Labors of Love

 

Like so many hopeful young students of composition, my initial output was slow, often writing from piece-to-piece, occasionally encountering a dreaded “fallow period”. By about my fourth year of study, I noticed that I was not able to keep up with ideas. In fact, there are two unfinished projects that originated in the mid-70s that I still think would be amazing.  From that time until present-day, I have consistently generated these Labors of Love. Often, when I am working on a particular piece, other ideas present themselves in one of two ways:

  1. When I am developing material intended for a given project, I may generate ideas including themes and formal procedures that do not belong in the work at hand.

    1. Fun historical fact: As Brahms labored for years on his first symphony, he initially considered and rejected material for the symphony that was subsequently used in the first movement of his first piano concerto AND from sketching the same work, generated music that formed a basis for the 2nd movement of Ein Deutsches Requiem

  2. While I am focused on the composition of a given work, my sensibilities are tuned to creation, but will sometimes take a break from the specifics of the work at hand, stimulating a new piece that is significantly different.

 

It’s not uncommon for me to hear a new piece while I’m attending a music concert, even though the music I hear in my head is radically different than the music currently being played in the concert. I believe this inspiration comes from the charged atmosphere of a live music presentation. 

Here’s an example:

 

A couple of years ago, I attended an engaging concert by percussionist, Drew Lang. After intermission, as the audience was still settling down, some people continued whispering as Drew began a piece with a VERY quiet opening. And, while I can't recall the exact words, one of the whisperers uttered something that registered as intriguing and serious.

Rather than being annoyed, I was struck instantaneously with the following idea for a piece:

  • A large percussion ensemble.

    • Most (if not all) of the instruments on stage must be capable of producing extremely loud dynamics.

      • At no time, will the instruments on stage play louder than piano. In fact, most of the time they are just barely audible.

  • There will be whispering in the audience. The whispering will be sporadic at first.

    • Over time, It will become apparent that the whispering is an integral part of the piece.

      • I anticipate a rhythmic phrase, an ostinato, or a clear sonic convergence will be shared by the whisperers and the percussion ensemble

      • I don’t know what they will whisper yet, but it must be intriguing and serious, NOT a joke.

        • Update: I have been collecting the last words uttered by well known persons: They are by turns beautiful, touching, sad and chilling

      • I am also intrigued by the idea that different members of the audience will have a different listening experience depending on where they are sitting.

 

 

I am very excited about this idea.

Also, I think about music all the time, including occasions when I just listen for possibilities. Someday, I will try to describe my compositional process on this website.

 

I have about 100 of these Labors of Love.

Listing and describing each Labor of Love is going to be a work in progress. 

Check back often.

These are a few examples of past Labors of Love:

Cumulus Nimbus

 

An Die Ferne Geliebte

 

The Coma Concerto