Wednesday, October 02, 2013
My own music, from my own troubled college years (around 1962), posted, "as good as it gets" for right now
I have posted some more of my “earlier” music on “doaskdotell.com” (link that I gave on the September 4, 2013 posting on this blog). These are three piano sonatas and a sketch for a Symphony in E Minor. All the additional documents are PDF’s.
I admit that these documents are a bit crude, but I am posting them online so others know my musical intentions, in case “something happens”. I am 70 years old. No, I’m not expecting anything. But I think it’s a good idea to start communicating where my “life’s work” is to others, so that others could work with it. I think that in an afterlife, I’ll know what is going on, even though I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
Oh, and guess what. Conservatives will love this. I don’t need the government to go on composing and working. Shostakovich did . The Washington Times and the Tea Party will love this comment. Oh, I do need financial stability, though.
The first new posting is the “Piano Sonata #1 in A Major”, which I wrote out in a neat black-ink manuscript, I believe in the spring of 1957 when I was in eighth grade at age 13. The manuscript has been lost, so I have played it on my Casio and recorded into Sibelius 7. I am definitely out of practice and seemed to have some coordination problems in my right hand yesterday. (I may have a touch of Parkinsonism, which is so mild that so far no medication has been recommended; but it seems to affect piano.)
There are four brief movements, and the intention might seem to resemble that of the Prokofiev “Classical Symphony” (#1 in D) although I don’t know my ear had really assimilated that piece by 1957. The first movement, a “slow” 2/4 Allegro, is based on a perfunctory up-and-down major scale theme, almost as if practicing Hanon, followed by another simple theme in triplets (where 2/4 can be construed as 6/8). The development plays with the scale theme in minor (remember both melodic and harmonic scales when practicing!). The second movement is a dirge or “funeral march” in A Minor. The third movement is a Minuet in A, which I think is more spirited than an 1956 E Major Minuet which “won” a minor composition contest. The trio, in D, is indeed a mockumentary of heterosexual courtesy on the ballroom floor. The Finale, in parallel A Minor, was called “Tarantella”, but was another 2/4 equivalent to 6/8 little romp. I did not provide a Picardy Third conclusion. Very few cyclical works in Major keys end in minor (the only two that I can think of are the Mendelssohn Symphony #4, the Italian, and the Brahms Piano Trio #1 in B Major-minor).
During that lost 1961 fall semester at William and Mary, I did have the manuscript with me. A friend (discussed here Jan. 8, 2013) tried to learn it, especially the first movement. After my “expulsion” in Nov. 1961, he told me (in a snowy visit to me in Arlington at the end of January, 1962) he performed the piece at home in California over Christmas break. (He also says he performed Liszt at the same recital.) He was entranced with that “scale theme”. He also said that the theme “gave me away” as gay.
The last movement ditty-like theme seemed to turn up in the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012. Before every performance, the Tribeca info played a theme that sounds almost identical to my 1957 tarentella. Maybe somebody heard that performance in California in 1961 and it stuck around for decades. But that’s me.
The Sonata #2 in D Minor, I’ve discussed before. There is one PDF of the original manuscript that was submitted to a contest in the spring of 1960 (when I was a junior in high school). I don’t recall exactly the effort of writing it out in black ink, but I must have done it around March 1960 on the kitchen table. The PDF shows some suggested notations of possible key modulations to make the music more venturesome. We had three big snowstorms that March and a lot of snowdays, and I think I was involved with choir at church downtown DC then – to the point that we even went in on Wednesday nights. I remember also writing a term paper on the role of women in James Fenimore Cooper’s novels on that same kitchen table. At the time, I was very impressed with Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, particularly the famous first movement cadenza. Every concert pianist must learn this concerto and perform it at least once.
The Sonata #3, in C, was started in December 1961 when I was home after the WM Expulsion. The copy right now is an adobe photo of a crude manuscript, and it was difficult to preserve, as I had to darken many notes, write in clefts, and the like. (I played it for a DAT tape recording in 1991 at a church, but I haven’t tried to work with it yet.) The first movement (Allegro) starts with a playful theme, and goes to the relative minor for a playful second subject. (Few sonata structures do this, but the Brahms B Major Trio does.) The development turns the first subject into a 12-tone row, and it seemed that dodecaphonic music could be surprisingly emotional. (The psychiatrists at NIH in 1962 mentioned this in the notes, as if they thought the use of a “musical formula” like the 12-tone row showed inhibition; but it’s all silly.) The recapitulation starts in E-flat Minor and with the first theme turned bombastic, and then goes to C Major for the second subject with a quiet close, ambiguous, going between minor and major, with one mention of a descending third theme to come back in the Finale.
The second movement is a “Prestissimo” scherzo in A-flat, which I cannot play. There are two trios one of them march-like with changing rhythms (in F), and the second a playful little ditty based on twelve-tone undress. The third movement, an Elegy, starts out with a twelve-tone row harmonized in E-flat minor. There follow a couple of little episodes, including a little theme in F# Minor, which came to me when my father was recuperating at home from his “mild” heart attack in the spring of 1962, no doubt related to the stress of my William and Mary “Expulsion” and self-declared “latent homosexuality”, an idea that people found so offensive (because it meant the death sentence for a family tree if you were an only child). There is middle section in B Major, which sounds like a Liszt consolation (that’s the Chorale theme mentioned on the file). It’s about two minutes, very chromatic, and could work as a church prelude. I completed the movement by hand in 1974 when living in a garden apartment in Piscataway NJ while working for Univac and traveling repeatedly to Minnesota for benchmarks.
The Finale was also sketched in 1974, and that sketch is presented here as the “cadenza”. The finale is conceived as a rondo based on a fugato treatment of a playful theme (Allegretto, C Major, 2/4), with various little excursions. I’ve entered the initial theme by hand, but recorded most of the rest in Sibelius, and photocopied the manuscript into PDF for now. There is a middle section theme in F# Major (as distant as I can get from the home key – Edward Elgar did this in his first symphony as he bounded from A-flat to D minor), a reverent “applause theme” (a name that came to me in a dream), with sliding tonality (often by relative major-minor leaps) going to E-flat, C Minor-major, A Minor-Major, F# Minor back to Major. The theme is supposed to be singable as a hymn. It rather slides “in the moonlight” (with no one to “do me”). After the playful scherzando-like material returns, there is a false conclusion (which really should be quiet), to be followed by a cadenza (just suggested here), which can play with the triton descending thirds, followed by the Epilogue, a Majestic setting where the F# Major “Applause Theme” goes back to C Major to stay (through D Major, back to F#, then A-flat, then E-flat, C minor and C Minor). The very end is supposed to play on mounting diminished seventh-ninth etc chords, before the Sonata crashes “FFF” to a close on octaves with the descending third motive. A couple works that influenced this: The way Sir Arnold Bax closes his Fifth Symphony, and a similar idea at the end of Havergal Brian’s Third Symphony (both of those works are in C# Minor).
The “Symphony” in E Minor came to me in the fall of 1960, when I was a senior in high school. The first movement’s themes came to mind in accelerate chemistry class, literally (especially the second subject in A-flat, which recalls the invitation to the Science Honor Society). The first movement’s conclusion should be abrupt and violent. The second movement is another winter dirge, in A Minor, based on rising fourth intervals. The third movement is a “Bruckner-like” scherzo in C# Minor, with a hesitant trio and some false mock jubilation at the end. The finale is a hymn like setting in E Major, inspired by the Mount Washington NH trip over Memorial Day, 1961.