maybe google something...  but NO, not with only 1 gig of RAM in my PC (running windows xp sp3).  So this morning I checked out Best Buy online to see if they had the memory I needed, then ran (drove) to the store, promptly picking up exactly the right stuff except no it wasn't the right shape a-tall, which I noticed once I got the case off my PC and took a look at the memory slots. It was for a laptop, and I have a desktop.  So then I returned it, went back online and ordered the *real* right stuff from crucial.  They even had a scan program that ran on my PC, said what I had, said what I needed to upgrade the RAM, and showed how much my performance would increase. Supposed to arrive on Wednesday.  Question to Self: "Will you b…

Am I a Composer?

So this morning I realized that I LOVE putting "Composer" as my occupation on the numerous Customs forms I fill out when visiting Tortola, BVI. I write it in, even when weeks might pass in between composing activities (other than thinking, does that count?). Or maybe the short session I had with my niece Emily in her parents' room at the rental villa counts, where we looked at and listened to several rounds she has been composing; this was spurred by my own project writing rounds apparently, including trying to write rounds in Medieval Modes like Lydian. She was trying a particularly thorny mode with a half step as its first interval, and 2 major thirds in odd places, a middle-eastern scale of some sort most probably.

It was great fun to see how she was going about the process of working on rounds. They require lots of creative problem-solving which is a blast, basically. Changing a note early on in the round has ramifications later on as you can imagine, but hearin…
Just got back from glorious sunny & warm vacation on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, where my family has gone for a week or two each winter for a few years now... while there, I did some thinking and planning for my orchestra piece "Celebration of the Deep", still struggling to figure out how to get the strings to sound like the ocean in the beginning. Since I was AT the ocean while on Tortola, thought it would be a good time to brainstorm, and it was. I realized that the waves are heard from the left, from the right, in stereo that is not at all matched up. So from that, I got the idea of alternating what section is providing motion, while the others hold on steady long bows, or maybe just detache bows on the same note rather than a wavy up and down a fourth kind of thing. Hm. I can see I should attach pictures of what I'm talking about.

I want the "ocean" part to be there, but not to draw too much attention, since I want the theme of the deep,…